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Blue Jays: Brett Lawrie crushes grand slam

Everyone has been stressing about Brett Lawrie’s start to the season at the plate, which is ridiculous when players stats often look out of whack so early in the campaign. And apart from anything, he had a similar slow start in 2013, before turning it around.

Regardless, Lawrie continued his recent turnaround (3 homers & 8 RBIs in eight games) with this towering home run in the ninth inning of the Blue Jays 9-3 win against the Twins:

You know it’s cold when even Lawrie can remain relatively calm (for him) after clinching a game with a gland slam.

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Blue Jays: Munenori Kawasaki excited to be back

I think it’s safe to say most Blue Jays fans can’t get enough of Munenori Kawasaki. As such, here’s his interview ahead of last night’s 9-3 win against the Twins:

How can you not love the guy? And for anyone who says Kawasaki is just a cheerleader, his two hits now have him leading the Blue Jays in batting average! (Hyperbole comment 100% intended.)

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Blue Jays: Jose Reyes set to return on Friday

As the Blue Jays continue their decent start to the season, more potential good news arrived yesterday regarding Jose Reyes. The shortstop is apparently close to returning to the team.

Reyes played for Dunedin yesterday and will do so again today. Barring any setback, he is set to rejoin the Blue Jays on Friday.

While the Jays have started the campaign 8-6, Reyes return would be a welcome shot in the arm, especially given the relative lack of depth on the bench. This was not helped by the news that Maicer Izturis is set to miss at least four months with a ligament tear in his left knee.

Reyes was originally placed on the 15-day DL, after hurting his hamstring in the opening game of the season against the Rays. The 30-year old has dealt with several hamstring issues over the years.

It goes without saying that the Blue Jays need a healthy Reyes if they are going to contend for a postseason spot. The four time All-Star only played 93 games in 2013, although he did average .296 at the plate, with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs.

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Blue Jays: Maicer Izturis done for the season?

Meridiano 's Photo

As the Toronto Blue Jays prepare to start a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins tonight, they’ll find themselves without the services of utility player Maicer Izturis. In fact, there’s a good chance they won’t see him again for the remainder of the season.

Izturis injured himself on Sunday, as he left the visitor’s dugout in Baltimore to collect some equipment after practice. He tripped on his way out and heard a loud “pop” from his knee. The sound alarmed Izturis and he was immediately concerned about his health.

Yesterday, it was officially announced that Izturis completely tore the lateral collateral ligament in his left knee. That’s a really fancy way of saying he’ll likely miss the rest of the season.

The typical recovery time for such an injury is four to six months, which places his possible return towards the end of the season. However, Izturis will seek a second medical opinion before any final decision is reached on his status.

Fan favourite Munenori Kawasaki will fill Izturis’ spot on the infield for the immediate future, but it’ll be hard to replace Izturis’ bat. He was enjoying a fantastic start to the season prior to the injury, hitting .286 and boasting on an on-base percentage of .324. Izturis’ current contract with the Blue Jays expires in 2015 when he’ll hit free agency at the ripe old age of 35.

Toronto is currently waiting on the return of another infielder, namely Jose Reyes. When Reyes finally returns, you can expect him to replace Kawasaki at second base, while Ryan Goins will remain at shortstop. This would be the best way to minimize the possibility of Reyes re-aggravating his injury.

It’s always sad to see a player get injured, but the manner in which Izturis hurt himself makes this incident especially hard to accept. It could have been easily avoided and hopefully other players learn from this accident to show greater caution around the dugout.

Photo credit: @MeridianoTV

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Blue Jays: A great start to the season

Seth Dodson's Photo

You’d be forgiven for thinking that at 7-6, the Toronto Blue Jays are off to another poor start.

That record places them in the thick of the American League East race where they’re joined by the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, who have the same record. The Baltimore Orioles (5-7) and the Boston Red Sox (5-8) are only a handful of games behind the pack.

If the Blue Jays really hope to compete this season, they needed a stronger start, right? Last year left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and it looks like we might be heading down the same path again.

