Atkins on Blue Jays’ reputation: ‘I think we’re misunderstood’

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins talks about the process of appealing the suspension to Jose Bautista.

NEW YORK – As the Toronto Blue Jays await word on the fate of Jose Bautista’s suspension appeal, reports indicate Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor’s eight-game ban was cut by one to seven after he pleaded his case earlier this week.

That won’t sit well with the Blue Jays since GM Ross Atkins noted Thursday, “you can argue that (Bautista) was thrown at twice,” a reference both to Matt Bush hitting the right-fielder and to Odor’s relay attempt that appeared aimed right at Bautista’s head before the fight.

The discipline against Bautista is believed to be centred around his post-brawl comment relating to his hard slide into second base, as he told reporters, “I could have injured him, I chose not to, I just tried to send a message that I didn’t appreciate getting hit (with a Matt Bush fastball).”

The Blue Jays counter is likely that Bautista’s slide was punished on the field when Justin Smoak, who hit the groundball that started a double-play attempt by the Rangers, was called out at first for a violation of baseball’s new slide rule.

Suspending him on top of that is essentially a double punishment, and giving him one game while Bush received only a fine is sure to exacerbate the sense of injustice.

• Asked about his team’s rep around the league in the wake of the Rangers brawl, some friction with the Twins and a few run-ins with umpires, general manager Ross Atkins said: “I think we’re misunderstood sometimes as an organization and as a team and part of it is talent. Part of it is the ferocity of that lineup and how intense those matchups become, how intense each at-bat is with us that have turned some emotions high. There are some individuals here that are misunderstood and there’s a team here that is sometimes misunderstood. At the same time, we’re here to control what we can control, and how we are viewed and perceived is not something we spend a lot of time thinking about.”

Devon Travis has played two games since his activation from the disabled list and made an immediate impact in both outings. On Wednesday, his infield single helped set the stage for a pivotal Ryan Goins two-out, two-run double, while Thursday, he reached on an error to score on Edwin Encarnacion’s decisive two-run single, also with two outs, and later added an RBI single off some triple-digit Aroldis Chapman heat. The RBI was his first since July 28 versus the Phillies. “I’m just happy to come back and get two wins against a divisional opponent, against the Yankees. That was a lot of fun,” he said of his contributions. As for how he’s feeling at the plate, Travis said: “It’s a grind every day. I feel good, it’s just normal baseball, whether you’re feeling good or not, those pitchers on that mound are really good. Every single pitch is a big pitch, I’m trying to take it pitch-by-pitch, at-bat by at-bat, and hopefully here soon it clicks.”

• Ross Atkins recently wrapped up draft meetings with the club’s scouts in Florida and California and has also had an opportunity to review the club’s farm system. His take on what’s left after last summer’s trade deadline buildup? “There are some positives within our system,” he said. “There are some things that you guys saw in major-league spring training that give us reason to believe that we have some guys who could be every day major-league players. I think where we’re lacking is the depth of those guys that could turn into major-league players, that larger number of what we call in the industry a Role 4 player, someone who is maybe not an everyday player but a solid contributing player, who could turn into a five. That’s where we’re lacking a little bit of depth. Less margin for error. We have to make sure the guys that we feel are going to be great every day major-league players, become them.”

• That lack of depth could be a problem for the Blue Jays should they be in position to add players in July to fuel a run at the post-season. “There’s no question that it impacts it,” said Atkins. “We will have to keep our eyes on the future, but we recognize this window and opportunity. I think we also recognize how hard it is to win, so if we’re in a good position, we’ll be able to appropriately balance that and I think fortunately we do have enough assets that if we wanted to make a move like that, we could. I think the question then becomes at what expense and at what level of sacrifice.”

Franklin Morales is throwing to 120 feet and for the first time since his shoulder fatigue came up, is showing “a steady progression of strength,” said Atkins. Brett Cecil is also making progress from his lat injury, and Atkins counts them among “some decent internal options and guys who have already been here” who can help the bullpen. “(Ryan) Tepera, (Aaron) Loup is getting healthy, obviously there are other guys that were here in Franklin Morales and Brett Cecil that we feel pretty good about helping us at some point. Those are solid alternatives. I’ve said it before, I don’t want to be too redundant, I still feel really good about Drew Storen being a great piece to the solution and a player that’s making a significant contribution for us in September as we push for the playoffs.”

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