GAMES 115-117, AUG. 10-12: RAYS AT JAYS
RESULT: Tampa wins series 2-1
1—Stroman’s blister issues interrupt another solid outing
For a second-straight start, Marcus Stroman had an excellent outing interrupted by a blister issue on his right middle finger.
Last time out, he made it through seven innings before succumbing to the issue.
On Sunday in the series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, Stroman went just five innings, throwing 76 pitches.
When the finger allowed, however, he was stingy, holding the Rays to just five hits, including only one extra-base knock, and walking just one to help lower his ERA to 5.03, the best that number has looked all season.
Post-game, manager John Gibbons wasn’t concerned about Stroman’s availability for his next start, scheduled for Friday in the Bronx, and Stroman reiterated that point, saying he won’t miss any time.
While the 27-year-old talked about the extra prep he’s had to do to maintain his finger between starts, the biggest effect of the blister is how it limits his repertoire.
Despite Statcast showing he had thrown 11 sliders and one curveball on Sunday — pitch types can be easily confused at times, which is nothing new — Stroman said the blister issue limits his breaking ball usage significantly and he claimed he didn’t throw one against the Rays.
2—Jansen, Reid-Foley set for debuts in Kansas City
It’s not the recognizably named, homer-swatting kid everyone’s been waiting for, but there’s no doubt the Jays’ youth movement started in earnest on Sunday.
After placing infielder Yangervis Solarte on the 10-day disabled list with a right oblique injury he suffered on a swing during Saturday’s loss, the Jays reached down to Triple-A Buffalo and brought up 23-year-old catcher Danny Jansen, the organization’s No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline’s recently-updated rankings.
GM Ross Atkins didn’t stop there.
At the same time, the Jays tabbed 22-year-old right-hander Sean Reid-Foley for Monday’s start in Kansas City, bringing him to Toronto on Sunday before he’s officially placed on the active roster.
They are two of the more exciting — and MLB ready — names in the pipeline and a good way to divert the attention of the fan base as the roster gets torn down and the losses pile up.
Jansen, who’s slashing .275/.390/.473 with 12 home runs at Triple-A, is a well-rounded, on-base machine, while Reid-Foley is a power arm with a big-time fastball and command issues that come along with it.
After Sunday’s game, reliever Danny Barnes was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo in order to make room for Reid-Foley on the 25-man roster.
3—Veteran Martin set to take on more of a utility role
With Jansen up and a need for infield depth arising thanks to the Solarte injury, expect to see Russell Martin at third base quite a bit.
Jansen and Luke Maile, who started behind the dish in Sunday’s series finale against the Rays, can handle the majority of the catching duties, leaving Martin and Richard Urena on hand to man the hot corner.
Maile also has a baby on the way and is expected to bolt for a couple days in about a week.
It might be a temporary situation for Martin — Josh Donaldson and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are both trending in the right direction — but it’s obvious some veterans are going to be squeezed out down the stretch as the front office commits to playing the kids.
Coincidentally, on a day Martin may have lost his permanent grip on the full-time catching job, the 35-year-old was finally able to raise his average above the Mendoza Line for the first time since April 7 with a double in the third inning on Sunday.
4—Don’t forget about the Rays in AL East
Everyone talks about the Jays finding a way to compete with the deep-pocketed and immensely talented Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees teams over the next few years.
But don’t sleep on the Rays.
Through injuries and trades, a depleted Rays pitching staff has endured, and they’ve clawed their way to respectability this season, despite being in an obvious rebuilding stage.
The farm system, however, has enjoyed a great year.
A number of prospects have enjoyed breakout years — toolsy outfielder Jesus Sanchez and catcher Ronaldo Hernandez are notable — while trades and a strong draft crop have further bolstered the Tampa pipeline.
If their trade deadline deal of Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for right-hander Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows works out as well as they’re projecting — Glasnow was dealing Sunday against the Jays, showing off 99.7-mph gas — the Rays could be a sneaky sleeper over the next couple of years, even in a powerhouse division.
5—Donaldson inching closer to a return
As of Monday, Josh Donaldson hasn’t been seen in 77 days.
That’s a total of 63 games missed thanks to a left calf injury that was originally only supposed to keep the 32-year-old third baseman sidelined for a day or two.
Even when healthy, Donaldson’s body has been beaten up this season, and it’s shown up in the statistics.
A .234/.333/.423 slash line with five home runs in 36 games is a far cry from what’s expected out of a former MVP making $23 million this season.
But the Blue Jays say Donaldson is making progress, with the last hurdle being running the bases, which is the exact step he was trying to pass in early July when he suffered a setback.
With less than three weeks to go until the end-of-August deadline to acquire post-season-eligible pieces, the Jays will have a small window for Donaldson to prove he’s healthy and then peddle him to a contender hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with a player who could carry a team down the stretch if he’s right.
It’s been a nightmare season for a player once projected to be one of the best trade chips available at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, but there’s still a sliver of hope the Jays will be able to get something of value in return for Donaldson over the next 19 days.
UP NEXT: Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium
MONDAY: RHP Sean Reid-Foley (MLB debut) vs. RHP Brad Keller (4-5, 3.57)
TUESDAY: LHP Ryan Borucki (2-2, 2.81) vs. RHP Heath Fillmyer (1-1, 3.13)
WEDNESDAY: RHP Marco Estrada (5-9, 4.84) vs. RHP Burch Smith (1-4, 6.97)
THURSDAY: RHP Sam Gaviglio (2-5, 4.86) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (7-11, 4.90)
VLAD WATCH: Riding a streak of four home runs over four straight days, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. suffered through a rare oh-fer on Sunday, going hitless in four at-bats to drop his average to .395.