Let’s put the hysteria and hyperbole aside. While 7-6 may not seem like a terrific record to start the season, the truth is actually the opposite. Toronto’s start so far can be considered successful for three reasons.

First, those seven wins were earned with minimal offence, save for yesterday’s triumph in Baltimore. To date, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Maicer Izturis (!) have been swinging the hot bats for the team. Add a few more hot bats to this mix and you have quite the offensive juggernaut.

Second, five of the wins were earned over teams in the American League East – Toronto’s home turf and normal burial grounds. The division normally isn’t very kind to the Blue Jays and a horrible record against its divisional rivals last season (30-46) was the key reason behind the team’s failure to push for a playoff spot.

Third, both the defence and the starting rotation have been playing well above the poor standards they set last year. This has helped to keep the Blue Jays in games and its reduced the club’s reliance on its bullpen. The best proof of this can be found across Mark Buehrle’s three starts this season, which helps to explain his somewhat surprising 3-0 record.

Add to all this the fact that the Blue Jays are 3-3 at Rogers Centre and 4-3 on the road to start the season and things look even better. Of course, we’re only 13 games into the new season and things can change dramatically, but it looks like Toronto has avoided a tough April so far and that’s cause for some optimism.

Photo credit: @SethDodson251

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Blue Jays: Jonathan Diaz pulls off suicide squeeze

Wow, I don’t think anyone expected the Blue Jays to rout the Orioles 11-3 yesterday, especially with how cold the bats have been recently. But obviously we’ll take it!

Ironically, amongst the bevy of hits, the suicide squeeze by Jonathan Diaz was probably the highlight of the game for me. Talk about excellent hand-eye co-ordination:

“How long’s it been since we’ve seen the Blue Jays pull off the squeeze?” I’m no betting man Buck, but I’m guessing it was more recently than when they last finished the season with a winning record. *sigh!*

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Blue Jays: Waiting on Brett Lawrie

Blanca Rojas's Photo

(Editor’s note – Let’s all give a warm welcome to Mike, who’s the latest addition to the Blue Toro team. Mike’s mostly going to focus on the Leafs and Blue Jays, so I can only assume he’s some kind of sadomasochist.)

The Toronto Blue Jays and their fans will need to start showing some patience when it comes to third baseman Brett Lawrie.  Batting eighth last night at Camden Yards, the 24-year-old went 0-3 at the plate.

The numbers don’t look good right now for Lawrie. With 40 at bats going into today’s game against the Baltimore Orioles, he has just 3 runs on 4 hits, including a home run at the Rogers Centre in the series against the Houston Astros.

If this trend continues, it will test the patience of manager John Gibbons. One could speculate Gibbons own brief 18 game career with the New York Mets is a talking point when looking to motivate young players.

Patience is now the driving culture of MLB managers as they let players find their mark, unlike 30 years ago when a young Gibbons was yanked from the lineup.  Moving Lawrie any further down the batting order isn’t going to solve his issues at the plate.

At least Lawrie’s defensive capabilities continue to shine. Yesterday, he made yet another great play behind third base, going deep into foul territory to make the over-the-shoulder out.

Lets hope some of the magic that Jose Bautista has rubs off on Lawrie.  Bautista has reached base in all 11 games this season, with seven hits and 13 walks.

Photo credit: @Blankadonk

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Blue Jays: Dustin McGowan shines in Baltimore

Kris 's Photo

It took Dustin McGowan two starts, but he finally showed why the Toronto Blue Jays are still interested in his stuff.

McGowan was dominant against the Baltimore Orioles last night, allowing just five hits over 6.1 innings of work. He tossed out two batters and allowed a single walk. The bullpen closed out the game from here in perfect fashion.

In terms of offence, the Blue Jays were lucky to win this one. They managed only two hits and two runs in the whole game. Those runs came during an error-filled fourth inning by the Orioles – they would finish the night with five errors while the Blue Jays would record two.

