The seeds of separation between the Toronto Blue Jays and Colby Rasmus, their mercurial centre fielder, have been planted for some time.
Now, with the influx of September call-ups infiltrating the Toronto clubhouse, it is becoming abundantly clear that the Blue Jays will have a new centre fielder for next season. Nobody, of course, is stating this for the record. You have to read between the lines, and there is plenty there to gaze at for anybody who has even a passing interest in the team.
When Toronto manager John Gibbons posted his starting lineup in the clubhouse several hours before game time Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, Rasmus’s name was not listed for the second-straight outing and for the sixth time in the past seven contests.
On Wednesday, it was Anthony Gose who got the start in centre, one of the nine newcomers who were called up the day before from Triple-A Buffalo.
Rasmus started Sunday’s game in Toronto against the Yankees. But in the four games before that it was Kevin Pillar who got the call in place of Rasmus. Pillar only rejoined the team on Aug. 26, also getting called up from Buffalo.
With Rasmus is in limbo the Blue Jays (71-67) continued their strong play of late in hopes of reviving their flagging playoff hopes, posting a 7-4 win over the flat Rays (67-73) at Tropicana Field, Toronto’s fourth consecutive win.
Combined with Tuesday’s 8-2 win, the Blue Jays have assured themselves of their first series win in Tampa Bay since April, 2007.
Dioner Navarro and Edwin Encarnacion homered for the Blue Jays while rookie pitcher Marcus Stroman improved to 9-5 on the season, going six strong, allowing two Tampa runs off seven hits.
When Rasmus arrived in the Toronto clubhouse on Wednesday he didn’t even have to glance at the lineup to know that his name would not be included. He was informed the day before by Gibbons that, from here on in until the end of the season, the Blue Jays would be auditioning others at his spot.
It is becoming obvious that both Gose and Pillar will be the two players who will battle for the regular centre fielder’s job in Toronto once spring training for the 2015 campaign rolls around in February.
“I said yesterday we want to look at some of those other guys who are up here,” Gibbons said flatly to those reporters who were fortunate to get into his daily pregame meeting with the media before he locked the door, in reference to Rasmus and his status.
“That’s pretty much what they’ve said,” a resigned Rasmus said. “I’m going to be sitting around watching these young kids play and when they just feel like putting me in there I’ll be in there.”
For Rasmus, it has been a terrible season that included a 33-game absence from May 13 through June 18 after injuring his right hamstring. When he has been in the lineup, it has been a struggle.
Offensively, Rasmus entered Wednesday’s game hitting just .225, with 16 home runs and 37 runs batted in. His on-base percentage was .287. Defensively, the fleet-of-foot Rasmus has looked confused covering ground in centre, often failing to get to balls that seemingly appear to be well within his territory and ability to track down.
Those are not exactly appealing features that the Blue Jays will look at come the season’s end when deciding if they want to sign Rasmus, who will become a free agent, to another contract – or just cut him loose.
Rasmus certainly did not endear himself to management earlier this season, when he was held out of the starting lineup for a game in Houston toward the end of July after arriving late. Insiders will tell you that it had been a recurring issue this season for the 28-year-old.
Asked on Wednesday how he feels about his new role as a bench player moving forward, Rasmus is clearly not pleased. But he was honest.
“I don’t feel good, but it is what it is,” Rasmus said. “I don’t really have any leverage in the situation. Didn’t play good, so that’s what happens.”
On the season in general, Rasmus admitted it has been a grind and said the defensive shifts where opponents load up on the right side of the diamond whenever he comes to the plate have not helped.
“This season, the shift’s hurt me pretty good.” Rasmus said. “And they’ve pitched me well into the shift. Even when I tried to make some adjustments hitting the ball the other way they were getting caught. So it’s been tough.”
The Blue Jays will also have a decision to make with Brandon Morrow, the starting pitcher who has just returned to the roster after missing most of the season with an injured finger.
Having missed most of the past two seasons because of injuries, Gibbons has suggested that perhaps a full-time bullpen role might be a better spot for Morrow in order to protect his health. Morrow will work out of the bullpen for the remainder of this season.
“I see myself as a starter,” Morrow said, when asked about the bullpen idea.