Wagner shuts down Astros after long trip

Neil Wagner delivers a pitch. (Jon Blacker/CP)

Neil Wagner’s day ended in the clubhouse of the Toronto Blue Jays with two innings of shutout relief in the books. The day began in Lehigh Valley, PA, where the triple-A Buffalo Bisons were playing the top affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Just before noon, Wagner heard that he had been recalled from the Bisons to the Blue Jays’ roster. At that point he took a cab to Philadelphia, where he arrived after 90 minutes. He got there in time for his flight to Toronto, which landed in time for him to arrive at Rogers Centre for the 7:07 EST start.

Hours before Wagner’s arrival, manager John Gibbons touted him as someone who offers ‘firepower’ out of the bullpen. It didn’t take long for Gibbons to call on the right-hander, who had been optioned to triple-A at the end of spring training. Wagner delivered, pitching two scoreless innings against the Houston Astros.

“It felt good,” he said. “It’s just good to be back in the big leagues. It’s good to be feel good on the mound. I didn’t feel quite as amped up and jittery as I thought I would, so it’s good to be out there.”

He got through the two innings seamlessly, striking out three batters without allowing a hit. But the first batter he faced, third baseman Matt Dominguez, battled him for 10 pitches before popping up on a 97 mph heater.

“That happens once in a while,” Wagner said. “I thought the fastball was the pitch to get him out with. I just kept going to it and eventually fouled it off.”

All things considered, it was worth the long trip from Lehigh Valley to Rogers Centre.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Wagner said. “It’s better than the seven-hour bus trip [the Bisons] were taking home.”

Brandon Morrow was hitting 98 mph early on before losing velocity as his start progressed. Gibbons says there’s no concern over the radar gun readings.

“He’ll get it in there, but to maintain that, it’s probably not going to happen,” Gibbons said. “He’s more in the low-to-mid nineties, so when that drops off it’s not a concern.”

Morrow cruised through five innings before waiting in the dugout during a long half inning as the Blue Jays plated three runs in the bottom of the fifth. He said the wait “kind of killed me a little bit” and caused him to lose some of his edge.

“It’s tough after sitting for nearly half an hour to come back and be as sharp as you had been,” Morrow said. “I felt good, locked in by the end of (the inning), but they had already done their damage.”

The Astros scored all three of their runs in the top of the sixth inning.

I joined Jeff Sammut and George Rusic on Sportsnet 590 The FAN after the game and discussed Morrow’s start.

Ben Nicholson-Smith on Sportsnet 590 The FAN

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