Tagged: Munenori Kawasaki

Lawrie up, Kawasaki down

For those who missed it this weekend, the Blue Jays have brought up Brett Lawrie – as a 2B.  This move is a bit of a head scratcher to me.  I think Lawrie is certainly athletic enough to play 2B, but there is no viable, long-term replacement at 3B on the roster in my opinion.  The Jays plan to use Maicer Izturis and Mark DeRosa at the hot corner for now.  Is there something in the works to acquire a premier 3B before the trade deadline?

The Jays are saying they see SS Jose Reyes and Lawrie setting up as a long-term double-play team.  Yet even Reyes says that the transition for Lawrie probably would be easier if it had of happened in Spring Training either this year or next.  For the record, Reyes believes Lawrie is more than capable of playing 2B – he just thinks it would be an easier move if Lawrie had more reps.

Lawrie went 1 – 8 at the plate in his first two games back and didn’t commit an error with limited chances at 2B.

Again, this move is a bit bizarre to me but we’ll see how it plays out.

The odd-man-out is once again Munenori Kawasaki.  Kaswasaki was optioned to triple-A to make room for Lawrie.

The Jays are still carrying an 8-man bullpen but will likely go back to a traditional 7-man ‘pen when Melky Cabrera comes back from the DL shortly or immediately after the allstar break.  Barring any trades (think Darren Oliver), the Jays will likely send down Neil Wagner simply because everyone in the ‘pen is pitching so well and he is the guy with minor league options.

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Injury Report – Morrow, Santos, Lawrie

Here’s a bit of insight into how a few of our boys are progressing with rehab:

Brandon Morrow – He threw 25 pitches during a side session on Tuesday and is scheduled to throw again on Friday.  Morrow has been on the DL since May 28 because of soreness in his right forearm.  At first, the Jays thought Morrow would only require the minimum 15 days off but it now looks like he won’t be able to rejoin the team until sometime in August (big surprise).  The Jays want Morrow, 28, to make at least 3 rehab starts and there is still no timetable of when he’ll make his first of the three.  After his session of Friday, we could hear more.  Stay tuned.

Sergio Santos –  He has been making appearances in single-A but has not been able to pitch on back-to-back days – something the Jays say is a must before he rejoins the team.  Arguably the biggest offseason acquisition two years ago, Santos has only pitched in 11 games for the Jays and has lost his closer role.  The surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow appears to have been successful and Santos is optimistic that he’ll be able to return shortly after the allstar break (although this is the same Santos that said he wouldn’t have to go on the DL – twice).

Brett Lawrie – He was promoted from double-A to triple-A and played for Buffalo last night going 2-4 with a homer, 3 RBI, and a stolen base.  During 3 games in double-A, Lawrie went 3 – 9 with four walks.  Interestingly, the Jays had Lawrie play 2B last night in triple-A, not his usually 3B.  To me, it seems unlikely that Lawrie will move to 2B unless the Jays acquire another player to play 3B.  It makes more sense to have current fill-in, Maicer Izturis, play 2B.  I suppose you could have Edwin Encarnacion play 3B and move Lawrie to 2B, but that leave Adam Lind at 1B with no power DH bat.  Perhaps this is just a move to see what Lawrie looks like for when the Jays play interleague and lose the DH.  In that case, it would make sense to get Lawrie some reps at 2B.  The 23-year-old is recovering from an ankle sprain and could rejoin the team at anytime.  The Jays simply want to make sure Lawrie’s timing at the plate is back and not rush him.  If he has another solid offensive performance in his next triple-A game, I imagine the Jays will immediately move him to the big club and cut Munenori Kawasaki.     

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Cabrera hits DL; Kawasaki back with big club

It didn’t take long for Munenori Kawasaki to make his return to the Blue Jays clubhouse.

Melky Cabrera was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left knee tendinitis on Thursday night and Kawasaki got the call up after being sent down to triple-A just two days earlier when Jose Reyes returned from the DL.  Cabrera’s legs have been an issue all season and you have to wonder if this was intentionally timed to line up near the upcoming allstar break to give the veteran a few extra days off after he is eligible to come off the DL.

Kawasaki, 32, hit .225 with a .337 on-base percentage and seven stolen bases in 60 games with the Blue Jays as Reyes’ primarily replacement at shortstop. Kawasaki also made his mark with a big smile and ability to come through in the clutch.

