11:08PM Eastern

Before Sunday’s series finale with Baltimore, Blue Jays’ manager John Farrell was asked if he was wishing for the day when his team would have a five-run lead late in a ballgame.  Farrell’s answer? “Today could very well be that day.”  And lo and behold, it was.  A seven-run lead, even.

The Blue Jays shook off an opening week’s worth of offensive frustration in Sunday’s sixth inning – scoring as many runs in that one frame as they had in any one full game all season.  They sent 13 men to the plate and seven of them came across to score, turning a 2-1 deficit into an 8-2 lead on the way to a romp.

The inning began when Jose Bautista (still suffering from the loss of the Man In White, according to one BlueJaysTalk caller) ripped a double to left-centre, just past the outstretched glove of Orioles’ centrefielder Adam Jones.  Edwin Encarnacion followed by plastering his third home run deep to left-centre to give the Blue Jays their first lead of the game.  Four hitters later, O’s starter Brian Matusz walked Rajai Davis to put two men on with two out, and he was lifted for Kevin Gregg, who took a while to get to the mound because he was lugging a massive gas can with him.

Gregg, who had 37 saves for the Jays in 2010 – all of which, it feels in retrospect, were sweaty-palmed nailbiters for the fan base – saved his absolute worst for this outing.  As nervous as he made the fans as a Blue Jay, he still got the job done far, far more often than not.  Sunday afternoon, the only job he got done was making sure the Orioles didn’t get a sweep.

Gregg gave up a single to Jeff Mathis, scoring one run.  He then coughed up back-to-back doubles to Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson, cashing three more.  Bautista and Encarnacion then each drew walks to load the bases, bringing up Brett Lawrie, who had earlier hit his first home run of the season (first extra-base hit, too – he should do the pre-game with me more often!).  Gregg got ahead of Lawrie 1-2, then hit him in the back, driving in the Blue Jays’ seventh run of the frame. Finally Ben Francisco popped out to right field, probably more out of a sense of mercy and empathy than anything else.

It was the Blue Jays’ first real romp of the season, though they did have a 7-1 lead on the Red Sox going into the 9th inning this past Tuesday night, but the Sox did manage to get the tying run to the on-deck circle.

Not to be lost in all the scoring was Kyle Drabek’s fine outing.  He threw 7 1/3 innings – the first time in his career that he’s ever recorded an out in the 8th inning of a game he’d started – while allowing just one earned run on six hits, striking out six against one walk.  He dutifully went out to the mound in the top of the first inning and drew a huge X on the dirt on the downward slope, marking the spot where his left foot should land if he’s maintaining his lines properly and staying in his mechanics.  And then he went and did it for 103 pitches, almost flawlessly.

I have noted before that Drabek got off to a pretty good start last year, too, before falling apart before mid-season and having to be shipped out, but there’s a big difference (so far, anyway) between last year and this.  This year he’s not walking people.  In his first three starts of last season, against noted free-swingers Minnesota, Anaheim and Seattle, Drabek allowed just four earned runs on 13 hits over 18 2/3 innings in three Blue Jays wins, but he also served up 10 walks.

In his first two starts this season, against notoriously-patient Boston and not-all-that-free-swinging-but-not-exactly-the-Yankees Baltimore, he’s walked four in 12 2/3 innings, and two of those walks came in his final inning of work in the Boston game.

Drabek has incredible stuff, that’s never been in question.  The only thing that has held him back is his ability to control both his stuff and himself.  He seems to be very definitely on the right track, and a successful, reliable Drabek would be a tremendous shot in the arm for the Blue Jays’ hopes both for now and the next few years.  Remember, he’s still only 24.

Evan Crawford made his major-league debut in the win, pitching the 9th inning.  His first big-league pitch was a strike, as were 9 of the 13 he wound up throwing.  He struck out Wilson Betemit for his first big-league whiff, and went on to pitch a shutout inning, allowing only a two-out double to Chris Davis.  He’s not a huge man, but he certainly has a big left arm, and though it appears he’s ticketed to head back to the minors on April 21st, when the Jays likely call up one of Joel Carreno, Chad Jenkins or Drew Hutchison to move into the rotation, Crawford seems to have a pretty bright future in the big leagues.

We had a special Super-Extendo version of The BlueJaysTalk this afternoon, and here it is, for your listening pleasure:

Download

As well, we had a radio version of The Blue Jays This Week, which was so well-received in podcast form last year.  Here’s that, with Ben Ennis sitting in with me, so that you can give it a listen:

Download

The Blue Jays have the day off Monday, and get back at it when the Tampa Bay Rays come to town for the first of a three-game set on Tuesday night.  The Rays are reeling at the moment, having lost four in a row, and they have a Patriots Day game in Boston to contend with Monday morning before they head into town.  Ricky Romero will start for the Jays against tall Tampa righty Jeff Niemann.  We’ll have all the action for you beginning at 7:00PM Eastern – join us, won’t you?

