TORONTO - First things first: Episode 3 of The Baseball Podcast is up for your listening pleasure.
Toronto Star baseball columnist and TSN contributor Richard Griffin joins me for a half-hour of talk on manager John Gibbons' strategy when it comes to his starting pitching and struggling bullpen, whether Brett Lawrie will see increased action at second base and Jose Bautista's great start to the season.
Give it a listen here.
GIBBONS LIKES HIS OFFENCE
The Blue Jays entered Thursday's action with 166 runs scored in 34 games. That's an average of almost 4.9 runs per game, good for fourth in the majors.
Manager John Gibbons is in his seventh season, over two tenures skipping the Blue Jays. He believes this is the strongest offence he's had.
"I would think this is probably the top," said Gibbons. "My last go around here we were really strong in the pitching department. We had some good offences but I don't think it equaled what we have here now. You need that in the American League. You need to be able to slug it out."
Toronto boasts the league leader in on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) and walks. He's Jose Bautista.
Bautista and Colby Rasmus, with nine home runs each, are amongst the league leaders.
Melky Cabrera's 48 hits are the most in the sport this season.
As a team, the Blue Jays rank second in home runs (44); second in slugging percentage (.432) and third in on-base plus slugging percentage (.761).
ENCARNACION DISCUSSES FRANCISCO
General manager Alex Anthopoulos has credited Edwin Encarnacion with helping to lure Juan Francisco to the Blue Jays.
"I've known Juan from a long time ago, he was playing with me in Cincinnati," said Encarnacion. "When he was young, I was older in here and he's one of my best friends. He had a couple of more (options) to go so I called him and asked him to come here because they can give him the opportunity to play here at this level."
Francisco, 26, hit 18 home runs last season while playing with the Braves and Brewers but was cut by Milwaukee late in spring training. He signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays on April 2 and began the year at Triple-A Buffalo.
His contract was selected on April 20 to replace Adam Lind, who went on the disabled list with a back injury.
Aside from the opportunity the Blue Jays could afford him, Encarnacion was pressed Francisco to come to Toronto out of fear he would sign with another American League East team. The division, specifically the ballparks in the division, are friendly to power-hitting left-handed bats.
"That's why I don't want him to go to another team, like Tampa or another team," said Encarnacion.
SANTOS STARTING FROM SCRATCH
Sergio Santos pitched a scoreless eighth inning in Wednesday's 10-0 win over the Phillies.
Thanks to the big lead it was a pressure-free inning. After two-straight outings featuring blown saves and three on the season, Santos is in the process of rebuilding his confidence.
"It was nice to execute on the things that I wanted to do as far as locating my fastball, moving it in and out," said Santos. "It was nice. It's a nice first step, hopefully in the right direction."
His stuff is good. Santos has struck out 18 hitters in 10 1/3 innings. The problem is he's walked nine and of the 12 hits he's allowed, three have been home runs.
Santos expects more of himself.
"Hopefully I can build off what happened (Wednesday) night and never look back again," he said.
Brett Lawrie took part in batting practice and fielded ground balls before Thursday's game.
He left the fourth inning of Monday night's game in Philadelphia with lingering tightness in his right hamstring.
Friday's game against the Angels may be more hopeful than reality. Lawrie's more likely to return on the weekend.