Time for Batters to Shake Off the Rust
Five hours before first pitch at the Oakland Coliseum Friday, the area around the batting cage was crowded with Blue Jays players looking to get a few extra swings to shake off the rust after their four-day vacation.
The Jays finished up the unofficial first ‘half’ of the season as one of the hottest-hitting clubs in baseball but, baseball being a game of rhythms, there’s no telling what a break in the action can do to a team.
“Who knows?” said manager John Gibbons, with a shrug.
“Four days is a long time in this game. You just never know quite what to expect on that first day back. We had some guys out there to get some extra hitting. Some of them are going to be rusty, I would think.”
Toronto got what might be perceived as a break by being able to avoid lefty Rich Hill, who was scratched from his scheduled start because of a slight blister on his pitching hand. Hill is a prime candidate to be traded by the Athletics before the break because he’s on a one-year deal and is in the midst of a career year with Oakland.
Hill was backed off until Sunday in the rotation, so the Jays will at least have a couple of days of at-bats before facing him.
“We saw him twice, I think, at the end of last year with Boston and he really shut us down,” Gibbons said. “When (the A’s) scrubbed him, I thought they might have traded him but, I guess, it’s just a blister.”
Toronto comes out of the break with just four starting pitchers on the roster. Marcus Stroman started Friday’s game and also will pitch on Wednesday in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks. R.A. Dickey will pitch Saturday, and J.A. Happ will oppose Hill on Sunday afternoon. After the off-day on Monday, Aaron Sanchez will open the two-game mini-series in Arizona, followed by Stroman.
Marco Estrada has benefited from his two-week stint on the DL to rest his ailing lower back and he’ll pitch the first game back in Toornto next Friday against the Seattle Mariners.
“When we get back home, it’ll be Estrada,” said Gibbons. “He’s feeling a lot better so that’s good news.”
BIDING THEIR TIME
Chris Colabello has played three games with Dunedin since starting a rehab assignment on Wednesday and has a hit in each game.
There is, at this point, no plan in place for what will happen when he becomes eligible to return from his 80-game PED suspension on July 23.
“We’re just going to wait and see how it all develops,” said Gibbons. “I know he’s hit a couple of doubles so far.”
Colabello played first base during his first game, left field in his second game and was at first base again Friday night.
BAUTISTA ON THE MEND
Jose Bautista continues to make progress as he recovers from a painful case of turf-toe.
“I texted him a couple of days ago and he said he was feeling great,” Gibbons said.
“He didn’t say (if the toe as still sore) but just that he was feeling good. He was hitting off a tee a few days ago, so he might be taking regular BP by now.”
Turf toe sounds like a very minor injury but it is anything but that, according to Gibbons.
“Somebody was telling me the other day that when Detroit was in Toronto last week they were talking to Kirk Gibson and he was relating how he once had turf-toe when he was playing football. He said it was the most pain he had ever experienced.”
Gibbons wants Bautista to have no residual symptoms when he returns.
“We just don’t want any setbacks,” he said. “We’ll take it slow. But he could be back by the end of the month.”
Boston fired the first shots in this year’s non-waiver trade deadline festivities by dealing for lefty starter Drew Pomeranz, after already acquiring Aaron Hill and Brad Ziegler, and Gibbons is hardly surprised.
“You knew they were going to do something,” said Gibbons.
“They always do and with (David) Dombrowki over there now, he’s always going to do something. Everything you hear, they’ve got a loaded farm system so they’ve got some chips to deal. There has been a lot of talk about their rotation so that was an area where you figured they were going to get beefed up.
“They’ve already picked up Ziegler and it wouldn’t surprise me if they do more.”