Ex-Files: Encarnacion makes instant impact with Cleveland

Edwin Encarnacion belts a game-tying homer and Abraham Almonte hits a go-ahead RBI single to spur the Indians' come-from-behind victory.

It’s a guilty pleasure we all have. The temptation to look at what could have been exists in all facets of life, from relationships and careers right down to last night’s dinner option.

Of course sports offer a prime opportunity for such reminiscence. The inclination to ponder ‘the one who got away’ is a torturous habit for fans.

For proof, witness the expression a Toronto Blue Jays supporter offers when you bring up Noah Syndergaard. David Price would have inspired similar reactions a year ago this time, but fewer Blue Jays fans are now pining for the injured left-hander and his $217 million contract.

With that in mind, continuing a Sportsnet staple, here’s a look at where some former Blue Jays stand as the 2017 season is now underway.

Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians

Any discussion of former Blue Jays players must begin with Encarnacion, who reluctantly departed via free agency this past off-season. In case you were wondering, his Edwing parrot did clear customs and made an appearance during his game-tying solo home run in the Indians’ season opener against the Texas Rangers on Monday.

“He can put the ball in the seats,” said Tribe teammate Andrew Miller after the game. “We’re going to really enjoy him for 162 games. … He’s going to make us win.”

The Blue Jay will host the Indians for a three-game series at Rogers Centre on May 8-10.

Michael Saunders, Philadelphia Phillies

If Encarnacion’s departure hit Blue Jays nation like the opening riffs of a Metallica concert, then Saunders leaving to join the Phillies was treated more like an intimate, small-venue appearance by Ed Sheeran. Saunders signed a one-year, $9-million deal with a team option and, hindsight being 20-20, would be a stable option in left field for the current Blue Jays. Instead, the 30-year-old figures to get prime RBI opportunities in the middle of a young Phillies lineup.

Drew Hutchison, Pittsburgh Pirates

The trade that sent Hutchison to the Pirates for Francisco Liriano and two highly regarded prospects looked good for the Blue Jays the day it was made. It appears even better now.

While Liriano had talent evaluators drooling in spring training, Hutchison was absolutely horrendous, posting a 10.02 ERA and 2.03 WHIP over 20.2 innings. Opponents hit .363 against Hutchison, who was shipped to triple-A Indianapolis despite the fact that he’s owed $2.3 million this year.

Kendall Graveman, Oakland Athletics

Speaking of successful Blue Jays trades, the deal that brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto from Oakland for Brett Lawrie and a package of prospects looks like one of the best in franchise history. But Graveman was one of those prospects and will ultimately have a say in that claim.

The right-hander was a dependable starter for the A’s in 2016 and, with ace Sonny Gray injured, earned the opening day assignment on Monday. Said one scout in a recent Sports Illustrated article: “They hit on Kendall Graveman when they got him in the Josh Donaldson trade. He’s got power stuff, a live 94-96-mph fastball. Last year, once he figured out how to throw the ball at the middle of the plate and let it sink away, he pitched like an ace.”

Chris Colabello, Cleveland Indians

A new year brought a fresh start for Colabello, who was suspended 80 games last season after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. He helped Team Italy during its surprise showing at the World Baseball Classic and posted a 1.109 OPS in 45 spring training at-bats with the Cleveland Indians. The club didn’t have space on the major-league roster, though, so the 33-year-old will open the season at triple-A.

Adam Lind, Washington Nationals

Lind signed with the Nationals just before spring training and is in a prime position to make the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year career. The left-handed hitter will primarily split time in a first base platoon with Ryan Zimmerman and could even see action in left field. He endeared himself quickly to the Washington faithful with a pinch-hit, two-run, go-ahead home run in his Nationals debut Monday.

Brett Lawrie, Free agent

Lawrie was cut by the Chicago White Sox in the middle of spring training and has yet to be picked up by another organization. There were reports that he drew interest from the Blue Jays, when the club was facing the possibility of opening the season without second baseman Devon Travis, but nothing came of it. Lawrie is too talented and athletic to not be picked up by some team that encounters injuries. In the meantime, the 27-year-old Langley, B.C., native is biding his time with a positive attitude.

R.A. Dickey, Atlanta Braves

After four seasons of pitching in Toronto for a fan base that was largely under-appreciative of him [see the Syndergaard trade], Dickey headed south to Atlanta, joining fellow elder statesman Bartolo Colon.

A stat you will see a lot this season: the right-handers are a combined 85 years old (Colon is 43, Dickey is 42). The Braves visit the Blue Jays for a two-game series in mid May, so here’s hoping the knuckleballing Dickey gets a chance to take the Rogers Centre mound.

Munenori Kawasaki, Japan

Kawasaki played in 14 games for the Chicago Cubs last season and though he wasn’t on the post-season roster, he did accompany the team during its run to a World Series championship. The Cubs released the 35-year-old fan favourite near the end of spring training and a few days later he returned to his home country of Japan to play for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, likely marking the end of his major-league career. But Kawasaki isn’t depressed about it, as evidenced by quotes from his news conference at Yafuoku Dome.

“I may have aged, but my body is beautiful,” Kawasaki said.


Colby Rasmus, Tampa Bay Rays

Rasmus is back in the American League East after signing a one-year, $5-million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. He’ll open the season on the disabled list with a groin issue but could return quickly, possibly during a four-game series against the Blue Jays that begins Thursday. The polarizing Rasmus figures to slot in left field for the Rays, providing some pop to a lineup that desperately needs it.

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