Please give me a follow on The Twitter – you can find me @wilnerness590.  You can find my The Blue Jays This Week co-host Ben Ennis @BennisSnet.

Comments are welcome, I read them all and respond to most!

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25 Responses to “The Manager Knows”
  1. 1.

    Hey Mike, if the Blue Jays are in the mix for a playoff spot come September do you think prospects like: d’Arnaud, Jenkins, Hutchinson, McGuire, and Gose might not get the September call up?. And even if they do, do you think they will get some playing time?

    MW: I think that if you’re in the mix for a playoff spot in September, you want to utilize all the weapons you have. How great would Gose be as a late-inning pinch-runner or defensive substitute in a pennant race, for example?

    - Jason
  2. 2.

    Hey Mike, Let me start off by saying great game by Drabek.I also liked what I saw from Bautista today. He only got 1 hit to show for it but he is hitting the ball hard like Colby was early in the season. I think the Jays starting pitchers have been terrific. I really like “our” bullpen (even though they have 4 blown saves) and I think it is just a rough patch and they will settle down and I laugh when i see some of the things said on twitter about the bullpen and the Jays in general because some people are so dumb and I always love your replys to them. My question is do you see Edwin hitting behind Bautista until he cools down? Thanks for your time Mike

    MW: Sometimes, I guess. I know that John Farrell likes to go righty-lefty all the way down the line-up if he can, so against most right-handed starters, Lind will probably continue to hit between Bautista and Encarnacion.

    - Luke
  3. 3.

    Great win today.

    Some points I noted (but as you like to say ***SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT***): Toronto has the AL East’s best starting pitching in terms of ERA, IP and BAA, after 9 games (all 5 East teams have played 9 games).

    I think that fact should take some of the pain off the bullpen’s early-eeason woes as I’m really impressed with Drabek and Alvarez after 2 starts each.

    I was at the game yesterday and liked how Alvarez kept his cool in the difficult top of the 1st.

    One question: Does Colby Rasmus’ physical appearance (minus the curly hair), height, swing, running gait and fielding remind you of a young Shawn Green? I’ve tried to deny it but it’s remarkable.

    MW: Honestly, I only see it in body type, maybe the swing. But I don’t think Rasmus looks like Green did in the field, or in the way he runs.

    - Adrian, co-alumnus
  4. 4.

    Hey Mike.

    Any chance you’ll be able to put the Blue Jays This Week episode on iTunes, or on the side for download? I can’t stream it on my phone, and I prefer to listen to it in the car.

    MW: Me? No. I have zero clue about how to do stuff like that.

    - Dave
  5. 5.

    Hey Mike,

    FYI, you guys still have the old logo at the top of the blog :)

    - Alex
  6. 6.

    Hi Mike:

    Big fan of your blog and your radio show. Keep up the good work. Went to the bank the other day with my new Blue Jays cap and the teller, a nice woman who is probably a terrific soccer mom, didn’t stop talking about the Blue Jays. Lots of excited fans in the east coast! Will be down for a series this summer to watch them live. Lots of people are making plans for some games. I hope the local market wakes up and start showing up in bigger numbers at the Rogers Centre.

    MW: Sounds great!

    - AJ in Moncton
  7. 7.

    Mike,

    Great to see the club finally string some hits together! Big fan of Drabek, too me he’s got the best fast ball on our team, power and moves all over the place. So far he has had great composer, I hope he keeps it up! Also loving the defence so far, Colby in centre is huge, and Kelly has been solid up the middle. I like what John has done with our 4th outfielder Davis thus far, which leads me to my question:

    How long of a leash do they have with Thames if he continues to struggle? Although when I saw him in late spring (5 games) he looked good defensively, but so far this season he looks the same as last year which is below average. John doesn’t seem to have much faith either in his defence as he’s taken him out late a few times (which is the right move)

    Thanks
    Moon

    MW: I can’t imagine that the leash is all that short, though I don’t think it would be very long, either. But they don’t want to pull the rug out from under Thames without giving him a reasonable amount of time to hit his stride. They also don’t want to jerk Travis Snider around, since this is their last chance to get him right in the minor leagues.

    - Moon
  8. 8.

    Hey Mike

    It’s probably not your responsibility, but you should probably talk to someone about updating the old JAYS logo on your blog. Looks kinda sloppy in light of the very recent (and popular) re-brand, and of course considering the fact that Sportsnet is owned by Rogers.

    - mikemac2112
  9. 9.

    Hi Mike,

    I totally agree with your response to the caller regarding Jose Bautista and the Man in White. However, you had said that the story had broke in April, which isn’t really true. The full ESPN article came out in August.

