BALTIMORE, MD. - Just when you think things can’t really get worse in Blue Jay land ... guess what?
This was supposed to be a weekend of renewal for the beleaguered birds but it turned into just another dirty trick by the baseball gods.
With Jose Bautista’s return on Friday, followed by Brandon Morrow’s first start in nine weeks on Saturday, things were finally getting back to normal. Well, Morrow had barely settled in on the mound when Bautista left the game in the bottom of the third inning, having aggravated the same forearm injury that kept him out five weeks. He’s been placed on the 15-day disabled list, largely for precautionary reasons.
Piled on that troublesome news was an 8-2 drubbing by the Orioles, sending Toronto to its seventh straight defeat and 21st in the last 26 games.
“We’ve got to do better,” said manager John Farrell, clearly irritated with his team’s inability to play tight defence.
“I’ve got to do better. We’ve got to coach better. We have to play better. That was a sloppy game tonight. That’s something that we can’t afford. Defence is something we have the ability to control.”
As for Morrow, he acquitted himself well enough, victimized by a misplay of his own and another by shortstop Yunel Escobar that shortened his evening. Farrell had him on a tight leash, limiting him to 85-90 pitches and when he reached that number with two outs in the fifth, he was taken out, having allowed six hits - two of them broken bat singles and a third a double that hit the paint on the foul line. The O’s got him for four runs, two of them not earned.
“I felt good, felt strong,” said Morrow. “I thought I was pretty good, but not great. I fell behind in some counts. There were a couple of defensive mistakes, including myself.
“My curve and changeup weren’t where I’d like them to be. Those were pitches that put me behind in the count when I tried to get them over early. On the flip side, I had good fastball command.”
There did not appear to be a particular incident that caused Bautista’s forearm tendon to flare up. Bautista had walked in the first inning and came home on Edwin Encarnacion’s 34th home run to stake Morrow and the Jays to a 2-0 lead.
It was during that first at-bat that Bautista said he felt some irritation, after a couple of swings, in the same area as he did on July 16 in New York when the injury occurred.
“I just felt a little discomfort,” said Bautista. “There was no sense in pushing it when you’re coming back from an injury and you feel like it might go the other way, you have to put a stop to it.
“It’s a little bit bizarre to me. I’ve been playing and I’ve been fine. Maybe one of those swings I took today may have put my hand in the same position where I got hurt before. I hope it’s just a couple of days and it will calm down.”
After the game, Bautista was unaware he had been placed back on the disabled list but he didn’t disagree with the move.
“We can’t have a 25-man roster with only 23 players,” he said. “I didn’t think it was worth going up for another at-bat and not know how it was going to feel afterward.
"I think I did the right thing. The doctor says there’s nothing to panic about. I don’t feel terrible. But I don’t feel 100%. It was nowhere near what I felt the first time.”
In the third inning, Escobar deflected a potential double-play ball off his glove that eventually led to two unearned runs. In the fifth, with one out, the O’s took the lead for good on Adam Jones’s broken-bat, two-run single into short left-centre.
With Morrow out of the game the Orioles piled on the Toronto bullpen for three runs in the sixth and another in the seventh to put it out of reach of the offensively-challenged Blue Jays. In their last 26 games, the Jays have scored two or fewer runs 16 times.
Coming Or Going?
Adeiny Hechavarria barely had his feet on the ground in Las Vegas Saturday when he learned he was being recalled to Baltimore to re-join the Blue Jays. Hechavarria, Anthony Gose and Chad Beck were all on a commercial flight from Baltimore to Vegas on Saturday morning.
When Jose Bautista left Saturday night’s game and went immediately back on the DL, the call went out for Hechavarria who will get regular at-bats at third base over the next week or two while Mike McCoy fills Bautista’s spot in the outfield
Hechavarria hit just .179 with a .445 OPS in 45 plate appearances over 14 games and didn’t expect to come back to Toronto until the roster expands in September. Gose hit .183 with a .499 OPS and 10 stolen bases in 92 plate appearances over 28 games.
“In a short period Hech showed us he can play all three infield positions. We still view him as an everyday shortstop, obviously, depending on roster configuration. He does open up some flexibility with his ability to play second and third,” said Farrell.