Blue Jays continue to search for boost to offence with latest moves

Watch as Ernie Clement and Davis Schneider put the Toronto Blue Jays on the board with back-to-back doubles, chasing Cleveland Guardians pitcher Logan Allen from the game in the process.

TORONTO — The latest acknowledgement that their offence, as constructed during the off-season and spring training, simply isn’t working came Friday, when the Toronto Blue Jays designated Daniel Vogelbach for assignment and recalled Addison Barger. It’s the second such move in a week, coming on the heels of Spencer Horwitz’s arrival and the departure of Cavan Biggio, and is representative of the club’s attempt to repair their lineup mid-stream.

In tandem, the changes not only turn over a pair of bench spots but also create pressure on playing time that should result in the loss of at-bats for some regulars since Barger, like Horwitz, is here to play. Whether it helps is to be determined. But two-fifths of the way through the season, the Blue Jays are intent on trying something different.

“Yeah, that’s how it works,” manager John Schneider said. “It’s a good problem to have if everyone’s performing and that includes Spence, that includes Barge. And then if you look at it, for the time being, if everyone’s performing well, you pick and choose your spots. If it means an extra day off for (Davis) Schneider, for Izzy (Kiner-Falefa), for K.K. (Kevin Kiermaier), George (Springer), whoever it may be, you kind of do that, as long as everyone else is performing. But it’s a fine line. You’re not trying to force guys in, but you’re watching how they perform as they are in there.

“So, initially, just trying to put them in good spots and see how they go. But yeah, there are going to be certain days where someone’s going to not be in the starting lineup.”

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That wasn’t the case Friday, when the Blue Jays went with a righty-heavy lineup against mix-and-match lefty Logan Allen, only to be stymied in another Groundhog Day loss, this one 3-1 to the Cleveland Guardians.

Allen offered up a lot of low-90s in the middle-of-the-zone but only gave up three hits, two of them in the sixth inning when Ernie Clement doubled and Davis Schneider singled to open the frame, ending his outing.

That brought in the vaunted Guardians bullpen, with Canadian Cade Smith getting Danny Jansen, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette to end that threat, and four other relievers, including Emmanuel Classe in the ninth, locking things down from there.

Kevin Gausman, coming off a complete-game shutout in Oakland, deserved a better fate in a 5.1-inning, death-by-papercut outing before a Rogers Centre crowd of 36,790.

He allowed consecutive doubles by Will Brennan and Daniel Schneeman that opened the scoring in the second, served up a solo shot to Brennan in the fourth and gave up Andres Gimenez’s two-out RBI single in the fifth that made it 3-0.

Given the current state of the offence, such deficits can seem insurmountable for the Blue Jays, which is something the pitchers are certainly feeling. 

“As much as you try to block it out, it’s really hard to – the reality is, yeah, if we don’t pitch well, we probably lose,” Gausman said. “We’ve got to be really good. That’s not to say that we have lack of effort, but right now offensively, we’re struggling. So defensively as pitchers, we need to be better. We almost have to be perfect. It’s tough. It adds some pressure. But we’re in the big leagues, you get pressure every single day. Every game is pressure. And so it doesn’t add any more to it, but that’s just the reality of the situation we’re in.”

Hence, the changes, which cut deeper than the typical roster churn.

In both cases with Biggio and Vogelbach, their departures were hard on the clubhouse, the former a homegrown player part of the organization since 2016 close with many players, the latter immensely popular for his pervasive positivity and energy, as well highly regarded hitting acumen. 

Gausman described Vogelbach as “a great teammate, one of the best I’ve ever had,” and said “I was a little surprised by” his departure.

“But I also understand where our roster is at,” Gausman continued. “Listen, we’re going to give some opportunities to some young guys, the young guys that we have who’ve been given a chance have played really well. As an organization, they’re obviously looking to make some moves. … But that’s the business. We’re not here to make friendships. We’re here to win games and if they feel like they need to make a move to make that happen more often, then that’s what they’re going to do.”

Schneider also made a point of shouting out Vogelbach, noting “how much I and we appreciated everything Vogey did,” calling him “a crowd favourite in here” who was “just professional and understood his skill set, understood his personality.”

But ultimately, without regular home runs from the slugger — he hit one in 79 plate appearances spread out sporadically to prevent him from finding any sort of rhythm — finding usage for him became too difficult a needle-to-thread, as Vogelbach had no defensive utility and needed to be run for late in close games when he did reach.

Barger, on the other hand, will see reps at third base and in the outfield corners, and play shortstop, second and first in a pinch.

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“It was just kind of tough,” Schneider said of what tipped the scales now. “You don’t want to say performance leads into it — he was still kind of doing what we expected him to do, with a few less home runs — I think just trying to generate a little bit more offence and to give ourselves a little more versatility. He understood that. Guys understood that. You’re not looking for one guy or two guys to come up and totally change the trajectory of your season. If that happens, great. But we need everyone to be who they hopefully are and have everyone else do their part that is coming up. But it was mainly the versatility part I think that that Barger brings.”

Barger also offers power, although without any big-league track record that proves it will translate at this level. But like Horwitz before him, the opportunity is here for a team looking to find something, anything, that will give its struggling lineup a boost.

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