The Bullpen: Injuries leave Blue Jays at a crossroads
For the Blue Jays, this uber-eventful past week at home is either the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning.
They either find out that nobody on the farm is ready to replace their three injured starters and begin to spiral out of control through the standings, or they discover that some of the guys on the farm actually will thrive with better defence and more thorough scouting of opposing hitters.
Anyway, wasn’t Hutchison going to be shut down at 150 innings, anyway? So instead of taking the final month off, he can take it in the middle of the season. That’s a glass-half-full view.
Of course, the other view is that the Jays are toast and might as well start re-arranging the deck chairs and offering up contracts of veterans on one-year deals at the trade deadline.
This has been the story of the Jays’ roller-coaster season thus far. What’s down is up and what’s up is down. When they’re expected to win, they lose. When disaster looms, they bounce back and string Ws together. For the seven days starting on Monday, the Jays were 3-3, losing a series to the Nationals and sweeping the Phillies, without Roy Halladay, both at the Rogers Centre.
What makes the week so truly unusual is that nine pitches into Thursday’s series opener vs. the Phillies, the Jays had lost three games in the week and had lost three starting pitchers to the disabled list.
On Monday, Brandon Morrow strained his left oblique. On Wednesday, it was Drabek tearing his ulnar collateral ligament, likely headed for Tommy John surgery and on Friday it was a sprained UCL suffered by Hutchison. The organization and its fans are still reeling.
The frustration shone through in this most telling quote of the week from manager John Farrell that was spoken even before the Hutchison injury: “This is a challenge. Nobody gives a (bleep) about the Toronto Blue Jays except the people in the clubhouse.”
Frustration and defiance.
It’s significant. The three missing pitchers have totalled 207 2/3 innings, 37 starts and 16 wins. Those are tough numbers to replace. As of Sunday night, the Jays had not announced pitchers for either Tuesday or Wednesday at Miller Park against the Brewers.
The bullpen was amazing and busy over the six games this week. Overall, the Jays’ pen was 2-1 with one save, working 32 innings, allowing 26 hits, 8 runs, 7 earned, 11 walks and 27 strikeouts. Multiple inning relief performances, even by one-inning relievers, were the order of the day.
Leading the way in terms of bullpen work were: Luis Perez 5.1 IP; Villanueva 5 IP; Laffey 4.1 IP; Frasor 3.2 IP; Beck 3.2 IP; Janssen 3 IP; Cordero 2.2 IP; Oliver 2 IP; Coello 2 IP; Crawford 0.1 IP.
The starters combined to pitch 23 innings. Frasor led with four relief appearances.
The Jays on Sunday flew in 13 Jays fathers, including the infamous Tony Rasmus, father of Colby, who was vilified by Cardinals manager LaRussa and the organization for his allegedly meddling ways when it came to his son’s batting. Needless to say his disdain for the Cardinal organization was mutual. Rasmus said he hasn’t seen his son this happy playing ball in years.
“It’s a big deal,” Tony Rasmus said of the Jays’ gesture of flying all the families in for Father’s Day.
“The first thing my wife said was, ‘Did St. Louis ever do this?’ So we were really excited about the opportunity to get to do this.”
The Jays this week signed 22 of their 54 draft picks, including OF D.J. Davis, an outfielder from Stone County High School, in Mississippi. He is the son of Wayne Davis, a former Blue Jays’ farmhand from 1983-86. The Jays signed Davis for $1.75 million, according to Baseball America, saving $250,000 on the slot for No. 17 overall. The Jays signed 11 of their 14 picks in the first 10 rounds. The three Jays picks remaining before the July 13 deadline are No. 22 RHP Marcus Stroman, No. 50 LHP Matt Smoral and No. 81 RHP Chase DeJong.
MLB POWER RANKINGS
Last week’s rankings in parentheses
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (1)
Are always good early, but for L.A. the 162-game season always marathon of hope
2. New York Yankees (2)
A-Rod tied Gehrig’s record for slams, paid tribute to Iron Horse
3. Washington Nationals (4)
Harper, Strasburg best 1-2 punch under 24 in baseball
4. Texas Rangers (3)
Rangers pitching melting down so fast, Al Gore is investigating
5. Tampa Bay Rays (5)
Matt Moore starting to live up to hype. Now what about the bats?
