Another ‘win the opener, lose the rest’ series for the Blue Jays (28-28) saw Jo-Jo Reyes get a monkey off his back with a winning start on Monday, but then a pair of shaky pitching performances by Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek led to a lost series.
A Closer Look
Trials and Tribulations of a Young Pitching Staff: Reyes and his misleading 28 consecutive winless starts faced all the scrutiny heading into the Indians’ series, but it quickly became clear that the 26-year old lefthander is hardly the chief concern among the Jays’ rotation. Morrow (2-3, 5.11 ERA) and Drabek (3-4, 4.69 ERA) were both abysmal in losses to Cleveland, with Morrow allowing at least one runner in scoring position over each of his five innings of work and Drabek lasting just two-thirds of an inning, the shortest outing of a Blue Jays’ starter since 2007. Morrow has regressed back to his Seattle days, where he relied too heavily on his stuff and paid little attention to learning how to pitch. Drabek, meanwhile, continues to be a base on balls machine, leading all of baseball with 45 walks and also getting rattled in pressure situations. The two 26-and-under hurlers represent a big part of Toronto’s future and pitching coach Bruce Walton will make his reputation on being able to get them back on the path to success.
Praise for Jo-Jo: Reyes’ win on Monday was one of the early single-game highlights of this young season. Everyone knew about the streak (which SI’s Joe Posnanski does an excellent job of pooh-poohing here), especially the pitcher himself, who had faced questions about pretty much nothing else in the days prior. If it wasn’t a distraction, the media was sure doing everything they could to make it so. But then Reyes went out and threw a complete game against the AL’s best team. Now he and the team can move forward and he can hopefully continue his quiet effectiveness out of the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
Bautista Not All About the Long Ball: At the risk of adding to what is already excessive hoopla surrounding Jose Bautista, I feel the need to weigh in on the phenom that is “Joey Bats”. It’s no longer the homers (currently at 20 after just one in – gasp – his last nine games) that truly stand out, but the over-all offensive game. His current eight-game hitting streak has seen him hit .448 (13-29) with eight RBI, six runs scored and a .543 OBP. On the season, he’s got a .360 average and .502 OBP to go along with those 20 homers. Chicks may dig the long ball, but I’ll take the over-all offensive package, thanks.
Good News for Lawrie, McGowan: Brett Lawrie’s arrival – which now seems imminent after encouraging words from GM Alex Anthopoulos – to the big leagues was a given. However, Dustin McGowan’s return to Toronto was anything but, given how the past four injury-marred seasons have been a living nightmare and put his career in serious jeopardy (it even got to the point where he announced that this season would represent his last comeback attempt before retirement). But the 29-year old seems to be on the rise once again after regaining arm / shoulder strength to where he’s throwing at 95 mph and giving the team every reason to believe he can be a major league starter again. A 25-man roster by the end of July with both Lawrie’s and McGowan’s names on it – now very much a possibility – would signal just how far both men have come this season.
The Other Guys: The Indians are the story of the young baseball season through two months, but you can still count me among the sceptics. The offence is legit and I will even allow for the fact that it could get better, with Carlos Santana and Shin-Soo Choo primed to improve, as well as the inevitable call-up of blue-chipper Lonnie Chisenhall to go along with an already potent line-up that includes Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Brantley and Grady Sizemore. It is, however, the pitching staff that remains questionable, with Fausto Carmona bringing instability in the ace role and Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco and Mitch Talbot rounding out a starting rotation short on experience that could crumble in meaningful August / September games. If they even get that far.
Toronto will hope to re-create some of that 2010 magic against the Orioles (Jays won the season series 15-3) when they visit Camden Yards for a weekend set. Series gets underway Friday night with Carlos Villanueva getting the ball against rookie standout Zach Britton.
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Written by Ben Fisher