It’s about that time. It’s that time in the season when the
teams that got hot too early start to stumble, and the teams that have been
coasting along under the radar start to surge toward first place. Look no
further than the Cardinals and the Padres. The fourth place Padres have won seven in a row and just swept the 1st place Arizona Diamondbacks. The
league-leading Cardinals just dropped two out of three to the Marlins, the worst
team in baseball. We’ve reached that point in the season where we can no longer
mutter “It’s still early” when discussing the successes or failures of teams. The
teams that got off to a slow start have to start climbing out of their holes
now if they want a chance at the playoffs. Getting hot heading toward the
All-Star Break can take a team from last place to play-off contention in just a
few series. Basically, it’s now or never, and nobody is out of the question.
One such team looking to get hot at the right time and turn their
injury-battered bad luck around is the Toronto Blue Jays. Few teams had more
hype coming in to the 2013 than Toronto. After
finishing under .500 in 2012, 4th place in the division, there was
nowhere to go but up. Countless roster moves were made in the offseason in an
attempt to turn the direction of the team around. Nine players were taken off
the roster, and 12 new players were added, including starting pitcher R.A. Dickey shortstop Jose Reyes, and utility man Emilio Bonifacio. To say that
hopes were high for the upcoming season would be an understatement. Reyes and
Bonifacio were expected to bring speed and offensive spark. Starting pitchers Dickey
and Mark Buehrle were expected to be forces on the mound. These days, the Jays
are sitting at last place in the division. How could so much potential have resulted
in so little results? Look no further than the disabled list for your answer. The
Jays have a staggering nine players on the disabled list; Kyle Drabek, J.A. Happ,
Drew Hutchison, Brandon Morrow, Ramon Ortiz, Luis Perez, Sergio Santos, Brett
Lawrie, and Reyes. A tenth player, pitcher Joshua Johnson, just returned
from his stint on the DL and has yet to make a start. Reyes, one of the most
talked about off-season pick-ups, exited with an ankle injury less than two
weeks into the season. Half of the Jays starting pitching rotation, Morrow,
Johnson, and Happ, are all on the DL with various injuries incurred this season.
Can we blame the state of the Blue
Jays entirely on the injuries they’ve suffered? If all of their starters were
healthy, would the season be drastically different? I don’t think so. It’s hard
to say that injuries have dramatically reduced the impact that the off-season
changes could have had, when two of the biggest moves, Dickey and Buehrle, both
have losing records and ERA’s over 5.00. Bonifacio’s incredible disappointment
can’t be blamed on injury either, as he stumbles along at .208.
You can point out the fact that Reyes was hitting .395 in the
first 10 games before his injury, as proof of what the injuries have cost the
team, but offesnse is not the problem. Having Reyes return will be a nice addition, but it won’t provide much
that the Jays don’t already have. Edwin Encarnacion is top five in the league in
both home runs and RBI’s. The Jays are 5th in the league in HR’s and 10th in the league in batting average. With
Reyes and Lawrie on the DL and unable to produce on offense, Adam Lind has
stepped up as the hottest hitter baseball. He was rocky, at best, last season
and nobody was quite sure what to expect.
After a relatively slow start to the season, he now he is holding on to
an impressive .350 average. There is clearly more
to this story than a case of too many players on the disabled list. The Blue
Jays are a team with all the right pieces, they just need to all come together.
If their recent success is any indication, they are well on
their way to making that happen. The Jays just completed a four game series win
in Texas, outscoring the Rangers 24-4 and are now only four games from .500. To
compliment the offensive success, they have found some starting pitching that
can win games. Esmil Rogers has been a relative bright
spot amongst the replacements, with a 3.21 ERA over 42 innings. Recent
pick-up Chien-Ming Wang has been an unexpected surprise as he picked up a win
last week in his second start for the team. Buehrle seems to be back on
track recently, with two wins in a row in June.
Somehow the team has found a way to get hot, while many of
their injured players are still on their way back to the lineup. Not that the
bullpen needs much help, considering how impressive they have been, but more
help is on the way as Sergio Santos could be returning shortly from his minor
surgery. With the impending return of Jose Reyes, possibly within the next few
weeks, and Morrow, who is two rehab starts away from a possible return, the
future is bright.
Looking forward, their three game series this week against
the Rockies, a team that is as injury-battered as any, could be a great
opportunity to keep their hot streak rolling. They have 13 games left in June,
with the Wild Card in their sights. Don’t count out the Blue Jays- it’s July
and it’s baseball, and in July baseball, anything is possible.
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