Jays pen can't stop leak

Blue Jays reliever Marc Rzepczynski lies on the field at first base after missing an out that cost...

Blue Jays reliever Marc Rzepczynski lies on the field at first base after missing an out that cost two runs on a throwing error by first baseman Juan Rivera in the ninth inning in Toronto, Ont., May 26, 2011. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:25 AM ET

TORONTO - Late innings is not the time for mistakes, mental or otherwise, but in Thursday's game for the Blue Jays there were more than a few.

The most obvious one came at the start of the ninth in a 1-1 game against the White Sox when the defensively gifted John McDonald, playing at third, airmailed a throw to first on a grounder by Alex Rios, thereby putting the leadoff batter at second.

It got the White Sox rolling and resulted in two unearned runs and a 3-1 Blue Jays loss.

But a case could be made that the Jays lost it in the eighth when manager John Farrell took the bat out of Jose Bautista's hands after stealing second in front of him.

But more on that later.

In the fateful ninth with two out and runners at second and third, the White Sox' Juan Pierre hit a sharp grounder down the first-base line that Juan Rivera had to back up on. Because of Pierre's speed, that doomed the Jays right there.

Pierre beat reliever Marc Rzepczynski to the bag as the first Chicago run crossed the plate and when Rivera's toss to the lefty was slightly off the mark and dropped, a second run scored.

Afterwards, McDonald said he screwed up, that it was a play he should have made.

"I caught it nice and just made a high throw," he said. "I didn't really rush it, I just didn't finish it the way I should have. I didn't make the play.

"When you give it away like that, when our guy is throwing the ball extremely well ... You can't make mistakes behind him, especially in one-run games."

For the second-guessers, though, the ninth was not the crucial inning -- it was the eighth.

In the bottom of the inning the Jays had two out and Corey Patterson on first. With Bautista at the plate and the count 2-1, Farrell had Patterson steal second. The pitch was a ball, running the count to 3-1.

With an open base and the dangerous Bautista at the plate, Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen did the obvious -- he walked Bautista intentionally and decided to take his chances with Rivera. It took reliever Jesse Crain two pitches to retire Rivera on a grounder to short.

"We felt in a tie game at the time to take advantage of the situation and send Corey in that spot," Farrell said.

Why?

"Crain had faced Jose four times (lifetime) and had struck him out four times," he replied. "He gets behind in the count. It was clearly a running situation and we felt we could take the base easily, understanding full well that they could walk him (Bautista). Even if Corey's still at first base on a 3-1 count, they're not going to pitch to him, see if he'll chase a breaking ball off the plate. The fact that he stole second base is not the difference in this game."

But we won't know. Maybe Crain tries to strike him out a fifth time, makes a mistake and Bautista hits one out.

What we do know is that by stealing, Guillen has an open base and will walk Bautista every time.

Farrell didn't give his best hitter a chance.

Closer by committee

As far as the back end of the bullpen goes, the Jays have gone back to the future.

Currently, they are right where they were at the start of spring training with no pitcher tabbed as a closer and about four individuals competing for the job.

After recovering from shoulder problems during spring training, Frank Francisco emerged as the closer but has now apparently lost the job thanks to poor performances in losses to the Yankees on Tuesday and the Astros last Friday.

So now the job is once again up for grabs.

Despite the fact they are back to the closer-by-committee approach, the Jays can't seem to acknowledge the fact.

"I just got done meeting with the bullpen and just re-emphasized where their roles were," Farrell said before the game. "They're aware as we get to close out games, we have three options to use as a closer on a given night (Francisco, Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel) and we'll address that accordingly. That's not to say we're using a closer by committee.

"I just wanted to sure that they understood going in that all three should be prepared to go once that ninth inning is approaching. I don't think it's a knee-jerk reaction, I think it's the fact that we do have some versatility and some options down there based on availability, based on matchups and based on the hot hand at the time.

"We just have to be more consistent with shutting down innings in the ninth."

Overall, the Jays have gone a mediocre 12-for-18 in save situations. But while Farrell initially limited the closer role to the above-named three, he added Jason Frasor to the mix when his name was mentioned.

The ultimate goal would be for one of the four to take the job and run with it and become the de facto closer, which is what happened through April and led to Francisco winning the job.

"That would be the ideal scenario," Farrell said. "We've just come through a little bit of a rough spot and we have to be able to respond accordingly along with the awareness of everybody down there that we're trying to settle back into more defined ninth inning spots. I think we've got the people here that we'll be able to do that."

Or not.


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