TORONTO — There is good reason why the Toronto Blue Jays continue to show faith in Colby Rasmus, and his home run in the sixth inning of Saturday’s 5-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox offered up Exhibit A on that front.
The way the struggling 26-year-old turned on a 93 m.p.h. heater from Alfredo Aceves and hammered it off the third-deck facing above the Rogers Centre’s refurbished centre-field restaurant is stuff you can dream on, a product of prodigious talent that’s hard to come by.
The ball struck a point estimated at 448 feet, and it certainly had the legs to go another 20 or 30 feet, easy. His swing broke open a tight 2-0 game, probably the Blue Jays’ best of the season as they were in control from start to finish, capped by Rasmus’ running catch against the wall in right-centre.
“You look at him, and there’s a reason St. Louis drafted him with their No. 1 pick years ago, he can do everything, runs well, he’s got a great arm, he’s the old five-tool guy, and he’s shown a lot of power in the big-leagues,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “The thing where he struggles is batting average, consistency that way, but he still strikes a lot of fear into you if you’re on the other side because you make a mistake and he can hit the ball out, he can hit it as far as anybody.
“Like I always say, home runs win. If you get enough of them out there, he’s going to be a big help.”
Rasmus can be a dominant player, something he’s shown in flashes, yet along with Adam Lind — who ended an 0-for-14 slide with a single in the fourth and a walk ahead of Rasmus’s blast in the sixth — is a prime target for fan discontent with top prospect Anthony Gose waiting at triple-A Buffalo.
But both Rasmus and Lind have the potential to provide exactly what the Blue Jays need — left-handed thump to complement their heavily right-handed run production.
Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, J.P. Arencibia and Brett Lawrie, whenever he gets off the disabled list, are all righties, and knocking in switch-hitters Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and Emilio Bonifacio can’t be their domain alone.
Lind, currently the No. 5 hitter against right-handed starters, and Rasmus, down in the eighth spot, need to do their share, and if they don’t the Blue Jays may have to seek some outside help in that area (perhaps someone along the lines of free-agent to be Justin Morneau, should the Minnesota Twins decide against extending him).
Gose is a left-handed hitter, but he’s a future leadoff man, not an RBI guy.
“We’re going to need us to produce, so far Colby is and I’m a hair away,” said Lind, the last Blue Jays’ regular to collect a hit. “I feel great, the ball is coming off good, just missing them.
“It’s not like I’m rolling over to second base, I’m putting the ball in the air, and usually that’s a good sign when the swing is good. When I’m hitting balls off the end of the bat to first base and second base, that’s when it’s bad.”
Lind has struck out only once in his 16 at-bats, while Rasmus has whiffed eight times in 20 trips to the plate. His three hits have each gone for extra bases, two homers and a double, and the goal is for him to strike a better balance between the extremes.
“I’ve been feeling all right,” said Rasmus. “There are pitchers out there who are getting paid a lot of money to get you out. So they’ve been making adjustments on me, and I’ve just got to keep making adjustments on them. It’s part of the game. But overall I feel good; I feel like I’m moving in the right direction. …
“My goal has been to try to get a good pitch and hit it. My problem is I just haven’t been hitting those pitches I should be hitting. (Saturday) I got a hold of one. So just keep pushing, keep grinding.”
The home run he hit off Aceves — “bomb, very impressive,” in the words of Lind — and the catch, as good as any you’ll see — offered a reminder to the jaded of what Rasmus can be if all that talent finally comes together.
“I’ve hit a few pretty far, but I hit that one pretty good,” he said when asked if the blast to centre was his longest home run. “I’d say that was pretty close to the top.”
That’s talent you keep giving chances to. That’s talent you don’t give up on.