TORONTO – Three-and-a-half hours before Wednesday's series finale with the Yankees, the Blue Jays issued a surprising media release announcing the demotion of Kevin Pillar to Triple-A Buffalo.
This is far from an earth-shattering move, Pillar was the 25th-man, but the shock lies in his return to the Bisons just 48 hours after his latest recall and in the reasons why he's Buffalo-bound.
Pillar and Anthony Gose were supposed to be the right-field platoon while Jose Bautista recovers from a mild strain of his left hamstring.
The contract of outfielder Brad Glenn, a 23rd-round pick in 2009, has been purchased.
“We're looking for a little more sock from the right side,” said manager John Gibbons. “We've got three left-handed pitchers coming in from the White Sox and Glenn, he's been on fire down there, as well. So this is his opportunity.”
When pressed for more, Gibbons acknowledged Pillar's behaviour in the eighth inning of Tuesday night's game played a part in the decision.
The score was 6-6 at the time. The Jays had loaded the bases with one out. Pillar was due up but the Yankees' flame-throwing set-up man, Dellin Betances, was on the mound. Gibbons pinch hit Anthony Gose.
Pillar reacted. He stormed into the dugout. Footage shows him angrily tossing his helmet and ripping off his batting gloves as he walked from Gibbons's end of the dugout to the other. He then tossed his bat, underhanded, down the tunnel leading to the clubhouse.
“It didn't help him at all,” said Gibbons. “This is a team game, you know. There's no room for selfish play. But we've been thinking about Glenn for a while now, anyway.”
Glenn has given the Blue Jays plenty to ponder. In 113 at-bats with Buffalo since his promotion from Double-A New Hampshire, the 27-year-old has hit .381/.421/.575 with four home runs and eight doubles among his 43 hits.
To make room for Glenn on the 40-man roster, the Blue Jays designated infielder Jonathan Diaz for assignment.
THE OUTSIDE CORNER
Play a baseball game and inevitably someone will have something to say about the home plate umpire's strike zone.
Pitchers and hitters develop reputations, to the positive or negative, which can influence the way the game is called.
What goes less noticed is how one pitch called incorrectly can affect the remainder of an at-bat.
Take Colby Rasmus's three-pitch, caught-looking strikeout in the second inning of Tuesday night's 7-6 win over the Yankees.
The first pitch was a David Phelps cut fastball off the outside corner of the plate for a called strike. This is the pitch that changed the at-bat.
Pitch two: A knuckle-curve Rasmus fouled off.
Pitch three: A cut fastball on the inside corner. The pitch crossed the plate, therefore it was a strike. The correct call was made.
The problem: Rasmus was forced to adjust his approach after the first pitch to account for the wide strike zone.
“Colby's told me he starts getting bigger to protect and then he starts chasing balls all over the place,” said hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. “I said, ‘Do not change your zone and if they call it, they call it, but you can't change your zone. Do not expand. If they throw three out there and get called, come back and sit down by me.'”
When pressed for comment, Rasmus politely declined. Good move on his part - he doesn't need the trouble.
Adam Lind has also fallen victim to calls off the outside corner. It's common around the game, certainly not exclusive to the Blue Jays.
“They both have really good eyes and they look for pitches on the plate and that's what they're geared to do mentally and I don't want that to change with any of our hitters,” said Seitzer. “It's just a part of the way game's always been. (Umpires) are human. They're not perfect. They're going to make mistakes. You can't expect them to be perfect but I don't want our hitters to change their zone ever in any way, shape or form.”
Both Rasmus and Lind have laid-back personalities. It's rare to see either be demonstrative with an umpire. Seitzer appreciates their respectful approach, but he wants them to converse. If a pitch was off the plate, he's encouraged Rasmus and Lind to let the umpire know.
Seitzer will accept from his hitters called third strikes on pitches out of the zone. He firmly believes Rasmus, who's prone to the swing-and-miss, having struck out in 33.5 per cent of his plate appearances this season, ends up offering at pitches he otherwise wouldn't due to frustration.
Seitzer's been a sounding board for his frustrated charges.
“All I can do is be supportive,” said Seitzer. “You've got a great eye. It's not a pitch you want to go on, so you can't go. And you can't even think that they're going to go back out there because of what happens there, you get locked up on paint inside.”
Adam Lind fouled a pitch off his right toe in the seventh inning of Tuesday night's game.
“Ouch. That's what I said,” said Lind.
Surely he must have cussed?
“It was more just deep breaths.”
Lind returned to the starting lineup on Monday for the first time since fouling a pitch off the top of his right foot on June 14 in Baltimore. He had three pinch-hit appearances in the seven games in between. Lind's wearing a guard on his shin, which extends to the top of his foot.
In Wednesday night's series finale versus the Yankees, Lind made his first start at first base since suffering the injury.
Blue Jays' utility infielder Steve Tolleson is dealing with an eye problem that cropped up on the last road trip. He's got dryness and blurriness, especially in his right eye.
Tolleson had laser eye surgery five years ago, but it's unclear if this is a factor in any way.
He'll be seeing a cornea specialist on Thursday, marking a fourth-straight day that he'll see an eye doctor of some description.