Without Cabrera, Rajai Davis, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista are the only three pure outfielders on the roster, but Emilio Bonifacio and Mark DeRosa can also play in the outfield.

I expect Davis will see most of the time in left field and Bonifacio will spell him occasionally, opening up a spot on the infield at 2B for Kawasaki from time-to-time.

Let’s hope Davis can hit righties over an extended period.  He’s struggled with it throughout his career.

@IHRTBJs

Reyes to return tomorrow

Jose Reyes is set to rejoin the Blue Jays in time for their series finale against Tampa Bay on Wednesday afternoon.  During his rehab in both single-A and triple-A, Reyes hit .414 (12 for 29) with a double and six runs scored in 7 games.  He even swiped a couple bags.

The Jays have said the Reyes will immediately be placed into the lineup at SS and at the top of the batting order.  The Jays have also hinted that Melky Cabrera will be bumped to the 5th spot and Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will continue to hit in the 2 and 3 holes.  While I certainly understand why the Jays would want to ensure both Bautista and Encarnacion get at bats in the first inning, I’m more of a fan of having them hit in their traditional 3 and 4 spots and having Cabrera hit #2.  This would give more a chance for RBIs and allow the Jays to run more with Reyes.  Are they really going to cut Reyes lose with Bautista and Encarnacion at the plate?  I think history shows the Jays will play for the 2-run homer.  With Cabrera in the 2 hole, it is smart to run with Reyes, provoke pitchers into wanting to use the open bag and walk Cabrera if they fall behind, and set up an even bigger inning.  “A pitcher would never pitch around Cabrera with a bag open if Bautista is behind him” you might say.  Well then Cabrera is hitting with a runner in scoring position and a double play is avoided.  If Bautista hits #2, Reyes base running talents are not used to their potential.  Period.

The biggest question is what corresponding move the Jays will make prior to tomorrow’s game.  Who is the odd man out?  Munenori Kawasaki?  Juan Perez?  Dustin McGowan?  It will be interesting to see what the Jays do tomorrow.  For my thoughts, read yesterday’s blog post on the topic (sorry, Kawasaki).

@IHRTBJs

Reyes status – who goes down?

The Blue Jays are having Jose Reyes play at least one more game in triple-A.  Whether the team doesn’t want to do anything to break up the superstitions surrounding its franchise-record-tying winning streak or Reyes just needs a few more at bats is a question.

Reyes went 2-5 with 2 singles yesterday for Buffalo.  In six games between triple-A and single-A, he is 8-22 (.364).  Reyes also stole another base yesterday, and he also scored from second on a hit up the middle.  He seems to be running and rounding the bases on the previously sprained ankle just fine.

Alex Anthopoulos has not given an exact date when Reyes will be back with the big club, but hinted that his return might not come until the team travels to Boston on Thursday for a 4-game series.  Anthopoulos said that Reyes is being evaluated day by day and could return at anytime.  But he also mentioned that he might play today in Buffalo and then a couple games in New Hampshire, the Jays double-A team, which is logistically on the route to Boston.

The bigger question than “when will Reyes be back?” is “who leaves the team when Reyes inevitably comes back?”.

While nobody knows for sure, I have a feeling I know what move the Jays are leaning towards.  I also have my own view (big surprise, eh?).

Jays take

Nobody wants to mess with the clubhouse chemistry right now and it appears Munenori Kawasaki is a big part of that.  The Jays are carrying 8 men in the bullpen while the norm is 7.  Kawasaki’s recent heroics and fan chants buy him a few more weeks with the club and the Jays make a move by trying to sneak left-handed Juan Perez through waivers and do not succeed.  Perez and his affordable $380K contract are claimed by a team looking for lefty help in its bullpen.  Kawasaki gets extremely limited playing time with the return of Reyes, plus the crowded infield of Maicer Izturis, Emilio Bonifacio, and Mark DeRosa and is sent to triple-A when Brett Lawrie returns shortly after the allstar break.  Kawasaki gets an honourable call up when the roster expands in September, barring any unforeseen injuries to middle infielders that would bring him up sooner.

