Consider this a two-series breakdown after I wasn’t around to offer my post mortem on Toronto’s 0-4 embarrassment at the hands of Cleveland (sorry about that). This time, the Jays (41-42) simply played the part of AL East minnows against the Yankees’ Great Whites in dropping two of three at Yankee Stadium.
Some recognition for an impressive first half
It’s hard to get excited about something as arbitrary as All-Star selections as a fan of a team who has lost seven of their last eight, but the naming of Vernon Wells, Jose Bautista and John Buck to the AL side of the July 13th game serve as necessary recognition of the team’s impressive start to the year. It may not mean much in the end, but the comeback season from Wells and the surprising offensive contributions of Bautista and Buck were reasons for hope for a fan base severely lacking in reasons prior to the season. The easy reaction is to jadedly scoff at the selections as being flukes and/or products of overly bloated All-Star rosters, but these guys deserve to be celebrated even in light of recent results.
Stick to the plan
As fortunes turn over the course of a 162-game season, it’s easy to hit the panic button and get lost amidst the excitement of a hot run or the disappointment of a losing streak. For the Jays, this season has always largely been about treading water while waiting for GM Alex Anthopoulos’ vision of a restocked farm system and a strong rebuild to materialize. One quick glimpse to the farm (more on that later) offers an encouraging outlook in comparison to the barren years of the Ricciardi Era. The lack of production from Aaron Hill and Adam Lind is a legitimate reason for concern – especially with each player seeing their long-term deal kick in next year – but it will take more than one poor year for Anthopoulos to change direction in the case of either player. Until then, might as well enjoy watching a few decent bats and an above-average rotation while awaiting young reinforcements to come along.
Drabek hurls a no-no
Okay, so no-hitters seem to be almost commonplace in baseball this season, but Kyle Drabek’s no-no on Sunday for the Double-A Eastern League-leading New Hampshire Fisher Cats came with the added tease of knowing that he is a top pitching prospect in the system and the key to the Roy Halladay deal. Drabek threw just 98 pitches during his nine hitless innings of work against New Britain, a nice highlight amidst an uneven season in which he’s shown flashes and boasts a 3.20 ERA but has also struggled at times. He still needs to figure out left-handed hitters and has had control issues at times, but he has the stuff to be a frontline starter and has offered Jays fans reasons for optimism moving forward.
The rotation fades
Shaun Marcum’s on the disabled list, Ricky Romero got torched in Saturday’s start at New York (allowed eight runs in the Bombers’ 11-run third), Brandon Morrow seems to be cooling off after a red-hot June, Brett Cecil hasn’t found much consistency and Jesse Litsch still has some work to do as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. Altogether, it’s a rotation that seems to have just as many questions as it did at the start of the year. Can these guys get and remain healthy while also rebounding from recent struggles? With Marc Rzepczynski getting called up on Saturday and plenty of young arms looking to push their way up to the big club, this rotation could look far different come Opening Day 2011. In the meantime, Marcum and Romero will have to lead the rebound from a group of guys who have the stuff and have had success as starters, but must get back on track to maintain any of the team’s fleeting wild card hopes.
The schedule makers have offered the Jays a tiny bit of relief in granting them an off day, followed by a six-game home stand, followed by the All-Star Break. Of course, the home stand just happens to feature the AL Central powerhouse Twins and the red-hot AL East rival Red Sox. Litsch goes to the mound against Carl Pavano to kick off the three-game Twins’ set.
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Written by Ben Fisher