When discussing the merits of having your pitchers clutch a foreign object, known as a bat to everyday players, and suddenly thrust them into hitting situations in a baseball game, John Farrell never used the word bounty.
That’s a bad word in sports these days as New Orleans Saints’ coach Sean Payton can well attest.
But a bounty, or some sort of a reward system, is exactly what the Toronto Blue Jays manager said exists for his pitchers who will be compensated for showing aptitude with the bat now that Major League Baseball interleague play has started.
That means American League pitchers must now bat -- at least when the game is played in National League parks.
When the games are held in A.L. venues -- such as Friday night at Rogers Centre when the New York Mets played the first of a three game set against the Blue Jays -- the designated hitter rule remains in effect and pitchers only have to concentrate on pitching.
The Blue Jays (22-18) went out and flexed their A.L. hitting mettle, pounding five home runs en route to a 14-5 laugher over the mesmerized Mets (21-18) as an energized gathering of 26,712 cheered Toronto to its third straight win..
Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia led the onslaught, homering twice while going 3-for-5 at the plate with a career-high six runs driven in.
Arencibia, who has now homered in three straight games, believes the power many envisioned from this team from the beginning of the season is finally starting to show up on a consistent basis.
“There’s a lot of power from top to bottom in our lineup,” he said.
Outfielder Rajai Davis also homered twice and drove in four runs. For Davis, the homers were his first of the season and it marked the first multi-home run game of his seven-year MLB career.
Yan Gomes, in just his second game since getting called up from Triple-A to replace Adam Lind, counted his first big league home run and drove in two.
When discussing his feelings on interleague play before the game, Farrell pointed out that anytime an A.L. pitcher can muster up anything more than a bunt in these affairs it has to be regarded as a bonus.
“And we put a little bit of a competition in play for all our starters, a little reward system, because when it comes to handling a bat anything above a sacrifice bunt... we’re in way positive territory,” Farrell said.
When asked to elaborate on the reward plan, Farrell just smiled. “There’s probably a little monetary thing that they can donate to their charity of choice,” he said.
It’s almost a given it won’t be much of a windfall for those charities.
During interleague play last year, Blue Jays pitchers went 2-for-22 with Ricky Romero and Jo-Jo Reyes accounting for the hits.
In 2010, Toronto pitchers went 2-for-18 after getting shut out in both 2009 (0-for-20) and 2008 (0-for-16).
“You could say that they [N.L. pitchers]have a distinct advantage when it comes to that [hitting]” Farrell said, and the numbers bear that out.
Pitchers in the N.L. last season hit a collective .142 compared to .119 by their A.L. counterparts.
But those numbers did little to shift the balance of power as once again A.L. teams dominated interleague play by a count of 131-121, the eighth year in a row the junior circuit has held the cumulative advantage.
And as much as Farrell insists that he likes interleague play, he believes more importance should be placed on the outcomes of these games.
“I know the suggestion box isn’t open but I think the overall record of the American and National League, maybe that should weigh in to post-season home field advantage rather than just one game at the all-star break,” Farrell said. “And I’d like to see the National League rules played in the American League ballparks, and vice-versa, so the fans are getting to see a different brand of baseball.”
Toronto’s hitting Friday night made for a relatively easy outing for Ricky Romero, the starting pitcher who was coming off a couple of sub-par performances.
Although he struggled at times with his command, Romero still restricted New York to just three hits over six innings and one earned run while walking four.
“I’m a work in progress right now,” said Romero, now 5-1 on the year. “But I finished on a good note and that’s all I’m worried about.”
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