6. Cincinnati Reds (9)
Chapman million dollar arm and two-cent brain; Votto rules
7. Atlanta Braves (6)
Feeling the heat....and it’s not even the dog days yet
8. San Francisco Giants (7)
Cain’s perfect game and Blanco catch highlight the week
9. Baltimore Orioles (11)
Everyone waiting for O’s collapse, but pitching hanging in
10. Chicago White Sox (8)
Sale and Peavy fuel a surprising renaissance
11. Los Angeles Angels (10)
Who knew Trout could help entire franchise swim upstream
12. New York Mets (12)
Worst idea in sports? Allowing MLB to overturn scorer’s decisions
13. Cleveland Indians (14)
Damon’s bid for 3,000 hits may not end well
14. Boston Red Sox (15)
When Sox get healthy this ranking should head north
15. St. Louis Cardinals (16)
They do miss the 10-year face of the franchise
16. Miami Marlins (13)
Found out hotel this week is near where man’s face chewed off (see below)
17. Toronto Blue Jays (17)
Starting pitchers falling faster than Nik Wallenda with the hiccups
18. Detroit Tigers (18)
Catcher Alex Avila’s injury demonstrates his true value
19. Arizona Diamondbacks (22)
D-backs slowly climbing back to respectability
20. Pittsburgh Pirates (20)
Have not finished .500 since George H.W. Bush was prez
21. Philadelphia Phillies (19)
Most disappointing team in baseball
22. Oakland A’s (23)
This is team that will continue to improve as year goes on
23. Seattle Mariners (21)
Seems everyone that faces them goes to hill with “no-hit stuff”
24. Minnesota Twins (24)
Can franchise support both M’s – Mauer and Morneau?
25. Kansas City Royals (26)
Hosmer and Hochevar will need to help them move forward
26. Milwaukee Brewers (25)
Miller Field magic melts away like Gouda cheese on a hot sidewalk
27. Houston Astros (27)
Seems everyone that faces them went to hill with “perfect-game stuff”
28. Colorado Rockies (28)
Canadian LHP Jeff Francis in second tour of duty
29. San Diego Padres (29)
If I became a free agent this is where I would want to write
30. Chicago Cubs (30)
Going nowhere. Dempster and Garza and pray for trade
THE ESSAY: WARREN CROMARTIE SPEARHEADS BASEBALL’S RETURN TO MONTREAL
The Expos experience was always something special for those major-leaguers that played in Montreal, whether it was the Jarry Park years from 1969-76, or the Olympic Stadium era from 1977-2004.
Those Expos players, especially in the years from ’75 to ’94, remained friends even after they left the organization in trade, even after they eventually retired. Whenever they get together, they still laugh, they cry, they reminisce, exchanging war stories of working, playing and partying in Montreal, enjoying the city, the organization, the fans and growing up with each other.
The fact is I have never seen a closer group of athletes in my 40 years in baseball, from spring training through the end of each season. Maybe it was the fact of being an English minority in a foreign land, living among fans that respected their space, yet lived and died with their on-field exploits.
Unfortunately major-league baseball is now gone and apathy seems to rule.
Montrealers have accepted too easily their team is gone, uprooted to Washington D.C. to become the Nationals. Quel dommage.
For one of those Expos players, former outfielder/first baseman Warren Cromartie, a man who has always found the time to return on a regular basis for various functions and charities, including an annual ALS fund-raiser to find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease, the outgoing and popular Miami native finally had had enough and wanted to do something to correct the absence of pro baseball.
I talked to Cro by phone the day that Gary Carter passed away. I spoke to him again at the Kid’s memorial service in Palm Beach Gardens. On both occasions, he was passionate and adamant, angry that the city seemed not to remember the Expos, especially in the early ’80s and early ’90s.
There were no shrines, no museums, no Expos logos, no fans wearing retro jerseys, nowhere to go for a history lesson on baseball in Montreal — the Expos, the Royals, anything.
