12:57 AM Eastern
We can’t have an off-day with no news, can we?
The Blue Jays, fed up with the offensive outage that has seen just ten runs scored in the first six games of this road trip, decided to make some changes as the players enjoyed a day off in St. Louis.
First, the call went to Las Vegas for Eric Thames. On his way back down to AAA is Mike McCoy, optioned for the 238th time this season, and a guy I had trumpeted recently as the potential solution to the short-term issue at third base.
Turns out, they found a better solution – Jose Bautista.
Bautista was supposed to be the Jays’ third baseman to open this season, but two things happened that changed the minds of John Farrell and Alex Anthopoulos late in Spring Training, sending Bautista back to right field and moving Edwin Encarnacion to third for a couple of months.
The first thing was the play of Brett Lawrie. The 21 year-old super-prospect moved his timetable up from “maybe September” to mid-June by simply blowing the doors off in Dunedin; if Farrell had had his way, Lawrie would have made the team out of Spring Training, but the Jays erred on the side of further development. They broke camp feeling that Lawrie would be up in the bigs much sooner than they’d originally anticipated, though.
The second thing was the play of Juan Rivera in right field. The Jays didn’t feel comfortable running Rivera out there defensively every day and that, combined with the fact that Bautista’s move to third would only have lasted a couple of months, made them make the change – sending Jose back to right, moving Rivera to DH and sending Edwin Encarnacion back out onto the field at third base. After all, it wasn’t going to be for that long, right?
Then they traded for Jayson Nix and figured that they had even more short-term insurance at third in case Edwin couldn’t do the job.
Well, Edwin couldn’t do the job, making six errors in his first seven games at third, and Nix came out strong, homering in his Jays debut and making almost every play defensively. But then he stopped hitting. And Edwin never really started, but for a few games in which he was DHing.
Still, though, that was OK because a freight train named Brett Lawrie was coming up the track awfully quickly. Lawrie was set to become a major-leaguer the first week of June, but then Anthony Bass happened. The Padres’ young righty drilled Lawrie in the left hand with a pitch, the hand was later found to be broken, and all the plans went up in smoke.
The Jays had hoped that Lawrie would recover enough to be in action in late June, then the all-star break, and now August. The hand isn’t healing as quickly as they’d hoped – he’s still not able to grip a bat without pain. Now that they see another six to eight weeks before Lawrie is ready to come up, a surplus of young outfielders tearing it up in Las Vegas and a team that’s in desperate need of an offensive spark, the move has been made to send Bautista back to the infield in hopes of getting some more offense overall.
Thames is up to play a little left, a little right and some DH, with Travis Snider hot on his heels, having had a clean MRI in the wake of last week’s concussion. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we’ll see Thames start out platooning in left with Rivera, while Rajai Davis and Corey Patterson share time in centre – at least this weekend in St. Louis, during which Bautista will remain in right field while working out at third during batting practice.
Once the Jays hit Detroit for their make-up game on Monday night, you’d think Thames takes over in right until Snider gets here, with Encarnacion getting the lion’s share of the DH at-bats. When Snider is ready to come up, Patterson and Davis probably split centre, or maybe Patterson becomes the fourth outfielder he was always supposed to be. We’ll have to see which one of Patterson and Davis gets himself straight at the plate.
And don’t be surprised to see Thames hitting second in the St. Louis series opener on Friday night.
The moves are welcome, heck, they’ve been clamored for for weeks now by the people. Hopefully Thames is here to stay and, soon enough, Snider is back for good, too. If Encarnacion takes to the DH spot as well as the Jays hope he will, then you conceivably could go from a team that has six dead spots in the line-up right now to a team that shortly could have only two struggling players – and that’s assuming Aaron Hill and whoever is playing centre don’t shake out of their current slumps.
When Lawrie is ready, and that might not be until September, he’ll get his fair share of work at third base. The expectation is certainly that Lawrie will be the Jays’ everyday third baseman in 2012, with Bautista moving back to right. Snider or Thames will play left, and the other might DH (assuming they’re both still with the organization and no, I haven’t heard anything to the contrary) or there’s always the possibility that the Jays give Snider a shot at centre. He’s not the ideal candidate, but he handled himself just fine in the one opportunity he got to play there with the Jays in April and in the four games he’s played in centre with Las Vegas.
It’ll be great to see Thames and his fantastical facial hair back with the big club, and here’s hoping his return and the buzz about the moves to come provide that spark the Jays so desperately need right now.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!