Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hurting Blue Jays Keeping Pace

Despite numerous injuries to the pitching staff, the Toronto Blue Jays keep on winning. Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees keep piling up the wins as well. Toronto has a 7-3 record in their last ten games but still find themselves one game behind the Yankees for second in the AL East and five back of the Red Sox for first. With Doc Halladay ready to return from the 15 day DL on Monday, the young arms on the Jays staff will get a much-needed boost with the return of their ace.

When he went on the disabled list, Halladay led the majors with a 10-1 record in 14 starts this season, with 88 strikeouts and a 2.53 ERA. After a workout yesterday, Doc has proclaimed himself ready to go and will return to the line-up in a crucial series with Tampa Bay. After a slow start, the Rays are knocking on the door and ready to jump into the race for the division; they are one game behind the Jays.

Toronto started inter-league play with a 0-6 record but a sweep of the World Series Champion Phillies in Philadelphia seems to have put them back on the right track. They continued to beat up on the Phillies with last night's 6-1 victory in Toronto. Rookie pitcher, Ricky Romero took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Chase Utley managed a single to right field. With the win, the Jays are now 7-9 in inter-league play but they are one of only four American League teams with a losing record against the National League.
Cleveland, Kansas City and Oakland are the other AL teams having trouble with their NL cousins.

In his first year with the Jays, the left-handed Romero has emerged as a dependable pitcher on a staff that has witnessed one arm after another head for the DL. He was there himself earlier in the year with a strained oblique muscle and has returned to the line-up in fine form. In 10 starts, he has posted a 5-3 record, struck out 54 batters in 64 innings of work and he has a respectable 3.20 ERA. Last night’s performance demonstrated this young pitcher has found his rhythm in the majors and his confidence on the mound will only grow from this point onwards.
With all the injuries on the Jays staff, who could have predicted they would still be contending in the wild card race? If not for the emergence of Romero, Scott Richmond (6-4) and Brian Tallet (5-4), the Jays would find themselves out of contention and struggling to attract fans to the Rogers Centre. While they have not been selling out the stadium formerly known as Skydome, being in contention will go a long way to packing the place in August when the pennant races really begin to take shape.

All the young arms on the Jays will be tested as the grind of the long season begins to take its toll. Looking at the DL on the Jays makes you wonder what is happening to these young pitchers. Is it just a series of freak injuries or signs of bigger issues? Perhaps the training staff needs to look into how many innings the pitchers are throwing in the minor leagues on their way up to the Jays.

On the shelf for Toronto: Halladay comes back Monday from a groin strain, and reliever Jeremy Accardo is also day-to-day with a groin strain. On the 15 day DL: Scott Downs (sprained toe), Robert Ray (right shoulder), and Casey Janssen (shoulder inflammation). Jesse Litsch and Dustin McGowan are out for the year with torn elbow ligaments. Shawn Marcum may be back in September after surgery on his elbow ligament. Joining the pitchers on the DL are the teams top two catchers. Michael Barrett has missed significant time with a shoulder tear and Rod Barajas is now day-to-day after leaving the game yesterday with a strained hamstring.

It will be interesting to see how this young staff reacts to having rookie catchers behind the plate. Although, with the way these Jays players keep responding to adversity, you have to think that they will keep up the pace with a least the Yankees in the wild card race. A real test is coming this week as they play three games against the Rays. A sweep of Tampa and they get some breathing room; if they are swept by the Rays, the season could quickly fall apart. For now, Jays fans will hope for a healthier pitching staff and more wins from the rookies as they attempt to keep the first place Red Sox within reach. Have a great sports day everyone.

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