Whenever Cro spoke individually to fans in the city, he knew they were still passionate about the Expos and about pro baseball, but, from his point of view, the various levels of government in Montreal and Quebec were neglecting, no, burying an important part of their sporting history.
As such, with a little help from his former baseball friends, many of whom he had spoken to about the project only after Carter’s death, Cromartie formed an association called the Montreal Baseball Project (MBP) whose goal is to ultimately bring professional baseball back to the city, a move that he hopes will lead to the return of the big boy, major-league baseball.
Realistically, it won’t be that easy, maybe it will be impossible. MLB is more than ever a closed fraternity that seems to not want to expand to Canada, but Cro certainly deserves credit for trying.
This past weekend, June 14-16, featured a series of events for MBP, kicked off with an introduction of former Expos stars on the field before an Alouettes-Blue Bombers exhibition game last Thursday.
The list of former Expos on hand for the festivities included Cromartie, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Ellis Valentine, Larry Parrish, Wallace Johnson, Bryn Smith, Stan Bahnsen, Bill Gullickson, Rodney Scott, Rowland Office and Bill “Spaceman” Lee. Nice.
Further to a presence at the football game, the friends of baseball in Montreal staged a Friday golf tournament on Ile Perot and organized a Saturday dinner that was preceded by a Fan Fest and various clinics for young baseball players in the city. The beneficiary of any money raised was the Cedars Cancer Institute. The beneficiary of any attention raised was baseball in Montreal.
Cromartie’s efforts and those of his former teammates are admirable, but it will be a long grind. The first priority is to get a solid ownership group together. Cromartie is well aware of that. The second thing is to find a location for a stadium, one that could start small and be expanded if the idea catches on. The group can’t just start with a demand for major-league ball.
But a return at any level of pro ball, especially if it was affiliated with a major-league team, especially the Jays, would be preferable to having no ball at all. As such, good luck, gentlemen. Let’s get pro baseball back in Montreal.
THE RANT: DUSTY BAKER AND DEREK LOWE EXCHANGE INSULTS. WHAT’S NEXT?
Reds manager Dusty Baker and Indians pitcher Derek Lowe just plain don’t like each other and it’s turned into a nasty war of words. But, really, why is this considered bad and what makes this any different than the silly Cole Hamels-Bryce Harper incident that cost the Phillies’ pitcher a five-game suspension?
Make no mistake about it, the Office of the Commissioner is paying attention to a potential Baker-Lowe 2 this Monday in Cleveland.
The recent fallout of what turns out is a four-year-old feud is this: On June 13, Lowe came to the plate in Cincy and was low-bridged by Reds starter Mat Latos by a 96 mph fastball.
Lowe turned his head and glared at the Reds’ dugout, specifically at Baker, who waved his index finger back and forth in Dikembe Mutombo fashion. “Don’t bring that weak stuff in here,” is the gist.
The two men had a similar thing going on four years ago when Lowe was with the Dodgers and was nasty as well. Here’s how the back-and-forth went. On Wednesday after the game, Lowe was asked by reporters about the chin music from Latos.
“Dusty will deny it. It has everything to do with him. You can go ask him. He’ll deny it like he has no idea. They’ve been trying to do this for years. I’d always come up with men on base. To say it didn’t come from Dusty, Mat Latos was with the San Diego Padres the last four years. He has no idea what’s going on.
“Again, you can ask him and he’ll say he doesn’t know (anything) about it like he always does. This goes back to my last year with the Dodgers. He made up some story. A lot of people got involved. People almost got fired over it. You can go ask him right now and he’ll say he has no idea what you’re talking about. But just watch the game. Mat Latos has nothing to do with anything that has gone on. How would he know? Why would you throw a 96 mph fastball, first pitch, inside to a pitcher? Ask him.”
Then on Thursday morning before the series finale, Baker was asked for any response to Lowe.
“He had some words for me. I really didn’t want to make a public thing or a public spectacle. He’s the one who brought it up. He had some choice words for me. I really don’t care if he respects me. It doesn’t matter. No. 1, you’ve got to ask him why he hit Joey Votto in the back two years ago.
