BALTIMORE – Initial word Friday was that Ryan Borucki was going to be visiting Dr. James Andrews in the coming days. Clarification one from the Toronto Blue Jays was that they wanted to involve the renowned arm specialist to ensure they had the best plan in place for their prized left-hander and were still putting all the pieces in place. Clarification two was that Borucki will not, in fact, be visiting Andrews but that the team would instead be consulting with him and others on a plan moving forward.
Whew, that was needlessly complicated.
Well, first, things don’t sound very good for Borucki, who’s feeling pain in his inflamed left elbow similar to what he experienced in the spring, when a one-start absence turned into three months down. In 2013, Andrews performed Tommy John surgery on the 25-year-old, who in 2015 also had surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow. For his sake, let’s hope things aren’t as troubling as they seem.
Second, Borucki’s ongoing absence means that, for at least the time being, there are going to be plenty more fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants nights like Friday, when Wilmer Font opened for Nick Kingham in a 5-2 Blue Jays win over the Baltimore Orioles. The pairing worked well in leading the way to a season-best fifth straight win, Font throwing two scoreless followed by three clean frames from Kingham, returned earlier in the day from triple-A Buffalo.
“If it’s a guy that throws 95, 96, (an opener) usually works pretty good,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “For whatever reason in the big-leagues, in the first inning guys are not ready for that 97, and that’s what he does (Font averaged 94.6 m.p.h. and topped out at 97.4). He’s got a good arm and throws pretty hard.”
With only four starters in the rotation – rookies Trent Thornton, Thomas Pannone, Sean Reid-Foley and Jacob Waguespack – and the likeliest candidates to be No. 5 either injured (Clayton Richard, Patrick Murphy, Julian Merryweather) or underperforming (T.J. Zeuch, Anthony Kay, Yennsy Diaz, Hector Perez) this could become a regular thing by default.
Even in that, a caveat.
“That all depends on how much they’re used the days before,” said Montoyo.
Font rejoined the Blue Jays on July 17 when he was purchased from the New York Mets, nearly three years to the day Toronto signed him from the Ottawa Champions of the Can-Am League to eat innings at double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo. He’s been well-travelled both before and since, making an impression on Montoyo during nine appearances with the Rays last year.
Over parts of five big-league seasons, Font has pitched in 57 games, nine of them starts and the opening role appeals to him.
“When I open, I have a lot more time to get ready,” Font said through interpreter Hector Lebron. “When I’m going to be a reliever, my body takes a little bit longer to warm up. Definitely, when I open the games I feel a lot better because I have a lot more time.”
He’s especially needed now because the uncertainty on the Blue Jays pitching staff isn’t limited to the rotation. The bullpen is also a jumbled mess minus the traded Daniel Hudson and David Phelps, and rebuilding closer Ken Giles, who played catch again Friday.
Until he returns, Tim Mayza and Derek Law did the late-inning leverage work Friday, Mayza recording a key out in the seventh before Law handled the eighth and ninth innings for his first save of the season. Justin Shafer closed out Wednesday’s win at Kansas City for his first career save, but was unavailable Friday after getting sick mid-game, so it’s all hands on deck there, too.
Montoyo noted before the game that Canadian righty Jordan Romano (oblique) is scheduled to pitch an inning in Florida next week, demonstrating how even he’s looking forward to some reinforcements.
The offence, meanwhile, kept doing what it’s supposed to against the quad-A pitching it’s been facing, this time paced by veteran Freddy Galvis, who delivered an RBI single in the first to open up a 2-0 lead, hit a solo homer in the fourth to extend the advantage and singled and scored in the ninth on Derek Fisher’s first RBI single with the Blue Jays.
“We have a pretty good group of young guys, they know how to play baseball,” said Galvis. “They’ve helped the team the last week a lot to win a lot of games.”
Displaced as the everyday shortstop by the arrival of Bo Bichette, who doubled and walked, Galvis wasn’t moved prior to the trade deadline when a market for him didn’t emerge. Both he and Justin Smoak were somewhat hurt by the move to a single trade deadline, as they’d be more typically be the type of players acquired in August waiver deals.
Instead, Galvis lined up at second base on Friday and will be moving all around the infield over the remaining two months. Montoyo spoke with him beforehand about the upcoming role change and the steely veteran said, “everything is good.”
“Just take it like a professional, man,” said Galvis. “I have to come here every day and try to help the team to win some games and that’s the only thing I’m going to do.”
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., meanwhile, kept up his recent torrid pace with a run-scoring single in the first that opened the scoring, his 17th RBI over the past six games.
Given how uncertain their pitching is, the Blue Jays will be needing all the runs they can get.