Blue Jays Notebook: Pitching depth being tested early on by injuries

Rowdy Tellez had a three-run home run to tie the game but the Detroit Tigers came out on top with 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

TORONTO – Sean Reid-Foley gets the ball Monday against the Baltimore Orioles in place of the injured Clayton Richard, as the Toronto Blue Jays are now onto the eighth man on their starting pitching depth chart one series into the new season.

Richard had hoped to avoid a trip to the injured list but the pain from a stress reaction he suffered just below his right knee during a side session ahead of his last outing in a minor-league game simply didn’t ease up.

“It’s a gut punch,” said the veteran left-hander, who will be shutdown to allow the area to calm before a path to a return is charted. “It’s more of a feel situation. Once I can walk around and it feels good, then we re-evaluate and start moving forward. In order to feel good on the mound, I have to feel better just doing every day activity.”

In his place enters Reid-Foley, the 23-year-old right-hander with big time stuff who debuted last year but had a rough spring, allowing 14 runs on 14 hits and eight walks in 15 innings with 13 strikeouts. The Blue Jays kicked around giving the outing to Sam Gaviglio or Thomas Pannone, but opted for Reid-Foley, who was slated to pitch a minor-league game Sunday.

He joins a Blue Jays rotation that already includes Trent Thornton, who debuted in Sunday’s 4-3, 11-inning loss to the Detroit Tigers with five shutout innings and a club first-start record eight strikeouts. He’s covering for Ryan Borucki (elbow inflammation), who is slated to get back up on a mound next week and is likely looking at a late April return at this point.

Clay Buchholz (flexor strain) is still on track for a mid-April return, which means barring injuries, one of the kids is on the clock.

Richard, who underwent knee surgery last August, said his current issues are unrelated to his past troubles. A stress reaction can be a precursor to a stress fracture and he said there’s pain whenever he puts any sort of weight on the knee.

“The compression below the joint creates pain,” he said.

The Blue Jays managed “to do some things to alleviate the pain” before the minor-league start, “but unfortunately coming out of it, it got to the point we needed to take time off of it and let it heal.”

“I just it’s prohibited me from doing what I can do on the mound,” he added. “That’s the point where we have to take a look and see what’s necessary so I can compete at the highest level.”

HOME RUN HERO: Rowdy Tellez’s pinch-hit, game-tying, three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth was a remarkable piece of hitting, as he managed to get barrel on a Joe Jimenez changeup quickly dropping out of the zone and sent it 395 feet over the wall in left-centre.

The swing demonstrated both strong bat-to-ball skills and brute strength.

“It was part of my approach trying to see the ball and drive it the other way,” said Tellez. “That’s going to help me see the off-speed pitches a little longer and a little better and keep me through the middle of the field.”

Even more intriguing is the roll of the dice by Charlie Montoyo, who gave up his DH by slotting Tellez in for catcher Luke Maile, since Danny Jansen was in the lineup at DH and came into the game for defence.

That left the Blue Jays to play the rest of the game as a National League team, which isn’t ideal with only 12 position players on the roster. As things turned out, the decision allowed Freddy Galvis to keep his consecutive games played streak alive as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning.

Galvis’s run seemed set to end at 328 games when he was a late scratch from the lineup with lower back tightness. Instead, he hit in place of Joe Biagini after a Richard Urena double, and nearly won the game by ripping a line drive to the hole between left and third.

“It was like 20 minutes before game time when he said he couldn’t go,” Montoyo said of Galvis. “He’s got the streak going so I said, if you can get loose I’ll give you time. He said, ‘No, I won’t be able to go.’ And for Freddy to say that, that means he couldn’t go. Then around the third inning, Nikki Huffman, our trainer, says he got loose pretty good and he should be able to pinch-hit or play.”

Tigers shortstop Jordy Mercer got a glove on the ball ripped by Galvis and when Urena turned for home, he missed third base coach Luis Rivera throwing up his hands. Mercer chased the ball down and fired a strike to the plate to keep the game going.

“Richie played a good game, he hit the double to be in scoring position, he just ran through a stop sign,” said Montoyo. “In a situation like that, it’s a big play in the game. But that happens.”

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LUCIANO DEBUTS: The Blue Jays wanted to get a quick read on what Elvis Luciano brings to the table and Charlie Montoyo dropped the Rule 5 rookie into a tight spot during the seventh inning, with three runs in, two on, two outs and Nicholas Castellanos at the plate.

“I had him up and then Javy Guerra looked like he didn’t have it,” said Montoyo. “It was easy for me to say, ‘OK, here we go, this is the chance for the kid to see what he can do.’ It turned out great. He did a good job.”

Luciano started the Tigers slugger off with a pair of 95 m.p.h. fastballs before a cutter induced a soft liner to centre that Kevin Pillar chased down for the third out.

Montoyo then sent the 19-year-old – who became both the youngest player in club history and the first player born this century to appear in the majors – back out for the eighth, with Miguel Cabrera, his favourite player from childhood, leading off.

“When I knew I was going to face him, that was the proudest moment of the entire day for me,” Luciano said through interpreter Hector Lebron.

Things nearly didn’t end well, as Cabrera hammered a 2-2 slider 372 feet to left field. But a leaping Teoscar Hernandez reeled it in for a long, loud out.

“I thought it was going to be a home run,” Luciano conceded. “But I’m glad Teo was there to catch that ball.”

There was more adventure for Luciano as he had to work around a Niko Goodrum double and Christin Stewart intentional walk, getting John Hicks on a weak flyout to right and Mikie Mahtook looking at a slider.

He finished with one-and-a-third scoreless in his big-league debut, proving some things to himself in the process.

“I’m tough,” he said. “Comparing the minor-leagues to the big-leagues is totally different, especially with the hitters. I need to work very hard with the hitters when I face them.

“I feel very good about it,” he added later, “and very proud of myself.”


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