Meanwhile, inside the Jays' compact, spartan clubhouse, an offensively challenged team was left to ponder the reason why this potentially potent batting order ranked last in base hits and runs scored. First-year batting coach Chad Mottola believes patience is required.
“As the season progresses we're going to see our lineup so stacked with relaxed at-bats that we're going to be able to mix and match parts based on maybe matchups or stuff like that,” Mottola said. “But the bigger concern, the thing we have to do now is get everybody to be themselves. When we get rolling it won't matter where everybody's hitting. It will be a consistent lineup throughout. From there we can worry about who's batting where. Right now we just have to get guys to be themselves.”
Mottola is also of a mind that any offence spins off a productive 3-4 hitters and that Edwin Encarnacion batting cleanup was affected by the strange spring, including WBC duty with the victorious Team Dominican. When he returned, it was with a bruised right index that kept him out of action until there was just several games remaining.
“It's a pretty big combination of having few at-bats before the WBC, having the time off, probably six or seven at-bats before the season and wanting to hit 40 home runs,” Mottola observed. “He knows this. He needs to start being a little more patient, getting his pitch and be ready when his pitch comes. He wants to succeed like the rest of the team and it's almost a case of wanting it too bad.”
Encarnacion headed into Wednesday's matinee at Comerica Park on an alarming 0-for-17 slide. Meanwhile, Bautista, the focal point of the Jays' lineup the last three seasons, missed the final three games of the homestand and showed rust when he finally returned on Tuesday. He was a little late on his swings, going 0-for-4 with his final at-bat being a warning track liner to centre field. On Wednesday, he was back in the lineup in right field. The Jays need Encarnacion and Bautista to lead the charge.
“Absolutely it can affect the other guys,” Mottola said. “This game is very contagious. Once we get a few balls to drop, whether it's Jose yesterday, had three line drives didn't drop, Edwin, (Adam) Lind had some good at-bats early on (that didn't result in hits). You see everybody pressing. Everybody wants to win so bad. It's a good problem to have. As the season progresses, you play day-after-day, you realize just be yourself, we'll be fine.”
The game was still on as scheduled, but the weather forecast was gloomy, with rain predicted all the way through Tursday's scheduled afternoon game.