Baseball, more than most sports, is steeped in lore, in which a player’s first game in the big leagues becomes a story to be recounted the rest of his life.
In hockey, for example, minor-leaguers are rarely asked how they found out or what they were doing when they learned they were getting called up to the pros. Playing video games would probably be the No. 1 response.
In baseball, however, it is generally one of the first questions posed to greenhorns when they step into a major-league clubhouse for the first time.
And so it was for Danny Jansen, who got word on Saturday that his burgeoning catching skills were required in Toronto by the Blue Jays, who continue their season-long lurch.
Jansen, who had been biding his time with the Buffalo Bisons in Triple A, arrived on Sunday and was in uniform, but didn’t play, for Toronto’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre.
And although their offence continued to sputter, the Blue Jays (53-64) got their few hits (five) at just the right moments to defeat the Rays (60-58) 2-1 to avoid a three-game sweep.
Toronto had scored a total of one run in two losses against the Rays.
On Saturday night, Jansen had been in the lineup for the Bisons when, late in the game, he was told to take a seat on the bench. He was approached by Bobby Meacham, the Buffalo manager.
“He said, ‘Kid, you’re going to the big leagues, I don’t want to see you again,’” Jansen, 23, said on Sunday. “It was awesome.”
Jansen said he quickly telephoned his parents to spread the good news. “Some tears came out,” he conceded.
Jansen’s services at the major-league level were required after Toronto third baseman Yangervis Solarte landed on the disabled list with a right oblique injury. With Solarte out, everyday catcher Russell Martin moved to third base on Sunday with backup Luke Maile moving behind the plate. Martin, 35, will likely see a lot of third base down the stretch with Jansen getting more time catching.
“He’s here to play, otherwise it doesn’t do him any good to be here,” Gibbons said.
Jansen was not the only youngster to join the club on Sunday. Top pitching prospect Sean Reid-Foley was also brought up and he will get start Monday night in Kansas City against the Royals when the Blue Jays begin a seven-game trip.
And Jansen will be his catcher.
Reid-Foley, Toronto’s second round pick in the 2014 MLB draft, has been tearing it up in the minors for the Blue Jays.
Starting the season at Double-A in New Hampshire before getting promoted to Buffalo, Reid-Foley sported a combined record of 12-4 (7-4 in Triple A) with a 2.98 earned-run average.
It was a big improvement for the 22-year-old, who was 10-11 with a 5.09 ERA in Double A in 2017.
“Something that we harped on every day … was fastball command, down and away to each hitter and getting over the baseball,” Reid-Foley said when asked to explain the abrupt upswing in his pitching. “And once I started to get better at that and kept doing it and repeating, it definitely showed and helped with the results that I was getting.”
Tampa jumped in front 1-0 Sunday when a Willy Adames grounder through the left side scored Joey Wendle from third base.
Marcus Stroman started for Toronto and gutted it out through five innings. He allowed just one run and five hits, despite being hampered by a blister on his right index finger. The blister limited him to throwing only his sinker and cutter.
Toronto finally got its languid offence going in the sixth inning when it scored both of its runs in a rally sparked by Kevin Pillar.
Pinch hitting for Curtis Granderson, Pillar doubled into the left-field corner, which moved Maile to third base. Devon Travis singled home Maile, which tied the game.
Now stationed at third base, a baserunning gambit by Pillar paid off when Randal Grichuk pounded a pitch into the dirt in front of the plate.
When Tampa Bay catcher Michael Perez made the throw to first for the inning’s second out, Pillar took off for home and was just safe in a headlong slide for the game’s winning run.