The good news? Melky Cabrera’s hitting streak is still alive and now sits at 10 games. He’s excelled in the leadoff batter role and it’ll be interesting to see what the team does when Jose Reyes returns to the lineup.

Reyes was expected to fill the void at the top of the Blue Jays batting order when he was originally acquired from the Florida Marlins last season, but that may have changed now. There’s no point in interfering with something that obviously works.

Toronto returns to action tonight at 7:00 pm EST. Drew Hutchinson gets the start for the Blue Jays while the Orioles will counter with Bud Norris. A win tonight would guarantee the series victory for the blue birds and put them in place for the sweep on Sunday.

Returning to McGowan, it’s nice to see his perseverance pay off. It’s also good to know Don Cherry was wrong: The Blue Jays didn’t set McGowan back in his recovery by having him start in the home opener.

There’s a commercial out there where Cherry explains what he knows and what he doesn’t know (he apparently knows hockey – I mean, he almost won a Stanley Cup!). You can add baseball to the list of things he doesn’t know.

Why the Blue Jays would reset their starting rotation just five games into the new season so McGowan could avoid a certain start is beyond my comprehension. If there was an injury or legitimate fear of fatigue, then I could understand such a move (in fact, the Blue Jays did just that this week), but it’s never good to simply fidget with the starting rotation.

One move affects everyone and it makes the bullpen’s job a lot less predictable.

I’d tell Cherry to focus on hockey, but even here he causes trouble. For such a talker, why doesn’t he just focus on selling insurance? Here at least no one takes him seriously.

Photo credit: @KennedyMLB

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Blue Jays: What Ever Happened to Jeremy Accardo?

Fans of the Toronto Blue Jays might remember a certain relief pitcher named Jeremy Accardo who came their way in exchange for disgruntled outfielder Shea “This Ship is Sinking” Hillenbrand and fellow reliever Vinnie Chulk.

There was some promise for Accardo, who held the closer role in 2007 by chance, but it never really developed in Toronto.

Right now you may be saying to yourself, “Yeah, I remember him. Whatever happened to him anyway?”

I wish there were good things to report, but it hasn’t exactly gone smoothly for Accardo since he and the Blue Jays parted ways.

Accardo was acquired by the Blue Jays in 2006; he came from the San Francisco Giants. This trade was essentially forced upon the team by Hillenbrand, who ran afoul of management and teammates after criticizing the club.

(Hillenbrand is one of several players that manager John Gibbons has allegedly fought. I love it: no one puts Gibby in the corner!)

However, the trade didn’t really hurt Toronto – Hillenbrand’s career quickly dovetailed after the trade – as Accardo provided decent, if not inspirational, stuff out of the bullpen.

A member of the Jays from 2006-2010, Accardo’s “big” season came in 2007 when he recorded 30 saves and went scoreless in his first 21 innings of work. Unfortunately, he never really had the chance to expand upon these numbers: Accardo missed most of the 2008 season due to injury and he had to compete for a bullpen spot in 2009.

After another disappointing campaign in 2010, the Blue Jays declined to re-sign Accardo and he became a free agent.

Since that time, Accardo has bounced around the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics and Washington Nationals, but he hasn’t been able to land another regular spot as a reliever. In fact, he never even got the opportunity to pitch for the Nationals – they released him outright in 2013.

This is where his major league story ends, but it isn’t necessarily where his baseball career ends. Accardo was signed by the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League on Wednesday. The next chapter in his career will take place here.

I wish him all the best and I thank him for helping to get rid of Hillenbrand.

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Blue Jays: R.A. Dickeys untouchable knuckleball

You may recall earlier this week we showed you a commercial that R.A. Dickey filmed for WestJet. Well, it turns out it wasn’t the only one:

If you can handle it, there’s a part two as well:

Hmmm, the way Dickey has started this season, makes these adverts seem even more unrealistic now, if that’s possible! Never mind the crotch, he can’t even hit the broad side of a barn at the moment.

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