“Yesterday, he took exception to a ball inside that didn’t hit him, then hit Brandon Phillips after that. I’m not denying nothing. I didn’t order anyone to hit him. I told (Mat Latos) to buzz him and make him uncomfortable. That’s what happened. Nobody hit him. Then he hit our guy.
“What he was talking about was something that he said and did a few years. You got to ask him what that was. You got a lot people involved in the situation that didn’t need to be involved in the situation. It didn’t come from there. Go ask him since he made it public. Understand what I’m saying. I’ll let it rest at that since he’s such a big man running his mouth talking about himself.”
Now here Dusty is admitting that he asked his pitcher to “buzz” Lowe. And then Lowe responds soon after by hitting Phillips. How is that different than what Hamels said and did?
As journalists and fans we get mad at those in sports that speak in clichés and without emotion. Then when someone does speak the truth, they are criticized again. We can’t have it both ways.
I don’t think Hamels should have been suspended and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Lowe and Baker not liking each other. But, really, if Hamels is going to be suspended, why not Baker, who said he had his man knock Lowe down and how about Lowe who clearly retaliated by hitting Phillips.
For the commissioner, it’s about consistency in the message. He shouldn’t have suspended Hamels, but what now? All or nothing.
The resurgent Yankees marched into Washington and swept the Nationals three games in front of full houses, extending the Bombers’ win streak to nine games. The Nats sure looked good in Toronto earlier in the week and sure looked bad at home. All of a sudden the Yanks’ rotation is shaping up with Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.
The Angels have a tough decision when RH Jered Weaver returns from his sore back this week. He will likely bump RH Garrett Richards (2-0, 0.86 ERA) back to the minors. OF Vernon Wells had thumb surgery to repair a torn UCL in his thumb and is out at least until the end of July. The Angels have taken off without the former Jays’ star.
The O’s were happy to have 2B Brian Roberts back on the field after a year away with a concussion. His average is back to normal, but he has yet to produce an extra-base hit. It’s all about timing and he hasn’t got that back yet.
Rookie LH Matt Moore has won three straight decisions for the Rays and is heading towards the form that everyone expected after his dazzling playoff performance last year. “I like the fact that he commanded his breaking ball without trying to overthrow it, and then it started becoming a strike,” manager Joe Maddon told Rays media. “Now they have to honour the fastball and breaking ball mentality. That makes it very difficult.” 3B Evan Longoria began a minor-league rehab on Saturday at Triple-A Durham.
The A’s Cuban CF Yoenis Cespedes came off the DL stint recovered from his thumb issues. But now he has been battling left hamstring woes, although he remains active. If the following story sounds familiar it is because it is. OF Manny Ramirez asked for and was given his release by the A’s because he was not being promoted from the minor leagues fast enough. Manny had finished serving his 50-game MLB suspension for a second PED failure, but the A’s kept him at Triple-A. Ramirez asked for his relief. It parallels the story of Jays’ minor league DH Vlad Guerrero who insisted he be recalled right away or given his release. He still has not re-signed.
The Rangers have been trying to seamlessly integrate right-hander Yu Darvish into the North American style of pitching. However, after noticing that he was struggling with fatigue issues, the Rangers gave him an extra three days between starts and he responded with 11 strikeouts in a 6-2 win over the Astros. OF Josh Hamilton had been sidelined on the weekend with dehydration and a stomach virus. It’s a condition that has run rampant in one form or another through the Rangers clubhouse. Starter Derek Holland had the worst case, going on the DL and losing 15 lbs. He wants to play again on Monday in San Diego.
The White Sox will start former Jays right-hander Zach Stewart on Monday against the Cubs. Veteran John Danks is still not ready to return to the active ranks.
The Nationals invaded Canada for three games and left no prisoners, behind the impressive play of 19-year-old outfielder Bryce Harper and 23-year-old right-hander Stephen Strasburg. The last time Washington made as big an impact in Canada was ’04 when they swooped in and stole the Expos back to D.C. We will always remember. It was nice that at the same time, they were celebrating the 200-year anniversary of the War of 1812, conveniently forgetting that with the help of the British, we went in and burned down their White House. I think they are still ahead by stealing the Expos, our national NL team. The first visit by Harper to Canada will forever be remembered for his classic answer to the unfortunate TV broadcaster that asked him if he might be celebrating Tuesday’s monster homer off the Blackberry sign in centre field at the Rogers Centre with a nice Canadian beer, since the drinking age is 19 in Canada. Harper’s response: “That’s a clown question, bro.’ ” Harper and his family are Mormons. As good as Harper and the Nats were in Toronto, they were swept by the Yankees. In Saturday’s game, Harper was 0-for-7 with five strikeouts.
