TORONTO — It wasn’t quite John Gibbons vs. Ted Lilly II, but it is footage that will be a staple of the news cycle for the next 24 hours and it will put Marcus Stroman in a position he should never want to find himself: leaving his actions open to others interpretation.
Stroman’s reaction to being removed from Saturday’s 7-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox by manager Charlie Montoyo is understandable on a human level. Once again his team had given him no run-support: zero run support over three outings and in six of his nine starts this season. Understandably, he’s frustrated. On a baseball level, he was down just 2-0 and had loaded the bases with one out and No. 9 hitter Yolmer Sanchez coming up. Stroman, who had thrown just 97 pitches, doubtless believed he was just one sinker away from a double-play. The counter-argument? He’d given up a home run to Sanchez in the third inning, and allowed a scorched line drive off the bat of Tim Anderson three pitches earlier.
Bottom line, though: don’t ever show up your manager on the mound, right?
"I like it when pitchers get upset when I take them out of the game," said Montoyo. "All good. I told him before: ‘There will be a time when I take you out of a game and you will not like it.’ One tough thing for Stroman: he’s had no run support. Every little thing he does seems bigger."
Stroman was clearly pleading his case to Montoyo even before the manager got to the mound. He then struck up a dialogue with pitching coach Pete Walker, who tapped him on the back, before firing his glove against the back of the dugout. Television cameras picked up a clear F-bomb. When Montoyo arrived back after handing the ball to Derek Law, he and Stroman engaged again without much rancor but, it appeared, without any consensus, either. Stroman and Montoyo spoke about it again after the game and while Stroman wouldn’t come out and publicly apologize, nor did he seem at all chastened, he wanted to make clear where his anger was directed.
"First off, I’m never happy to come out of a game," said Stroman, who was charged with three earned runs on eight hits, four strikeouts and no walks. "The last thing I ever want to get in my head is: ‘Yes, get me out,’ or ‘Please let somebody else finish this.’ I liked the matchup. The only thing I was angry about was coming out of the game."
Anything involving Stroman (1-6) is of course viewed through the lens of this being his penultimate season before free agency, which makes him a candidate to be traded on a team as deep into a rebuild as this one. This year, after all, is one big future consideration for Blue Jays fans. But this episode won’t likely impact his future with the team one way or another, any more than pleading for a contract in spring training or getting a tattoo of Toronto’s skyline or buying a team dinner in Boston makes it more likely he’ll be here forever. Truth is, like the interpretations of this matter, it is out of his control – and out of control pretty much sums up the Blue Jays current starting pitching conundrum.
The Blue Jays moved to fill an immediate shortage created by the season-ending injury to Matt Shoemaker and Clay Buchholz’s oblique injury by acquiring 35-year-old right-hander Edwin Jackson for cash. Jackson was in the Oakland Athletics’ minor-league system, making three starts and posting a 6.75 earned run average, and according to Montoyo he will start Wednesday in San Francisco.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Jackson’s minor-league deal included an out clause at the end of May in case a Major League opportunity was presented to him.
Jackson has bounced around and will in fact set a Major League record when he takes the mound for Toronto by making an appearance in his 14th different big-league uniform. You have to have something for somebody to want you in a game that doesn’t exactly worship 35 year olds and, in the case of Jackson, the fact that he has had a full spring training with an organization and has his arm built up makes him more valuable to a team that needs someone ready to go now, as opposed to an available free agent.
"His stuff is consistent to last year’s," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins texted. "He’s built up to 94 pitches and (is) very good in a clubhouse."
Jackson was briefly a member of the Blue Jays on July 27, 2011, when he was acquired from the White Sox along with Mark Teahen in a trade for Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart – then flipped as part of a package sent to the St. Louis Cardinals, joining Octavio Dotel, Corey Patterson and Marc Rzepczynski in return for Colby Rasmus, Brian Tallet, Trever Miller and P.J. Walters. It is Dotel with whom he shares the Major League record for appearances with 13 different big-league teams.
At any rate, credit Stroman for at least providing some drama in an otherwise tepid affair played out in front of 24,563 at the Rogers Centre. Because there wasn’t much else going on in a game in which White Sox’s catcher James McCann went 4-for-5 with a pair of RBIs and starter Ivan Nova (2-3) allowed five hits and one run (a solo home run by Randal Grichuk) over six innings.
But Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., did set two club records: his 118.9 miles per hour single in the first inning was the second-hardest ball hit in the Majors this year and the hardest Blue Jays hit registered in the Statcast era. OK, so that ‘era’ runs only from 2015. Still. The second record was reaching base four times in a game on two singles and a walk, making him at 20 years and 56 days the youngest Blue Jays hitter to do it.
You can tell, folks: he’s about to go off, up in the second spot.
Guerrero also ran into two outs on the bases: first, on a strike ‘em out throw ‘em out double play to end the first; second on a rare 4-3-3-2-4 double play when he tried to take third on a ground out with the White Sox in a shift – only to see McCann, the White Sox catcher, hustle up the line to cover the bag. Ballsy idea. Bad outcome.
"I saw the base empty," said Guerrero, Jr., speaking through a translator. "Things happened too fast that I thought it was empty. It wasn’t."