As Martinez arrives, new-look Blue Jays drop another game against Red Sox

Tyler O'Neill hit his third home run of the series and Ceddanne Rafaela drove in the game-winning run to help the Boston Red Sox top the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3.

TORONTO – In his travels around the Toronto Blue Jays system over the past season and a half, Edwin Encarnacion has really gotten to know Orelvis Martinez. They share a homeland as natives of the Dominican Republic and player-profiles as slugging infielders, one having already left his mark on the franchise, the other looking to make his.

“He’s similar to me – when I watch him, I see how he is on the field, I remember the young Encarnacion,” said the club’s special assistant. “He doesn’t talk much. He’s very quiet. But he’s a very smart kid. He’ll listen. Great teammate, great person. He’s going to be good for us.”

Martinez’s long-awaited arrival to the big-leagues came Tuesday, when the Blue Jays recalled him to cover for Bo Bichette, who hit the 10-day injured list with a right calf strain, retroactive to June 15. The all-star shortstop is expected back next Tuesday, his first day eligible for activation, so this may very well be a short stint for the club’s top position-player prospect, who has 16 homers and a .523 slugging percentage at triple-A Buffalo.

Still, in what’s turned into a season of on-the-fly improvisation and digging into the farm system – righty Ryan Burr was also recalled, with lefty Brandon Eisert returned to the Bisons – both the Blue Jays and Martinez will get at least a week of exposure to process.

“I’m just trying to show them what I’m capable of doing,” Martinez, who learned of the promotion through a 9 a.m. wakeup call Tuesday morning from Bisons bench coach Donnie Murphy, said through interpreter Hector Lebron.

There’s value in helping demystify the big-leagues, even if it’s just a little bit, for the 22-year-old, who can also offer hints at how his showcase traits might transition up a level.

“The power he has is something you don’t see very much, how easy he hits the ball out of the ballpark,” said Encarnacion. “Right field, centre field, no matter where he hits the ball, he has unbelievable power.”

Martinez, who arrived at Rogers Centre about an hour before first pitch, will mainly see action at second and maybe, third according to manager John Schneider. He didn’t get into a 4-3 Boston Red Sox victory, decided in the eighth when Canadian Tyler O’Neill hit a tying home run off Brendon Little and Ceddanne Rafaela’s RBI single off Chad Green cashed in a Dominic Smith single and David Hamilton stolen base.

That erased a 3-2 Blue Jays lead built behind six scrappy innings from Chris Bassitt, a two-run double by Ernie Clement in the second inning and Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s go-ahead RBI single in the sixth before a crowd of 38,595.

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Several of the names involved in the outcome underlined just how much the roster has changed since opening day. Utilityman Cavan Biggio, bench bat Daniel Vogelbach and long relievers Wes Parsons and Mitch White were all designated for assignment after breaking camp with the club, while injuries have necessitated further turnover.

Jordan Romano, for the second time, Yimi Garcia and Yariel Rodriguez are all on the injured list, as is Alek Manoah, whose season is over after undergoing the hybrid ligament replacement surgery with internal brace Monday. Erik Swanson, who also opened the season on the IL, is on option at Buffalo trying to find his game.

With Tim Mayza also struggling and being kept from leverage situations, the Blue Jays are currently without the entire back-end that locked down games for them a year ago.

“It’s tough when the trusted names and the guys that have been really good for a long time here, and especially recently, are not there,” said John Schneider. “But it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up.”

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Further depleting the club’s depth are injuries at triple-A, where shortstop Leo Jimenez just returned from the IL while outfielder Nathan Lukes, top pitching prospect Ricky Tiedemann, hard-throwing reliever Hagen Danner and starters Paolo Espino and Chad Dallas are all sidelined.

Turning things over on the position-player side are Davis Schneider, who’s established himself as a regular, and Clement, who keeps forcing his way into the lineup, while Spencer Horwitz and Addison Barger, who pushed Biggio and Vogelbach off the roster, are now getting regular reps.

In the bullpen, Nate Pearson, Zach Pop and Little have joined Genesis Cabrera in being pushed to more prominent roles, as the Blue Jays are delving further and further into their various contingencies.

“It’s just next man up, whoever it is, whatever position,” said Bassitt. “These are the kind of the building blocks for a really good young career, just, hey, you’re in a playoff race. I’ve been on teams before where the first year or two or whatever in Oakland, it was just come up, get your feet wet, so to speak. The guys who came up, Barger and all those guys, they’re doing a great job, so just keep on making them feel comfortable here and relax, not let the moment kind of get too big.”

Getting to Martinez at this point wasn’t part of the plan, but he’s done his part to force the issue while Lukes’ injury made him the next man up. The Blue Jays shifted him over to second base this season after years on the left side of the infield and his defensive work has been one of the priorities, even as he’s made progress with his pitch recognition and discipline at the plate.

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Encarnacion was also 22 when he was first promoted to the Cincinnati Reds in 2005 but it wasn’t until 2012, when he had a 42-homer breakout season, that he really learned to leverage all his power.

The Blue Jays need Martinez to have a much less arduous acclimation process and Encarnacion is sharing wisdom to try and help spur the development process.

“Edwin playing here, he’s been telling me how pretty much the organization goes, explaining to me the whole system, giving me great advice,” said Martinez. “Edwin’s been huge for me the past couple of years.”

The role is one Encarnacion grew into later in his career, helping mentor younger teammates by relaying his experiences. That’s made for a natural transition into his work now.

“It took me time to learn but I got it and players like Orelvis, with the talent that he has, that’s why I like to be here,” said Encarnacion. “More mental stuff because he has the talent for what he needs to do. I focus on things that are going to happen here in the big-leagues so he can be prepared.

“He’s aggressive. He swings the bat. He’s still learning how to be disciplined more at the plate. He’s been getting better. I think he’s going to be a very special player, from what I’ve seen.”

For the next week, at least, everybody else around the Blue Jays gets a look, too, at a potentially key piece of the future, suddenly called upon in a difficult present.

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