    But granted, earlier in the year, there were some suggestions that something was up at the Rogers Centre. I can recall Joe Girardi hinting that something under-handed was going on, during a Yanks-Jay series in April or May.

    Keep up the good work!

    MW: You’re right, I was off with the timing. The story came from an incident that had happened in April, but yes, Girardi did complain early in the season about sign-stealing. Still, the caller was awash in ludicrosity.

    - KBussey
  10. 10.

    michael,
    said it before and i’m gonna say it again, predicting big things out of ee this yr. for this team.
    just love this guy. sure the hr’s are nice but that swing of his that cracks out the doubles so regularly. how can you not drool even just a little bit it over that i ask you?
    and his play at 1b this yr. thus far…
    definitely something to write home about it seems to me.
    hey… here’s a fun question to grapple with at this point i think.
    so who’s going to end up being the team’s best option at 1b this season when it’s all said and done? i’ll tell you. not so sure anymore.
    and this is coming from a guy that loves my man adam l.
    one hitting clean up against the righties, the other doing the same vs. the lefties. sweet. love it.
    potentially a very nice problem to have to sort out as the season goes along…

    MW: It’s certainly not as cut-and-dried as we all anticipated it was going to be.

    - darrell bishop
  11. 11.

    The “gas can” reference did make me laugh out loud. We all hate it when a player lacks hustle.
    Correct me if I am wrong but wouldn’t a professional athlete want to shove some “payback” into the face of the franchise that let him go?
    Run to that mound Mr. Gregg and maybe the opposition will believe you are in there to try and take back your lost closer roll.
    As for now, be assured there is a renewed demand for manicures in Maryland.

    MW: The Blue Jays didn’t let Gregg go, though, he left as a free agent.

    - Joseph P.
  12. 12.

    Hey Mike,
    I’ve got a question that is a little off topic. I’ve realized that the Blue Jays’ contract with the Vegas 51s expires at the end of the year. Do you have any information on whether they will resign, or will they be looking to find another club to sign with?

    MW: Based on no official information, I firmly believe the Blue Jays will do their best to find a place other than Las Vegas for their AAA affiliate after this year.

    - Jamie C.
  13. 13.

    michael,
    btw, still digging my man colby r. thus far.
    coming on a little bit and then a little bit more day by day it seems to me.
    you know, maybe this organization has bigger, grandiose plans out in cf with young phenom, speedster gose but for now, colby’s our guy and i like what i’m seeing… out in the field, up at bat, on the basepaths.
    it’s all good.
    and cute as a button i must say with those long locks hanging out everywhere under his cap. it’s a good look…
    but seriously… not sure if i’ve missed a game thus far and very few innings to boot.
    and he’s been in the lineup virtually every game and i still don’t think i’ve seen him even come close to cracking a smile yet.
    man…. i kinda feel bad for the kid.
    tell him to loosen up next time you see him would you michael?
    for all of us..
    thks.
    later.

    - darrell bishop
  14. 14.

    just hope jose stays healthy and he’ll warm up,he’s finally got some support this year.the last two years he’s become a legend picked up for future considerations.plays some pretty good defence too.come on man, lets support this guy.

    - doug
  15. 15.

    Thanks for the consistently great information and analysis; you are the go-to guy for the truly Jays obsessed. I know it is early, but any thoughts on Arencibia’s offence so far this year?

    MW: It hasn’t been good at all, but Arencibia has never had a healthy season as a pro in which he hasn’t hit well.

    - Choof
  16. 16.

    Not sure if this means anything, but given how we’ve all been speaking about lack of hitting and exploding pen, it’s interesting to note that the Jays are 3rd best in the American League in runs scored, equal 4th best in runs allowed, and also them 3rd best in run differential (of the teams who have scored more than they’ve allowed). Basically Detroit and Texas are the teams that are ahead.

    Seems kind of not bad.

    MW: It’s totally not bad, but it’s based on an unsustainably high batting average with runners in scoring position. Of course, one should believe that the club’s batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in general to this point are all unsustainably low, too.

    - Ben
  17. 17.

    Mike,

    I can’t find any hard numbers anywhere, but… is this the best merchandising season in the team’s history? In years past, seeing Blue Jays gear was kind of unusual outside of going to a game. Now I see it everywhere, and even more of it at games than usual. The Jays Shop was packed. I even ot swept up in it and bought gear, and I’m cheap. Why do you think the new uniforms have been such a huge success, and how valuable is this to the team?

    MW: I think the new uniforms have really struck a chord with fans because they bring back the look of the glory days and they look great. I don’t know the numbers either, but there does seem to be an awful lot of it around!

    - Rick
  18. 18.

