Jays' youth movement stirs against A's

Toronto Blue Jays batter David Cooper hits a home run to tie the game during the ninth inning of...

Toronto Blue Jays batter David Cooper hits a home run to tie the game during the ninth inning of their MLB American League baseball game against the Oakland Athletics in Oakland August 4, 2012. (Beck Diefenbach/REUTERS)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:00 PM ET

OAKLAND, CALIF. - The youth movement from Las Vegas helped haul the Blue Jays’ old guard out of their six-game slump.

In the lineup that faced the Oakland Athletics on Saturday were five players that started the season in Vegas: David Cooper, Yan Gomes, Moises Sierra, Anthony Gose and Adeiny Hechavarria, who was making his major league debut.

The much ballyhooed Hechavarria arrived to fill in for Brett Lawrie — expected to be out for the next two games with rib tightness.

Prior to the game, manager John Farrell was receiving well wishes on his 50th birthday and was asked what he’d like as a present.

“A win,” he exclaimed, the answer an obvious one.

He got his wish.

The young Jays delivered the goods as they came up with two runs in the 11th to post a 3-1 victory and stop the bleeding.

“It’s been a while since we shook hands after a game and oddly enough we have to go extra innings again after a long night last night,” Farrell said. “I thought Ricky (Romero) pitched outstanding today. Once again we didn’t get much going offensively until (David) Cooper with a big home run in the ninth.”

Just like the night before the Jays entered the ninth staring at a loss. In Friday’s game Toronto’s Jeff Mathis erased a 4-1 deficit with a three-run bomb.

This time it was Cooper who tied it up 1-1. With one out he drilled a Ryan Cook offering over the 388 foot sign in right centre for his third homerun of the season.

Then in extra innings, a throwing error by A’s catcher George Kottaras allowed the Jays to go in front in the 11th.A throwing error by A’s catcher George Kottaras allowed the Jays to go in front in the 11th.

With runners at first and second and a 3-2 count on Mathis, the runners took off and Mathis struck out.

Kattaras’ throw was high and off the mark but catchable. Third baseman Brandon Inge appeared to take his eye off the ball and it sailed by his glove and down the line allowing Edwin Encarnacion to score.

Sierra followed with an RBI double for an insurance run.

With the bulk of their everyday players either on the DL or banged up with minor injuries, the Jays have been gambling on the basepaths in an effort to generate offence.

They had a runner thrown out at the plate in Friday’s loss and in Saturday’s victory Sierra was twice gunned down at home. But the fact that the Jays had their runners moving in the 11th led to the winning runs crossing the plate.

“Calculated chances,” was how Farrell phrased it. “We gambled on a couple of pitches that we felt we could take a base and we did. In that last inning when we put the guys in motion on the 3-2 pitch, realizing that Jeff has a tendency to swing and miss, we felt like we had to roll the dice and try to create something and we got lucky.”

The Jays played the game without the services of Lawrie and centre fielder Colby Rasmus which deleted two more serviceable bats.

Romero, as Farrell noted, pitched his butt off in a no-decision.

Two starts back, Romero was embarrassed by his outing against the A’s in Toronto when he allowed eight runs in just 1 1/3 innings to mark the worst start of his career.

Last time out in Seattle he bounced back with a much improved effort and was pleased and energized to have found command of his fastball.

But when your team can’t score a run it’s hard to come up with a win and they didn’t get any for Romero who allowed one run on three hits over seven innings.

“It was a great game by the guys, they didn’t give up. We played to the last out,” Romero said. “Good for us, we came out on top.”

After losing six in a row the win was obviously a much-needed one.

“It’s a great win,” Romero said. “We’ve been struggling a bit as a team and to be able to do this against a team that’s playing great baseball, it was good.”

It came down to the breaks and in the end the Jays received a big one.

“That’s the beauty of this game, you’ve got to stay with it,” Romero added. “It sucks to lose and you have to think that it’s going to turn around somehow, some way. The guys in this clubhouse have been positive and I don’t think anyone’s taken a step back.”

J.A.'S NOT HAPP-LESS

For the first time since being acquired by the Blue Jays on July 20, J.A. Happ looked comfortable and relaxed.

Following a two-week stint in the bullpen after being acquired by the Jays in a 10-play deal with Houston, Happ was promoted to the rotation following Brett Cecil’s demotion back to triple-A Las Vegas following Friday’s loss.

Happ made no secret of his displeasure in being relegated to the Jays bullpen having been a starter since 2009. But now he has been sprung from jail and he’s back in a position where he believes he will be of most value to his new team. He will take Cecil’s spot with his first start set for Thursday in Tampa Bay against the Rays.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Happ said Saturday morning.

Happ still will officially be part of the bullpen until after Sunday’s game but he can handle that with no sweat.

Earlier this week he had a conversation with not only manager John Farrell, but also general manager Alex Anthopoulos to attempt to straighten things out

“I talked to him on the first (Wednesday),” Happ said of his conversation with Anthopoulos. “I don’t know if anything got sorted out but it was nice to talk with him and hear his thoughts and what he was thinking. I was able to talk with John too and I was able to express how I felt and they expressed how they felt. I’m glad we’re at this point right now.”

If the Jays wanted to sour a player on his new team after being the centre piece of a big deal, they succeeded. What was the logic he was initially presented with upon his arrival?

“That’s what I was trying to kind of figure out,” Happ said. “They had some guys that were going good and throwing the ball well. I guess they didn’t want to disrupt that.”

Given that his previous start was on July 16, Happ will be under some sort of pitch count on Thursday.

“I probably won’t be able to go out there and go 115 (pitches), but when I do go out there I’m going to try to throw strikes early and be as economical as I can. I’m going to try and not be too overly concerned with that.”

Was it more a disappointment or shock when he arrived and got the news he would be in the bullpen?

“It was both,” Happ replied. “Alex told me right away that was the plan and it was a surprise. Hopefully things work out here and hopefully I get to stay in the rotation for a long time.”

As for Cecil, the other day Farrell mused that in the future, given Cecil’s quality stats against left-handed hitters, he could become a situational specialist, a reliever who comes in to get lefties out. But in the interim he’ll continue to start.

“His role going forward is to continue to start in Las Vegas,” Farrell said. “Right now we’ve got to keep him stretched out in the event that something happens injury-wise — we could bring him back as a starter. As we get closer to the return of Brandon (Morrow) and we’re feeling that our depth covers us in the event of an injury we may at that point take a look at changing roles.”

For Cecil, his days as a Jays starter, appear to be over.


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