Blue Jays notebook: Gibbons still believes

John Gibbons talks about the frustration between the fans and the team of the Jays' slow start.

TORONTO – Brett Lawrie has played every inning of every game since returning from the disabled list to the starting lineup, so the Toronto Blue Jays decided to give him a rest in Sunday’s series finale against the Seattle Mariners.

“He’s a little banged up,” manager John Gibbons said before the game. “He’s been going hard since he got back in there. I thought it’d be a good idea to give him a rest.”

Lawrie returned to the lineup April 16th and has since played in every one of the Blue Jays’ 18 games. He said before the game that he’s feeling good physically.

Lawrie added that he has found a rhythm on offence and on defence, especially now that he has built up some reps at the MLB level. The 23-year-old has a .197/.260/.379 batting line in 73 plate appearances, and has made many standout plays on defence at third base.

Lawrie took part in drills as usual during batting practice before Sunday’s game.

NOT DYSFUNCTIONAL: Gibbons doesn’t quite agree with R.A. Dickey’s evaluation of the team. Dickey described the team’s play on the field as ‘dysfunctional’ after Saturday’s loss, but that’s not the way Gibbons assesses the team.

"I probably wouldn’t use that word, but that’s not a word I’d probably use much anyway," he said. "I think it all comes down to we’re not playing good baseball. That’s probably the way I would describe it. We’re not playing good enough baseball to win."

Semantics aside, everyone involved agrees that the Blue Jays are playing poorly. They have a 10-21 record after losing eight of their last nine games and are in danger of being swept by the Mariners.

"We’re not pitching well enough, we’re not hitting well enough," Gibbons said.

The manager explained that he still expects the team to go on a run and balance out the uneven record. It needs to happen sooner, rather than later.

"We’re digging a pretty good hole, there’s no question about it," he said.

SCOUTING MORROW: Like most of the Blue Jays’ starting pitchers, Brandon Morrow has started the season slowly, with a 5.29 ERA through his first six starts of the season. But the person who traded Morrow to Toronto still likes what he sees from the 28-year-old right-hander.

"Brandon’s always had great stuff," Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said before the game. "Being drafted with the fifth pick in the country that year he always had the electric fastball and developed a nice slider. So with Brandon it’s just always been about consistency, but the stuff is there and on any given day he can be electric."

Morrow and the Blue Jays face Joe Saunders Sunday in the left-hander’s first start since pitching a complete game against the Orioles. Zduriencik said he’s hoping to see dependable innings from Saunders between now and the end of the season.

"We’ll look for consistency and for Joe to continue being the pro that he is," Zduriencik said.

Saunders has a 5.25 ERA through 36 innings after signing a one-year, $6.5 million contract in February.

AN OUTSIDER’S VIEW: There’s no denying that Blue Jays have struggled through the first 31 games -- approximately one fifth of the season. Yet Zduriencik said injuries such as Jose Reyes’ ankle sprain can make teams look worse than they really are early on.

"You go into the season and you have all these expectations, but then when you have setbacks it changes everything. Everybody’s entitled to have a slow start," Zduriencik said. "It happens."

The Blue Jays don’t play the Mariners again until August, at which point Zduriencik expects a tough foe.

"You look at this club, the potential’s there at any point in time this club could be a very, very good offensive club," he said. "I do expect them to turn it around and I do expect the next time we play them it’s going to be a very good club."