The first week of the baseball season is gone, finished, kaput.
And thank goodness, the Blue Jays must be saying, as they return to Toronto to begin a nine-game home stand and try to regroup after an unsettling week.
The Blue Jays begin the home portion of the season on Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers at Rogers Centre, looking to rebound from a rocky 1-5 start on the road against the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays inflicted the latest indignity on Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field in Florida, torching Toronto starter Marco Estrada for three home runs, which helped propel the home side to a convincing 7-2 victory.
“Obviously one and five is not the way you want to start … good thing there’s 162 of these,” Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. “It’s only six games, so back home in front of our great fans, [we can] get this thing rolling.
“We got a good ball club. And there’s no panic in here. We’re going to be just fine, I can promise you that.”
And a week into the season, the aches and pains are already starting to pile up.
The biggest worry involves star third baseman Josh Donaldson, who was removed from Sunday’s game in the sixth inning after experiencing tightness in his right calf.
This is disconcerting news for the Blue Jays. It was a right calf strain that caused Donaldson, the American League’s most valuable player in 2015, to miss the bulk of spring training.
And earlier in the day, the Blue Jays said lefty reliever J.P. Howell was heading to the 10-day disabled list after experiencing left shoulder tightness.
Any significant down time for Donaldson, who knocked his second home run of the season off Tampa starter Jake Odorizzi in the first inning, would certainly have an impact on Toronto’s hopes to challenge in the competitive American League East.
But Donaldson does not think his injury is significant. For one thing, he said, it is to a different part of the calf that he had previously injured.
“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “Honestly, I think it’s very realistic that I’ll be ready for the home opener.”
Donaldson came out of the game following a chaotic at-bat against Odorizzi in the top of the sixth inning.
First, Donaldson lost the grip on his bat on a swinging strike and the lumber flew toward the mound, forcing a startled Odorizzi to skip out of the way to avoid being cold-cocked.
Later in the same at-bat, Donaldson hit a ground ball that hugged the third base foul line.
It was scooped up expertly by Evan Longoria at third and his on-the-money throw to first was just in time to nip Donaldson, who was hustling all the way.
Donaldson pulled up after crossing the bag and it was evident that he was sore.
He slowly pealed off his batting gloves as he gingerly made his way back across to the diamond, into the dugout, and straight into the Blue Jays clubhouse for examination.
Utility infielder Ryan Goins was sent out to fill in at third base for Toronto in the bottom of the inning.
Sunday’s game was a chippy affair.
Things looked good early for Toronto, with Donaldson hitting a solo homer in the first inning to provide the Blue Jays with an early 1-0 lift.
Tulowitzki increased the lead to 2-0, his ground-out to short bringing Jose Bautista home from third.
In the second inning, a bit of a late slide into second base by Steven Souza Jr. ignited hostilities after Tulowitzki, the Toronto shortstop, decided to critique the form of the Tampa Bay base runner.
“I felt like it [the slide] was a little late,” Tulowitzki said. “I figure I should say something – not so much at the time for myself but for other guys maybe in the future. You try and save injuries.”
Souza felt Tulowitzki was overreacting.
“I’m playing hard and if he thinks that I’m trying to be malicious, he clearly doesn’t know who I am,” he said.
The discussion quickly led to the emptying of both dugouts, but there was no harm done.
But Souza enjoyed the last laugh in the third inning, when the Rays moved in front 4-2, a lead they would not relinquish.
First it was Corey Dickerson taking Estrada deep with a leadoff home run, one of three homers the Toronto starter surrendered, all off his vaunted change-up.
When Souza came to the plate later in the inning he launched a towering drive to left field that just cleared the wall for the inning’s second dinger, this one a three-run shot.Report Typo/Error
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