My take

Even though Kawasaki is a fan favourite and has shown heroics in his brief stint with the club, there just isn’t enough room on the roster for another middle infielder.  Especially one that has minor league options and can be sent to triple-A with zero risk of being lost on a waiver claim.  Kawasaki was signed as a minor league free agent to provide major league depth should a middle infielder go down with an injury.  He has done this and done it well.  However, he will receive nearly no playing time once Reyes returns and the Jays are committed to Izturis (due to his contract) and to Bonifacio (due to his superior natural skill set) and unfortunately, Kawasaki is the odd man out.  Thoughts of sending a reliever down right before 4 games vs. the Red Sox might not be a great idea.  It would be better to get through that series and the next 4 vs. the Tigers before taking the luxury of the additional arm off the roster.  The rotation has been amazing but it won’t last forever.  With the potent offences of the Red Sox and Tigers coming up, keeping the 8-man bullpen doesn’t seem like a bad idea.  Especially when keeping Kawasaki really only buys the Jays time until Lawrie is back.  Send Kawasaki down when Reyes returns and cut the bullpen to the traditional 7 when Lawrie is healthy.  Who should go from the bullpen?  Dustin McGowan, that’s who.  He is owed $1.5 million this year and another $1.5 million next year.  Then they Jays either pick up a $4 million club option for 2015 or buy him out for $500K.  If you didn’t know McGowan and have an emotional attachment to his never-give-up attitude, you would be happy for the Jays to risk putting the hard-throwing righty through waivers – a pitcher who has had 3, count them, 3 shoulder surgeries.  A guy who nobody expects to get anything out of for the rest of his career.  Anything he does is considered a bonus.  He is the least at risk to get picked up off waivers and should be the guy to go.  He would undoubtably accept a minor league assignment since the Jays organization has been so good to him over the years.  With hard-throwing Neil Wagner essentially doing what the Jays might get from McGowan, but only better, there really isn’t a need for his arm in the ‘pen right now.  The relievers with minor league options aren’t going anywhere.  Wagner and Aaron Loup are too valuable.  If it’s between McGowan and Perez, McGowan has to go.  This isn’t personal.  It’s about putting the best team on the field and trying to win every game.

@IHRTBJs

Is Kawasaki here to stay?

There is some speculation that Munenori Kawasaki might be here to stay.  You have to wonder if the Blue Jays would still sign Maicer Izturis if they could do it all over again.  Izturis signed a 3-year, $9 million deal this past offseason and it was suggested he would be the starting 2B.  But after the trade with the Marlins that included Emilio Bonifacio, Izturis has lost playing time at 2B as Bonifacio has established himself as the everyday player at 2B (you might not agree, but I stand by this decision).

Yet, with Jose Reyes going down early with a severe ankle sprain it wasn’t Izturis that received the nod to start at SS in Reyes’ extended absence.  Instead, the Jays called upon former Japanese baseball allstar Kawasaki.

Kawasaki, instantly a fan favourite for his praying antics and gracious bows, is a sub-average utility middle INF at best.  But for some reason, he is getting constant at bats over Izturis.  It’s a bit mind boggling.

I can see why Jays fans (mostly casual band wagon jumpers who have had little to cheer for this year) love Kawasaki.  He hustles, he battles and grinds every at bat, and he uses his speed.  He has to use his speed – his approach is to slap the ball and try and beat out infield singles.  Very occasionally he gets a ball into the outfield.

But he does walk and get on base.  His batting average leaves a lot to be desired for a contact guy at .205.  Yet, with a .322 obp he’s doing the job out of the 9 hole.  But a .264 slugging percentage?  Yikes.  See what a mean about his “beat one out” approach?

The Jays, though, seem to want to find room for Kawasaki when Reyes comes back (probably late June).  With Brett Lawrie on the DL, they might be able to do so for a bit longer.  However, when Lawrie comes back, the Jays need to lose an INF and Kawasaki appears to be on the block.  Izturis is earning too much to be traded, Mark DeRosa is a much more valuable bat off the bench with a healthy team, and Kawasaki just doesn’t hit enough to stick around.

Jays fans love Kawasaki and as a fan watching the little guy play the big league game, even I have a soft spot for him.  But the club is a better team with Izturis starting at SS over the course of several games and it’s annoying that the Jays never let that take place.  Kawasaki would have been a great call up to be the reserve middle INF.

