Not a bad weekend for the Blue Jays (45-47) in Cleveland, as they took the final three games of their four-game set against the Tribe and learned that Ricky Romero would join Jose Bautista as the team representatives at Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Phoenix.
A Closer Look
Derby Damage?: That Bautista has been absolutely raking of late isn’t news. But it will be interesting to see if he can keep it up following his first foray into tonight’s Home Run Derby. The Derby, a notorious habit-setter that lengthens swings and takes sluggers out of sync as they alter their plate approach to be more long ball-oriented, has claimed many hot bats before. In fact, the Jays need only go back four years to find their own example, when Alex Rios endured a sharp offensive decline after reaching the Derby Finals (and, incidentally, losing to 2011 AL Captain David Ortiz, who selected Bautista). Rios had 17 homers and 53 RBI heading into the ASB, only to see those numbers fall to seven and 32 the rest of the way. Of course, seven home runs and 32 RBI would leave Bautista with a not-too-shabby 39 and 97 on the year, but still! His rise has been credited directly to the work he did to reconstruct his swing under the guidance of Cito Gaston and Dwayne Murphy. Can that swing survive the long ball showcase?
Thames Begins to Arrive: For a franchise smarting from the developmental setbacks of Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider (and, to a lesser extent, Brett Cecil) this season, as well as the injury-related frustrations of Jesse Litsch and Brett Lawrie, it has to be encouraging to see signs of growth from Eric Thames. The 24-year old outfielder first arrived in May as a free-swinging, impatient youngster who desperately needed to settle down at the plate. He hasn’t exactly solved that problem as of yet (as evidenced by his mere six walks in 104 at-bats), but his second stint with the team has produced a player who is taking more pitches and looking much less frantic at the plate. The result: a .323 average with four home runs, 13 runs scored and seven RBI since getting recalled by the club on June 24. Over the past three games alone, he had six hits, four runs scored and a homer in 14 at-bats. The power is there, but seeing Thames’ game come together has been another kind of reward for the club.
Down on the Farm: The All-Star Game is a tradition (with a level of merit that varies depending upon who you ask) at all levels of baseball. The Jays have already been represented by Henderson Alvarez’s scoreless sixth inning in Sunday’s MLB Futures Game, while Deck McGuire (struck out the side in the sixth), Wes Etheridge (recorded a save) and A.J. Jimenez (delivered an RBI triple) all contributed to the victorious North side in the FSL game in June. This week, the organization will see David Cooper and Brad Mills represent the Las Vegas 51’s in the PCL game and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats boast seven players (Alvarez, Joel Carreno, Travis d’Arnaud, Adeiny Hechavaria, Mike McDade, Moises Sierra and Zach Stewart) and a full coaching staff (led by manager Sal Fasano) to the Eastern League game, which they happen to be hosting. Alvarez is an interesting developmental case study, as a 21-year old who has come into prominence thanks to a surge in velocity coming into this season. He has the stuff to reach the majors by next season, but he will have to really push for a spot on a club that will be reluctant to let the young righty come along too quick.
The Other Guys: The Indians’ All-Star contingent of Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez says plenty about their unlikely start to the season (not to mention the quality of players at the injury- and indifference marred ASG). Cabrera represents the team’s rapid and successful youth movement, as the 25-year old shortstop joins Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana as young position players taking on big roles with the club. Perez, meanwhile, is the closer in a lights-out bullpen that includes Joe Smith and Rafael Perez and that has the Indians in the thick of the AL Central race for the first time since 2007.
The All-Star break is upon us, meaning that most Jays get some R & R with friends and family, while Bautista and Romero head to Arizona. The team is back in action on Thursday, kicking off a four-game series at home against the Yankees.
About the Author
Written by Ben Fisher