Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has made 40 trades since taking the position following the 2009 season. Now there is one he has decided against making. Until Jose Reyes returns from an ankle injury, the Blue Jays intend to stick with the combination of Munenori Kawasaki and Maicer Izturis at shortstop in the near term, Anthopoulos said on Sunday.
The Yankees swept a four-game series from the Blue Jays who went 1-6 on the road trip to Baltimore and New York, and have lost 11 and 16 games overall since Reyes hurt himself sliding awkwardly into second base. Overall, they’ve lost seven of eight series.
Lyle Overbay hit a two-run homer off R.A. Dickey (2-4) in the seventh inning and Brennan Boesch hit a solo homer in the third, both off knuckleballs high in the strike zone. Phil Hughes, coming in with a 5.03 career earned-run average against the Jays in 23 appearances, struck out nine and allowed two runs in six innings; Boone Logan got the win in an inning of relief.
The Jays (9-17) have a day off Monday before a six-game homestand against Boston and Seattle.
“I am hopeful that we all individually feel a sense of urgency,” Dickey said. “I can only speak for myself but I think a few other guys [in the clubhouse] feel this next homestand is big for us, in the sense that we’re going into a new month and it’s time to turn the page and hopefully go in the right direction.”
In the span since Reyes went down, Toronto’s infield defence has allowed 12 runs to score on errors or balls that deflected off infielders and were ruled hits, according to an independent analysis of play-by-play statistics. Games such as Sunday’s when the defence played steadily, have been more rare than common in the first month.
“Obviously with Reyes being out, you’re not going to replace him,” Anthopoulos said. “We know that. All of it gets magnified because we’re in tight games. … In a lot of ways, it’s been a snowball, not getting a lot of innings from the starters, bullpen works more, games are close.”
One reason the Jays are not getting a lot of innings from the starters, is due to below-grade defence, especially up the middle. Dickey, going into Sunday, had a batting average against of balls put in play of .298; Brandon Morrow, .319; Mark Buehrle, .323; Josh Johnson, .379.
While reliable, Kawasaki is limited by lack of quickness and arm strength, and there are ground balls going to his right and left for hits that Reyes would be able to turn into outs.
Offensively, without Reyes as the leadoff hitter the team ranks 14th out of 15 AL teams for on-base percentage and the lack of run production is compounded by the Jays’ average with runners in scoring position, .190 or 14th in the league going into Sunday. Manager John Gibbons prefers not to tinker with the batting order but in trying to produce more runs, he’s used 23 different lineups including the seasonal debut of Brett Lawrie as leadoff hitter on Sunday.
The Blue Jays have played in 17 games decided by two runs or fewer, losing 11 of them. They also allowed the opponent to score first in 17 games, losing 13 of those.
“Guys at the plate feel they have to press a bit, I certainly feel like I need to make big pitch after big pitch, so when you do have climactic innings, everything is exacerbated,” Dickey said. “It’s hard to play like that for a long amount of time. It’ll wear on you. The thing we need to understand is, you can’t win eight games on one night. You’ve just got to win one.”
Anthopoulos went shopping for a Major League shortstop after Reyes hurt himself but decided to elevate Kawasaki form Triple-A Buffalo. As the Blue Jays slide toward the 10-games-under-.500 mark, the question is whether any price would have been too high for a shortstop able to strengthen the defence immediately. Instead, they’ve suffered a damaging two weeks.
“I don’t think I ever came out and said it was too high a price,” Anthopoulos said. “I think prices are fair but ultimately it’s who’s out there. We have to decide, incrementally, with what you have you give up, is it that much better than what you currently have internally? So I don’t think the prices are too high. They’re just prices that don’t make sense for us.”
He said they’ll re-assess the situation in a week or two.
Notes: RHP Josh Johnson’s MRI is clean and he’s expected to start again on Friday or Saturday ... With the off day Monday, the other starters are being pushed back one day ... Adam Lind (1-f0r-3) returned from parental leave on Sunday, drew an intentional walk, failed to score on an Izturis’s two-out run-scoring double off the right-field fence in the sixth. ... The Houston Astros circa 2005 started the season with 15 losses and 30 defeats before winning the National League championship and losing to Mark Buehrle and the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. The Boston Braves came from 15 games down in 1914.