The Marlins offence has been struggling and hitting coach Eduardo Perez has been taking some heat but gets a spirited defence from manager Ozzie Guillen. The art of Tweeting has never seen a more prolific practitioner than LF Logan Morrison, who is raucous and irreverent. He got in trouble last season and was sent briefly to Triple-A New Orleans as punishment. 3B Hanley Ramirez suffered a slight fracture of his nose as a baseball rattled off his face in a batting cage. Much maligned closer Heath Bell has converted 11 straight saves and has not blown an opportunity since May 4.
The Giants highlight of the week was Matt Cain’s perfect game against the Astros. He threw 125 pitches and was supported by a sensational diving catch in right centrefield by Gregor Blanco. The lowlight came when 1B Aubrey Huff injured his right knee hopping the short fence in front of the dugout to join in the celebration.
Mets manager Terry Collins was so concerned about Canadian left-fielder Jason Bay and his second concussion in the past 12 months that he sent him home for the weekend after crashing headfirst into the wall on Friday. Bay, who Collins feels may be done for the year, was booed by idiot Mets fans as he was helped off the field.
Cubs Canadian right-hander Ryan Dempster knows he’s trade bait at the deadline. He is 3-3, with a 2.11 ERA and would be a solid acquisition for teams, including the Jays. “I’m not naive, I’m not oblivious to what’s going on,” Dempster told Chicago media. “But it’s really kind of, not out of my control, actually it really is in my control. It’s one of those things if I focused on that and I worried about that, I wouldn’t be doing a very good job as a teammate to those guys in there, and I wouldn’t be doing a very good job for myself if I wasn’t focusing on what I need to do.” Dempster has been 10 years in the majors and the last five with the same team, meaning he can veto or approve any trade.
The Braves lost NL ERA leader Brandon Beachy to right elbow soreness and the DL. He will be replaced in the rotation by RH Jair Jurrjens, recalled from Triple-A. Jurrjens at one time was considered one of the bright young starters in the game.
The Astros optioned Brett Wallace back to Triple-A Oklahoma City after 1B Carlos Lee returned from the DL on the weekend. How far has Wallace’s star fallen since he was regarded as the Jays’ first-baseman of the future in a follow-up to the Roy Halladay deal?
THIS WEEK IN BASEBALL HISTORY
6/18/76 The A’s eccentric owner Charlie Finley showed his hatred and disdain for the new rules of free agency. He sold stars OF Joe Rudi and CL Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox and LHP Vida Blue to the Yankees at the June 15 trade deadline, but commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who often had butted heads with the irascible insurance magnate from Chicago, negated the deals citing “the best interests of baseball.” ... 6/18/86 the Angels’ Don Sutton posts his 300th career victory. It was against the Rangers, a three-hitter... 6/19/38 after consecutive no-hitters, Johnny Vander Meer worked into the fourth inning against the Boston Braves before ending his hitless streak at 21 innings... 6/20/90 former Expos star C Gary Carter, then with the Giants, caught his 1,862nd game, eclipsing the MLB record of Al Lopez. Carter later went to the Dodgers and back to the Expos... 6/20/86 The struggling White Sox fired manager Tony LaRussa after a slow start, replacing him with future Phillies and Jays skipper Jim Fregosi. LaRussa signed shortly after that with the A’s... 6/21/39 the Iron Horse, Yankee 1B Lou Gehrig announces his retirement after it is discovered he is suffering from ALS. His illness ended his consecutive games streak at 2,130... 6/21/64 On Father’s Day, Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning tosses a perfect game at Shea Stadium that I remember seeing live on TV. The closest thing to a hit was C Jesse Gonder ripping a line drove speared by 2B Tony Taylor. Bunning was the second pitcher ever to record no-hitters in both leagues... 6/22/90 the struggling Braves fire manager Russ Nixon and replace him with Bobby Cox. Pretty good move... 6/23/63 eccentric White Sox outfielder Jimmy Piersall hits his 100th career HR and famously circles the bases backwards. Pitcher Dallas Green was not amused, but the fans and his teammates were.
