ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - If Alex Anthopoulos has learned anything from this befouled baseball season — his third as general manager of the Blue Jays — it is that major-league quality depth is the currency of survival.
After this lost season, he is committed to accumulating enough talent to better withstand another unexpected storm of injuries, especially to the pitching staff. He is determined to add as many experienced starters as he can this winter.
“I think we felt we had the bodies,” he said, sitting in the Blue Jays dugout at Tropicana Field Saturday before he watched the Jays get pounded 11-5, the third consecutive game in which they have surrendered 10 or more runs.
“Looking back, what you learn from is that we relied on young guys. More than youth, we have to have bodies to be protected. You can never have enough.”
The Jays pitching staff is a shambles. Like Carlos Villanueva the night before, Brandon Morrow got shelled for five runs in four innings and then the bullpen threw more gasoline on the fire.
“We just need to get better,” said Anthopoulos. “The fans want to see a better product, a better team, a team in contention. It goes without saying, we’re going to be — like a lot of teams — aggressive and try to get things done. There’s no question the focus is going to be on getting better.”
The only starting pitchers who are guaranteed spots next year are Morrow and Ricky Romero, both on long-term guaranteed deals. He’s not necessarily counting them as his No. 1 and No. 2.
“We talk about a 1, a 2, a 3,” said Anthopoulos. “Bottom line, they’re all going to make 30 starts or more.
“Forget about titles, forget about order. From that standpoint (Morrow and Romero) are in our rotation. If we can somehow pull it off that we get three guys that would slot in ahead of them, wow, we’re going to have a very good off-season.”
As far as tradable assets are concerned, the GM believes he’s in a better position this year than last and he did try hard to get some things done last year, without much success.
“We made a lot of very good players available,” he said. “At times it was three or two or four. But, the more time that goes by, the better feel you have for the value of your own players, too. (Last winter) we had players that were a little further down in the minors. Now they’ve graduated to a higher level.
“Their value around the league should be stronger because there’s no question prospects that are closer (to the big leagues) have more value. Not that people don’t think players in low A-ball aren’t valuable but everyone realizes, ‘I might have to wait three or four years’ (for a return). There are performance risks, there are injury risks.”
Game 150: Blown Away
Another engagement against the Tampa Bay Rays means another step closer for the Blue Jays to a record they really don’t want part of.
With Saturday’s 11-5 blowout, the Rays guaranteed their 17th consecutive home series win over the Jays, no matter what happens in Sunday afternoon’s finale. This is a period of domination that stretches back through the better part of six seasons. The last time Toronto won a series in this part of Florida came when they swept the Rays on April 6-7-8 in 2007.
This is a losing streak of epic proportions. Only twice in American League annals has a team lost more series in a row to the same team. From 1946-1951 the New York Yankees won 19 consecutive series at home to the St. Louis Browns. From 1949-1953, those same Browns lost 18 consecutive series to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
This 84th loss of the season was another trainwreck for the Toronto pitching staff. From the start, the Rays hitters refused to bite on any of Brandon Morrow’s breaking pitches, even the borderline offerings, choosing to mash his fastball instead. He walked three of the seven men he faced in the first inning, including light-hitting Ben Francisco with the bases loaded. Morrow used up 69 pitches in the first two innings alone on his way to 97 pitches through four innings.
“Brandon had powerful stuff,” said Farrell. “Maybe the best overall he has had since he came back. (The Rays) did an outstanding job of not expanding the strike zone on his slider.”
After the Jays closed to 5-4 in the top of the fifth, Lincoln made a complete mess of the bottom half, giving up six runs.
“It’s a bit of a momentum swing when we have scored. That’s where the shutdown inning is critical. And we’ve been faced with that a few times where we havn’t finished off an inning.”
Jose Molina, B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings all hit home runs for Tampa. Adam Lind tripled for Toronto and drove in three runs.
“Starting pitching is where it begins,” said Farrell. “For the third consecutive start we’ve had to go to the bullpen early and we’ve got to be conscious how often we can go to guys, even with the expanded roster. The tone is set right from the outset of the game and it’s been a rough stretch.”