August 30, 2012
Villanueva, Blue Jays shut down RaysRight-hander wants to be a full-time starter
By MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The Toronto Blue Jays and Carlos Villanueva succeeded in putting a little shine on a month that has for both been the cruelest of times.
Having shown signs of life in the Bronx by taking two of three from the mighty New York Yankees, the Jays did not come home to lay down like dogs at the feet of the Tampa Bay Rays.
With 19 losses already in the books in August for the Jays and Villanueva without a win, the right-hander came into Thursday's game 0-4 in five starts. The night afforded an opportunity to turn things around.
Leading the way was Villanueva, who blanked the Rays on five hits over six innings in pitching the Jays to a 2-0 victory and just their eighth win of the month.
Along the way, Villanueva, who pitched with a slight fever and raspy sore throat, struck out six consecutive batters to become the fourth pitcher in franchise history and the second this season to do so. His run started with the called third strike to erase Jose Lobaton for the final out of the second, through the third and the first two batters of the fourth. He is the first Jays right-hander to accomplish the feat. Overall, he finished with seven strikeouts against one walk.
With the win, Villanueva moved to 7-4 in what may be his final season with the Jays.
A free agent after this season, Villanueva is looking to sell himself as a starter and not a reliever when he signs his next contract.
"I don't think I have to audition for anybody," Villanueva said when asked if that's how he looks at September. "If I am, I don't care because I think I've shown what I can do through my years in the league. If somebody wants me on their team, then somebody will get me."
Would he entertain thoughts of coming back?
"If the Blue Jays want me, they'll have the first option," he replied. "The way I've been treated here, it would be disrespectful for me not to consider to come back if they want me back."
But only as a starter.
"Right now, I am enjoying myself as a starter and If I can stay healthy and can contribute as a starter I don't see why I couldn't be a starter and help somebody else in a starting role," he said. "Right now, I want to be a starter and I think I've made that clear. From a selfish point of view, I would like to have the opportunity to start for a full season and see what I can do for a full year."
The Jays jumped into a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning with all the action coming with two outs.
Edwin Encarnacion got it started by taking a 3-2 pitch for a walk. Adam Lind followed by slashing a single to left and Rays left-hander Matt Moore put himself into a hole by walking Yunel Escobar to load the bases.
Kelly Johnson, who came into the game batting .128 (6-for-47) over his last 14 games, came through this time as he jumped on a 1-0 pitch and laced it down the right-field line for a two-run double. It was just his second double in his past 16 games.
SAM'S THE MAN
The Jays announced that right fielder Jose Bautista's wrist surgery will take place next Tuesday. It will be performed by Cleveland-based hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham. The surgery, to a sheath that houses a tendon in his left wrist, will be similar to the one that Dr. Graham performed last year on Rays outfielder Sam Fuld.
Before Thursday's game, Fuld was grilled about the procedure and what he and Bautista discussed when the two spoke three days ago.
"He was just curious about the whole procedure and how I felt coming off the surgery," Fuld said. "I just told him that really it's been great other than occasional soreness. I really don't even think about my wrist when I'm out there. I couldn't have asked for any better results from the surgery.
"I think he's worried about the stability. At the time before he made up his mind to do the surgery, he was worried about the stability of the tendon in there and I said that after the surgery it's felt as stable as my good one."
What about strength? Any drop off?
"Really, no," Fuld replied. "I was never a big power guy to begin with, so in comparing Jose and myself, we're two different ball players. But strength-wise, it's pretty much back to where it was."
The toughest part of the recovery process?
"It took a while to get the flexibility back, the range of motion back," Fuld said. "That's a normal concern coming off of any surgery. It was stiff in the beginning.
"In terms of the time-line, I actually beat the time-line that was originally set. I really had nothing but good results. I'm sure he'll have plenty of time to be ready for the next spring training. We set the initial deadline at about four months after the surgery and I beat that. I'm sure with his work ethic and his drive he'll be plenty ready for spring."
It's exactly the news that Bautista fans wanted to hear.