Such is the nature of their start to the season that it will soon be time for general manager Alex Anthopoulos to make a call on 2013.
Not a “back up the truck” kind of call, but rather a strategic decision about how to set things up for 2014, while not entirely writing off the current season.
The Toronto Blue Jays came out of April with both feet firmly in the mathematically improbable range when it comes to the postseason. Top to bottom, this particular group is simply not working out, for whatever reason, and having a healthy Jose Reyes return won’t be the cure-all.
The Blue Jays need an authoritative left-handed bat for the middle of the order to do any damage now or in the future, and must find a solid defensive second baseman – and they won’t get that commodity down on the farm. The only way that changes is if internal discussions about moving third baseman Brett Lawrie to second and bringing in outfielder Jose Bautista to third advance beyond the theoretical – opening up other holes for that lefty hitter – and, according to manager John Gibbons, that won’t happen any time soon.
The Blue Jays understandably have reservations about a wholesale position shuffle, although people around the team will tell you a sudden increase in Triple-A outfielder Anthony Gose’s development curve could expedite the moves. It would certainly be taken in some quarters as a sign of panic – but any more so than the decision taken Thursday to bring up pitcher Ricky Romero from Single-A Dunedin?
This is a puzzler: Josh Johnson was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right triceps inflammation and Romero, who has pitched in one Florida State League game after being left in spring training to rebuild his delivery, is scheduled to start Friday against Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners. Romero had his way with the Miami Marlins Single-A Brevard County team, using 79 pitches to get through seven innings, allowing one run on six hits, struck out four and induced 16 ground-ball outs out of his 21 outs.
“At some point, obviously, we expect Romero to continue to progress and we’ll have a decision to make,” Anthopoulos said the next day. “We want him back to being the guy he was; the all-star.”
“At some point” arrived weeks ahead of time, by some people’s reckoning, but if Romero’s reworked delivery gets him back to where he once was, it’s going to make it easier for the Blue Jays to make the deal they need to make.
Given the way the Blue Jays’ 12-player off-season deal with the Miami Marlins has worked out, it’s probably no surprise Johnson is injured. Reyes is on the shelf until the all-star break with a severely sprained ankle and Emilio Bonifacio can’t catch or hit.
And pitcher Mark Buehrle? His 2013 start ought to be of more significant concern than Johnson, who should be of interest on the trade market when healthy, even if he is eligible for free agency this winter.
It is true slow starts are nothing new for Buehrle – his career earned-run average in the first month is 4.32 and gets better as the weather gets hotter – but even when he pitched for the Chicago White Sox, he had poor numbers against the American League East. Never mind questions about his velocity, of bigger concern is his tendency to leave pitches up in the zone.
He could be pining for his pit bulls, but a bigger question might be whether there was a reason he elected, as a free agent, to sign the final contract of his career and pitch for the National League’s Marlins – that perhaps Buehrle realized his stuff was no longer up to the hurly-burly of the AL.
Either way, the guess here is Buehrle figured there was no way he’d be back in a division that has been a personal nightmare. Buehrle has two more years at $18-million and $19-million (U.S.), respectively, left on his contract, and the Blue Jays would need to pick up a healthy portion of that to expedite a deal.
With injury rehabbing pitchers Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison expected to be available next season, don’t be surprised to see Anthopoulos start moving pieces around.
You think the GM was creative this off-season? If 2013 keeps going this way, he’ll have to do that times two – and very soon.