By Matt Antaya
The Toronto Blue Jays are in first place in the AL East… that is all.
Setting a franchise record, Edwin Encarnacion became the first Blue Jay to have four games with multiple home runs in a single month; two of these games came back-to-back during a series sweep in Boston this week. NBD.
Anthony Gose, playing understudy to the injured Colby Rasmus, has been defending centerfield like a pro – and even more impressive, he’s hitting the ball and taking walks. With his speed around the bases, this opens up a lot of opportunities.
Last week’s Insider Stuff profile Marcus Stroman has returned to AAA-Buffalo. It seems his promotion may have been premature, and there’s still lessons to learn in the minors. We hate to say ‘I told you so’, so we’ll just let this meme do it for us.
Finally, the Oakland Athletics enter Toronto this weekend with the best record in baseball at 30-17. But the Blue Jays are also hot, winning 8 of their last 10 games. This is an opportunity for our boys to put the rest of the MLB on alert. Come find us at Saturday or Sunday’s afternoon games – the forecast is nice and we suspect they might even have the roof open, so, you know, it could actually feel like spring.
Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has built a reputation for being a negotiation ninja. Well, beyond last year’s headline trade with Miami, he’s managed to conduct several more under-the-radar moves, extracting value from players most GMs have already cast off. It’s like ‘flipping houses’ except with players. Claim a player off waivers, fix him up, and then exchange him for prospects or draft picks. At this point, Anthopoulos deserves his own show on HGTV. But amidst his many triumphs, there’s one deal he must wish he could call a do-over: the trade for Esmil Rogers.
A starter who oozed potential, Esmil Rogers seemed a perfect fit, even embodying the company brand with a natural flair. How could this be a bad idea? Well, it was. After failed attempts as a starter, Rogers was moved to the bullpen, where he hasn’t faired much better. Currently he’s playing the role of ‘mop up guy’ – a term that describes a pitcher tasked with finishing a blowout your team has no hope of winning. In the trade for Rogers, the Cleveland Indians took veteran infielder Mike Aviles and an unproven prospect, Brazilian-born catcher Yan Gomes. At the time, Aviles was the real trade piece, but Gomes has since developed into Cleveland’s everyday catcher and recently signed a multi-million dollar extension. Both of these guys would be useful to the Jays today and, personally, we’d ship Rogers back for either of them.
So why keep him around? With only 25 spots on the roster, each man needs to be productive and dependable. The Jays should trade Rogers for scraps or let him walk on waivers. At least it would free up a spot for a guy who can contribute. Perhaps Anthopoulos, the Mike Holmes of baseball GMs, is having trouble coming to terms with the fact that this property is beyond repair.
Buzzword of the Week: ‘Stretched Out’
Not to be confused with “pitching from the stretch,” which describes a pitcher’s shortened delivery with runners on base. Instead, when you hear that a pitcher is being “stretched out,” it means his endurance is being built up.
Starters are pitchers who start the game (if you didn’t know that you’re more behind than we thought). They’re expected to pitch until they become ineffective. Hopefully this means 6+ innings, though good starters will go longer, occasionally the whole game. The 100-pitch mark is a good checkpoint – after a starter has thrown 100 pitches, it may be time to consider relieving him. However, the longer the starter remains in the game, the less work for the bullpen. And, unlike starters, relief pitchers are conditioned to throw only 1-2 innings. It’s the difference between running a marathon vs. running a sprint.
So what happens when a relief pitcher is moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation? He needs to be stretched out. His body has been conditioned to give you a 1-2 inning sprint. He must be re-conditioned to give you a seven-inning marathon, and this doesn’t happen overnight. Faced with an immediate need, a team is more likely to call up a minor league starter than attempt to move a relief pitcher from the bullpen. The Jays face such a scenario tonight against Oakland. A starter is needed to fill the hole vacated by Dustin McGowan’s move to the bullpen, and though reliever Todd Redmond is an option, it appears a minor league starter from AAA-Buffalo, Liam Hendriks, will get the call. Why? Hendriks is already stretched out.
So what have you learned?
The Jays are in first place in the AL East. Edwin is unstoppable. Gose is showing he belongs. Stroman has been sent back to summer school (but we’ll see him again soon). GM Alex Anthopoulos should throw Esmil Rogers a going-away party. Oakland is in town this weekend and will face the stretched-out minor leaguer Liam Hendriks tonight. It’s been an exciting week. We suggest you think about what it all means and we’ll regroup next Friday for another round of the best damn (and only) ball club north of the border.
#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)