Wilner on Jays: Bullpen steps up in dire circumstances

After Ramon Ortiz's heart-breaking injury, the Blue Jays relievers carried the load Sunday night in San Diego.

SAN DIEGO — Once again the Blue Jays and Padres worked overtime, with Toronto emerging victorious to salvage the finale of their series in SoCal.  You can’t really blame them for wanting to stick around a bit longer, it’s gorgeous here.

Here are three things that stood out to me about the Jays’ extra-inning victory:

Blue Jays Talk: June 2


It was a sad scene on the Petco Park mound in the top of the third inning after Ramon Ortiz threw a 1-1 pitch to Chase Headley, who was leading off the frame.

After the pitch missed outside, Munenori Kawasaki, Maicer Izturis and J.P. Arencibia came running towards the mound as Ortiz stalked angrily to the back of it and slammed his glove down to the ground — with his left hand.

The righty, just a week removed from his 40th birthday, went down into a crouch and began to tear up, the pain in his right elbow letting him know that he was in serious trouble.

Ortiz has been a regular on the Toronto/Buffalo shuttle this season, and the most notable thing about him is how happy he always is.

To see him crying on the field, pointing to the spot below his right elbow was just heart-rending.  It appeared as though Ortiz knew he was badly hurt and that he may very well have thrown his last pitch in the major leagues.

We don’t know if that’s true yet. The only update the Blue Jays gave on Ortiz’s condition was that he injured his right elbow and will go to Florida to have an MRI done, but it certainly didn’t look good, and Ortiz’s reaction just broke your heart.


The Blue Jays are carrying nine pitchers in their bullpen, which left just four bats on the bench since they’re playing interleague road games.  One of those bats is the back-up catcher, Henry Blanco, and there’s no way he’s going to be used unless J.P. Arencibia gets hurt, so the bench is really a trio.

With the pitcher in the line-up, there were a couple of situations relatively early in the game that appeared to call for pinch-hitters, but manager John Gibbons allowed Brad Lincoln to bat leading off the fifth with the Blue Jays trailing by two and let Esmil Rogers come to the plate with runners on the corners and one out in the sixth in a tie game.

Gibbons could have pinch-hit with, say, Anthony Gose to lead off the fifth, especially since Lincoln wasn’t going to pitch the next inning.  Gose might have gotten on and started a go-ahead rally, but that would have left the Blue Jays with half a (regulation) game to play and only two useable hitters remaining on the bench.

Instead, he decided to start the inning with one out and save his bench for a bigger spot later in the game.

In the sixth, with Rogers up in a big spot and a lefty on the mound, Gibbons could have sent Mark DeRosa up to hit — even knowing the Padres would bring in a righty — hoping the veteran infielder could provide at least a fly ball that was all the Blue Jays needed to give them the lead.

Gibbons decided to hold back his minimal bench strength for later in the game, when the situation could have been even bigger.

He gambled, and didn’t have DeRosa up with the same opportunity to score when he pinch-hit for Munenori Kawasaki in the eighth as there was only a runner on first and one out, but with a tiny bench and a 17-inning game fresh in his memory, it’s tough to fault Gibbons for trying to make sure he wasn’t going to be run out of rocks, as it were.


With Ortiz having left in the second inning, the Blue Jays’ relief corps was once again called upon to do some pretty heavy lifting, and it came through with a fantastic effort.

Lincoln, Rogers, Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil, Casey Janssen and Aaron Loup combined to throw nine innings of two-hit shutout ball, walking four and striking out six.  The two hits were both singles, and the ‘pen held the Padres hitless in their three at-bats with runners in scoring position.

It was the end of a sensational weekend in Southern California that began with the bullpen called upon to work 11.2 innings in Friday night’s opener.

For the three-game series, Blue Jays’ relievers threw 22.2 innings and allowed just one run on ten hits with eight walks and 16 strikeouts.

Cecil had three of those innings, allowing only one walk to continue the out-of-skull run that he’s been on since the middle of May.  Over his last nine appearances, the lefty has faced 36 batters (not including an intentional walk) and has allowed just two hits and one walk, striking out 15.  That’s ridiculous.

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