Birthdays this week: Lou Brock 73, Andres Galarraga 51, Lou Gehrig 109, Dickie Thon 54.
MINOR LEAGUE ROUNDUP
Triple A Las Vegas (39-31)...The 51’s lost to Colorado Springs 16-4 on Sunday. 1B Adam Lind was 2-for-5 and is batting .412. C Travis D’Arnaud is batting .335 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs. SS Adeiny Hechavarria is hitting .332 with 47 RBIs. LF Travis Snider was 2-for-5 in his second game back and is hitting .337. RHP Jesse Chavez is 7-2 with a 3.84 ERA... AA-New Hampshire (24-43)...The Fisher Cats beat Bowie 4-3 in 13 innings on Sunday. 1B Mike McDade was 1-for-6 and is batting .308. The biggest disappointment has been the back-to-back first-round draft picks from 2009-10, RHP Chad Jenkins (2-6, 5.84 ERA) and RHP Deck McGuire, who pitched 5 innings on Sunday and is 2-8, 6.62 ERA. RHP Joel Carreno is 1-4 with a 4.71 ERA... A-Dunedin (41-23) ...CF Jake Marisnick is batting .262, with three homers, 26 RBIs and eight steals. RHP John Stilson is 3-0, 2.82 ERA. LHP Sean Nolin is 7-0, 2.35 ERA... A-Lansing (47-22) ... the Lugnuts beat Great Lakes 9-2 on Sunday. LF Kevin Pillar hit his third homer, with four RBIs and is batting .319 with 27 stolen bases. Pitching is the story at Lansing as RHP Aaron Sanchez leads the way with 6-0, 0.77 ERA. He worked four innings with no decision on Sunday... A-Vancouver (2-1) ... the Canadians lost 7-3 to Spokane. 1B Balbino Fuenmayor was 2-for-4 and is hitting .429.
ONE FOR THE ROAD
This week’s road trip takes the Jays and me to Milwaukee and Miami. I’m covering those two stops and am looking forward to Miami. Not so sure about Milwaukee. I think the last time I was in Milwaukee for the all-star game a few years ago, it rained for two days, including Home Run Derby Monday and at the hotel I was assigned, the bellman that brought me to my room proudly told me that this was the hotel — located near Marquette University — that notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer used to lure some of his victims. Didn’t see that referenced in the online brochure.
That was also the all-star game that ended in a tie and prompted the rule change where the all-star winning league earns home field advantage at the World Series. Not Bud Selig’s proudest moment as he sat confused in the field-side box seats in the 12th inning as managers and umpires told him there was no more pitching.
The post-all-star game party was held in tents just outside the Brewers stadium and I remember being unable to order a Miller Lite. Only Bud and Bud Light, ironically in the shadow of Miller Park. Bud was the official beer of MLB and all that, but had nothing to do with making Milwaukee famous. Strange.
Are there two more polar opposite cities in terms of reputation than Wisconsin’s biggest little city on the shores of Lake Michigan and Florida’s capital of cool with South Beach, art deco and all.
Last time I was on Miami Beach, was for a winter meetings. The Clevelander is my favourite South Beach night spot, with outdoor bar set up around the swimming pool with rickety foot bridges, throbbing dance music and cold beer. Joe’s Stone Crab for lunch is a must. The most bizarre place I went to was with Jeff Blair of the Globe & Mail, a Goth bar called The Kitchen. It was pitch black inside, with no lighting and you had to feel your way around. The music was equally bizarre. Blair loved it.
Oh, by the way, the hotel I chose is on the MacArthur Causeway, which was in the news recently right near my lobby, when some nut job ate the face off another guy. I detect a trend with me and road hotels. From Florida, the team heads to Boston and will be joined for coverage by The Star’s Brendan Kennedy.