    Hey Mike, Chad Billingsley is killing it!!! Anyways, Edwin is the man this year. Ive been a fan of his since Cinci, but even I gave up on him during the first half of last year. I actually went to Cincinnati for the series and we all grinned and bared it while Red’s fans made fun of him and us. Jays fans should really give the organization credit for not giving up on this guy. I think the most impressive thing about him was even while struggling, he was always cheerful in the dugout and had smiles on the faces of the people around him.
    Keep it up Edwin!
    Lets Go Bluejays!
    Chone + Chad

    - Chone Figgins
  19. 19.

    Interested to know if Crawford projects as a bullpen guy or perhaps a starter. What do you know about this?

    MW: I know that as a starter, he wasn’t on track to make it to the big leagues, but then he took off when they moved him to the bullpen.

    - Gabe
  20. 20.

    Mr. Bishop must have seen something we all missed. We all have to give EE the credit he is due. He has really made believers out of many of us (especially myself). I was ready to trade this player for the best catcher’s mitt we could find, (or a baseball or something) but he has proved that with a little patience, he can compete.
    Good eye baseball operations.

    MW: Hopefully this teaches a lesson in patience to the fans who had given up on him (and Kelly Johnson, and Rasmus, etc.), but I have my doubts.

    - Joseph P.
  21. 21.

    michael,
    don’t know how you feel about it but a fair bit of irony going on in this past oriole series down at the rogers centre i thought.
    in terms of what the baltimores did and how they did it similar to what the blue jays did in cleveland to open the season.
    on the road, won 2 of 3 and such a game of inches (as they say) in terms of us very easily maybe going 0-3 in that series instead of the pesky fought out 2-1 series victory.
    carbon copy of what the orioles did to us it seems. won 2 of 3 but without some late inning, timely hitting, could have quite easily gone 0-3 against the home team but eke out the series victory instead as we all witnessed.
    gotta accept and take the good with the bad in a 162 game schedule in this game unfortunately michael and let the chips fall as they may.
    will surely begin to put your hair out i’m afraid if you look at it any other way.
    sometimes the the other teams get the big hit on you and sometimes the pens get the job done. just the way it is.
    that’s why they’re pros i guess.
    just have to make sure you get the better of the equation in your favour by seasons end is all.
    simple game really…
    you throw the ball, you hit the ball. you catch the ball.
    now let’s bring on those rays shall we?
    ace romero to start the series.
    we’re ready for them. should be fun…

    - darrell bishop
  22. 22.

    Hey Mike,

    I know you’re a huge Snider fan, so my question probably won’t surprise you. Why is it that the Blue Jays organization has forgotten what Travis did as recent as TWO years ago.

    Half a season’s worth of AB: .255, 14 HR, 767 OPS, 6 SB.

    Just to double those, we’re talking 30HR, 10 SB potential…and you know as well as I that the average and speed can get even better.

    Then in 2011 he slumps for a month, gets injured, and now Thames is somehow the saviour in LF while Snider just gets to obliterate AAA again and again.

    And of course the kicker: Snider has way better D than Thames, and would run to first base harder than everyone on this team except for Lawrie.

    What am I missing? How soon until Snider gets back up?

    MW: What you’re missing is that Thames’ success last year gave him the inside track on the starting job and then he went out and had a good spring. The Blue Jays don’t want to be the kind of organization that takes jobs away from people who haven’t done anything to lose them, I think.

    - Shane
  23. 23.

    Mike, It appears to me that the Jays are delaying bringing up their fifth starter for as long as possible — and sending Carreno down right after his start in Cleveland — strictly to avoid letting any of these young guys obtain Super Two status. Do you agree? If not, I do not understand the sending down of Carreno, and the delay in announcing, and calling up, whomever their starter for Saturday will be. Am I way off base on this?

    MW: Yes, I think you’re completely off-base on this. They didn’t need a 5th starter after Carreno’s start, not until April 21st. Why would they have a pitcher here, taking up a roster spot unnecessarily?

    - Jaysoptimist
  24. 24.

    Hi Mike,
    I am a huge fan of your analysis of the game of baseball and also you candid and truthful assessment of the Toronto product on the field. My comment follows your blog in that one of the big “ifs” was attached to Adam Lind and “if he can be the hitter he was in 2009…”
    Well, a manager knows where to put a player in the lineup. He has a feel for how long to leave him in a crucial position. I think this is just beginning to pay off for the Blue Jays, as Lind is warming up and looking comfortable at the plate again. Tonight’s game solidifies for me the manager’s belief in a talent that can come back around again. IF Rasmus, Encarnacion and Johnson can move in the same direction, I think we can be in for a magical season. Thanks for all of your great work!
    Clay.

    - Clayton Johnson
  25. 25.

    Re: Post #18 — “we all grinned and bared it…” Sorry, but this brings to mind an image that I just don’t think fits at a ball park!

    - Norm
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