Instead, he’s a guy everybody hopes will do well.

@IHRTBJs

Blue Jays Recap – thoughts on the past week

It’s been an eventful week for our beloved Blue Jays.  Over the past week we’ve seen the following:

  • Sean Nolin had a rough debut but in my opinion has good stuff
  • Nolin got sent down following his start – wrong move in my opinion and the Jays leave glaring holes in the rotation
  • R.A. Dickey got lit up by a potent Orioles offence and then the Braves – he sure isn’t pitching like an ace
  • Munenori Kawasaki became a hero while Brett Lawrie became a villian during a walk off win
  • Lawrie hit the DL with an ankle sprain
  • Colby Rasmus got the better of his brother Cory in a rare pitcher/brother battle at the MLB level by ripping a double
  • Brandon Morrow got pulled and is now day-to-day with a right forearm strain
  • Casey Janssen’s shoulder kept him out of an extra inning game vs. the Braves and Ramon Ortiz and Thad Weber can’t hold the game
  • Ortiz and Weber got sent down, Juan Perez, Neil Wagner, and Todd Redmond – Perez and Wagner back up Esmil Rogers first start sine 2011 to help shutout the Braves (Perez looked amazing)

With all that news, here are my thoughts:

  • Don’t call up Nolin just to send him down after one bad outing.  It’s worse for his confidence to go up and down than it is to stay up and try again.  Especially with no Josh Johnson, an injured Morrow, and a combination of Chad Jenkins/Esmil Rogers plugging holes.  If you call a kid up, give him a few starts.  Drew Hutchison came up last season and didn’t fair well at first but good pitches make adjustments (and I believe Nolin is a good pitcher).  The first three runs he surrendered in the 1st inning vs. the Orioles were due to a seeing eye single, a little bloop single, then a homer off a quality strike down and away.  He pitched much better than his line showed – give the kid a chance to redeem himself.  If he wasn’t ready for the majors, why call him up in the first place?
  • The Jays need to figure out what is wrong with Dickey.  I think it’s because of his tight neck and shoulder – the last couple years he consistently hit 80 mph with his knuckler and now it’s more often 74-75 mph.  He doesn’t have nearly the control with it as evidence by his walk rate per inning pitched being double compared to his previous three seasons.  Dickey needs to make the adjustment of not throwing as hard.  Perhaps mixing in more slow knucklers at 60 – 65 mph to make the 75 mph look that much faster.  Also, he needs to throw more first pitch fastballs.  Opponents are almost always taking the first pitch.  Why would you not take at least one strike vs. a knuckleballer?
  • Dear Lawrie, you are not mature, you are not playing well, and you should never show up your teammates or coaches – especially on a potential sac fly for a run that means nothing.  When you come back from the DL, just shut up, stop whining, and play good, quality baseball with a smile on your face.  You’re attitude grew tiresome ages ago.
  • Morrow, please don’t say you’re fine when you’re not fine.  If you can’t pitch, don’t try.  You just screw up the bullpen for the next three games.  Enough with the bumped back starts.  Just take a 15-day trip to the DL if you have to.  With Johnson coming back, it’s the right time to do it if you need to.  
  • Janssen, I love ya buddy.  But really, you felt that much better one day later and could pick up a 1-2-3 save?  I would have taken your wonky shoulder over Weber’s third appearance in three days ANY day of the week.  I mean, last week we were all saying “who is Thad Weber?”  Just be ready to go when we need you.  If you can’t pitch after a week off, maybe you should be on the DL also.
  • Perez and Wagner – great numbers in triple-A (0.86 and 0.89 ERAs respectively).  Keep it up.  Maybe we won’t be such a revolving door in the ‘pen.

Final thought – Why not start Edwin Encarnacion at 3B and Adam Lind at 1B during inter-league play vs. righties?  If you get a lead, make a defensive substitution.  I know Edwin is pretty awful at 3B, but we need to score runs and Lind is leading our team in AVG and is second to only Jose Bautista in OBP.  We need to have him in the game for more than one at bat.  As a good friend of mine asked me, if Cito could start Paul Molitor at 3B during the ’93 world series in Atlanta, why can’t Gibbons start Edwin there on game 54 of the regular season?

  @IHRTBJs