TORONTO – An uncomfortable afternoon gave way to an encouraging evening for the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday.
By now you’ve heard that the Blue Jays rested Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Monday, his first game back home after his breakout road trip. While building in rest for Guerrero Jr. makes all kinds of sense considering his past injury history and significance to the future of the franchise, this wasn’t the time to do it.
“The one thing I regret is in all of the things that we’ve talked about with Charlie (Montoyo) I had not talked to him about the importance of Victoria Day,” GM Ross Atkins said from the home dugout at Rogers Centre Tuesday.
A fully rested Guerrero Jr. got two more hits and made a fielding error Tuesday, but this game was more memorable for Rowdy Tellez‘s two-homer night and a strong Marcus Stroman start. Randal Grichuk also homered in the 10-3 win over the Red Sox as the Blue Jays improved to 20-28.
“It feels really good,” Tellez said of contributing to a victory. “It’s probably the first meaningful homer I’ve hit all year. It’s just a good feeling. Stroman threw really well. A good all-around day.”
The power outburst from Tellez came at an ideal time for a team that began the day last in the American League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. As a group, Blue Jays position players (.217/.284/.362) are out-performing Mets pitchers (.196/.219/.348) but it’s closer than you’d like.
Tellez hit both of his homers against Eduardo Rodriguez, going deep against a lefty twice in one game for the first time since high school. Big picture, that’s encouraging for the Blue Jays, who can more easily project the left-handed hitting Tellez as a regular if he hits lefties.
“He’s part of our future,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “Why not give him a chance and see what he can do? He’s done [well], so that’s why he keeps getting the chance. He’s swinging against lefties just like right-handers.”
The first of the two homers broke part of the video board on the facing of the third deck, prompting the first baseman to apologize to ownership for the damage.
“Sorry Mr. Rogers.”
The Blue Jays tied their season-high in runs scored thanks to Tellez and Grichuk, who are now tied for the team lead with eight homers each. Meanwhile, Brandon Drury collected two hits and drove in three while Freddy Galvis walked twice and singled
On the mound, Stroman limited the Red Sox to one run over six innings to lower his ERA to 2.81 through 11 starts. He did tie a career high with six walks, two of which he stranded by striking out Mitch Moreland and Xander Bogaerts with the bases loaded in the third.
“That just tells me my stuff is exactly where I thought it would be,” Stroman said. “My stuff’s nasty right now and there’s times when I lose it because almost it’s too nasty and I can’t find the zone with my sinker. I’m not scared to face anybody at any time and I’m able to bear down and make big pitches in big moments.”
If movement was one factor contributing to the walks, the deep Boston lineup was another. Wary of allowing hard contact against Red Sox hitters, Stroman decided against throwing grooving fastballs even while behind in the count.
“I’m trying to execute pitches during the entire AB,” he said. “If that means putting a guy on rather than laying a get-me-over heater in that’s probably going to go for extra bases, I’ve got to do that.”
At one point in the start, Red Sox second baseman Michael Chavis made some comments for Stroman, after which Chris Sale could be seen saying something to Stroman from the visiting dugout.
“Don’t know [what Sale said], could care less,” Stroman said. “That was between me and [Chavis]. That’s it. I could care less what anybody else says.”
With each passing start, Stroman looks more like the kind of pitcher opposing teams will target in summer trades. Over the winter, no team matched the Blue Jays’ asking price, but that could change in July when buyers always need pitching. If it does, the Blue Jays’ rotation will look even more vulnerable. At least Montoyo can rely on one of his starters for now.
At this stage, questions surround the four others. Aaron Sanchez continues dealing with nail and blister issues; rookie Trent Thornton has impressed, but he’s still averaging fewer than five innings per start; Edwin Jackson has allowed nine runs (seven earned) in 10 innings, and lefty knuckleballer Ryan Feierabend isn’t even assured of another start.
As for the bullpen, Ryan Tepera hit the injured list with an elbow impingement Tuesday and there’s some concern that he’ll have to have loose bodies removed. He’ll visit a specialist to determine next steps, but if surgery’s required the 4-6 week recovery period Nathan Eovaldi recently needed would be a relevant reference point.
From the bullpen to the rotation to the lineup this team faces significant questions on a few fronts–and that’s before you even consider the Guerrero Jr. rest debacle.
One lopsided win doesn’t solve any of those issues, but it sure beats the alternative.