ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - As he was getting mauled by the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night, Blue Jays pitcher Carlos Villanueva was somewhat helpless because he lacked steam on his fastball and movement on his breaking pitches.
Afterward, manager John Farrell said the team would be watchful for any signs of weakness or fatigue in the wake of that start, given that Villanueva has pitched more innings in 2012 than in any other major-league season.
"He feels a little bit more soreness than from his previous starts, which is not totally unexpected at this time of the year," said Farrell. "If that soreness persists, we'll take any measure to identify if there's anything going on there physically."
Villanueva lasted only one out into the third inning and was tagged for seven runs on eight hits, two of them home runs.
"He was flat," said Farrell. "Not because of a lack of effort but physically he wasn't as good as he's been lately. The late action just wasn't there on his changeup and slider. Those are the things that really show up. Velocity can come and go but it's the late life on the secondary pitches that indicate he's not as sharp."
Brett Lawrie went into play Saturday batting .208 with a .547 OPS in 12 games since returning from a month on the disabled list. In 445 at-bats this season, he has hit nine home runs, the same number he hit in 150 at-bats in his rookie season of 2011.
"He's been over-aggressive at times, whether it's at the plate or on the basepaths and I think it's human nature compounded by the time he's missed," Farrell said. "He has looked to get back in the lineup and jump right back in and maybe make up for lost time. There's a little bit more urgency there and because of that, you see the lower half a little more aggressive, his contact point being deeper where the bat drags a little bit. Consequently, you see a few more ground balls.
"The leverage in his swing was more consistent a year ago. It's something of a habit he's gotten into and it seems it's been more difficult to adjust or break that habit to get him back to where we saw him last year."
On Saturday, Lawrie had his second two-hit game since his return, with a double, single, a walk and two runs.
HECH OF A HITTER
Adeiny Hechavarria went into play Saturday with hits in 12 of his 14 games this month. He is batting .310 (13-of-42) with three doubles, a homer and six RBI. He has posted an OPS of .808 in that span.