Jays wary of June swoon
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
|Blue Jays outfielder Rajai Davis misjudges a line drive during the team's 13-9 loss to the Indians on Wednesday. (Reuters)
TORONTO - The Blue Jays are about to enter their own personal Bermuda Triangle.
Over the past three seasons, the Jays have gotten to the end of May in decent shape, above .500 every year and at least on the edge of contention. Then a little thing we like to call June happens.
From 2008 through 2010, the Jays have navigated the first two months of the season in a reasonable 91-73. But in June, they are a combined 31-47, essentially giving back all those early-season gains.
“Yes, we’ve discussed that,” said manager John Farrell, who understands the need for regular players to get the occasional day off to recharge their batteries.
“Not centring around specific players but trying to make sure we have a little bit of rotation and give guys a down day, maybe in combination with a following offday to give them a two-day break. We have to monitor that.
The Blue Jays entered June on Wednesday, a game over .500 on a four-game win streak, having won 13 of their previous 19 games. Farrell says it’s tough to get players to buy in to taking time off when they’re riding that winning wave. Perhaps Wednesday’s sobering, ugly 13-9 loss to the Indians will change that outlook.
“I’ve asked some of the guys who have been playing regularly if they want to go into a bit of a rotation with guys in the DH slot, spelling them and nobody wants to come off the field.
“Now, I realize we haven’t gotten into the hot weather yet. We’re fortunate to play in this dome where the weather conditions are on our side a lot. But when we get through this road trip, we’re going to hit some mid-90s heat. We’ll have to monitor that a little closer.”
Toronto’s June struggles may have less to do with fatigue than with its inability to handle interleague play. Over the past three years, Toronto has gone 22-32 in interleague play and most of those games are played in June. At the same time, the rest of the AL East has won 44 and lost just 28 interleague games.
Perhaps this year will be different. Offensively the Jays have a couple of potentially positive developments on the horizon.
First, Adam Lind could be back in the lineup this weekend and that’s very good news for a team that has had its difficulties protecting Jose Bautista in the batting order.
Lind’s sore back couldn’t have been more poorly timed (as if there’s ever a good time for an injury). In the 12 games before he went on the DL, he was 20-for-46 (.435) with six home runs and 15 RBI and generally making pitchers pay for pitching around Bautista.
Second, Brett Lawrie could be stepping into the Toronto lineup any time now. He comes with no guarantee of immediate success but he made a seriously good impression on his big-league teammates in spring training with his hustle and intensity. Pity the opposing shortstop who nonchalants a routine ground ball and realizes Lawrie is already across the bag. Despite his youth, Lawrie’s is the type of personality that even older, veteran players can feed off.
Part of keeping the team fresh as the season progresses is going to revolve around getting the bullpen back to seven pitchers so that the Jays’ bench strength can once again be taken seriously.
There have been games this year when they went in with one usable player beyond the starting nine.
The difficulty is accomplishing that comes after games like Wednesday’s when starter Kyle Drabek couldn’t get out of the first inning.
That was the worst performance by a starter this year but there have been far too many games when the starter did not get out of the fifth inning.
Three years ago, the Blue Jays had the most efficient bullpen in baseball, an accomplishment that was made possible by a starting staff that averaged 61/3 innings per start, allowing the relievers to be fresh and ready for their assignments.
Better days ahead?
June opened with a gong show on Wednesday night. There will be plenty of better nights ahead but you can’t help but wonder if this good ship Blue Jay won’t disappear once again on the waters of their Bermuda Triangle.