Opening weekend was a rollercoaster for the Blue Jays.
The team’s inspiring 6-4 win on Friday brought on some serious optimism about the team’s chances this season. And, as a result, that win and its subsequent optimism made Saturday and Sunday’s back-to-back losses all the more frustrating.
The target of Blue Jays fans’ frustration? Charlie Montoyo.
First, it was Montoyo’s questionable bullpen management that made him the target of criticism. With the game tied 1-1 in the eighth inning, Montoyo opted to bring in mop-up guy Sam Gaviglio to hold the tie. Gaviglio, as you’d expect from a guy who doesn’t have the stuff to pitch in these types of situations, got smacked around, surrendering three runs.
The Gaviglio thing was frustrating because it seemed that everyone other than Montoyo could see that he wasn’t going to thrive in that situation. But, to be fair, this was more ill-advised than it was egregious. There weren’t many options available and Montoyo wanted to see how Gaviglio could perform in a one-inning role. So long as this doesn’t happen again, it isn’t the end of the world.
But Sunday’s management of Ken Giles is totally indefensible. Given his breaking stuff was flying all over the place and he was opting not to use his fastball, it was very, very clear that Giles was in discomfort. He was taking long walks off of the mound after throwing, which, again, is something out of character for him.
Pete Walker came out to check on Giles, but it looked like more of a pep-talk from the coach than a check-in on the closer’s status. Shortly after, Giles walked another batter. Rather than pulling him after that, he few a few more pitches before Montoyo finally took him out of the game.
The Jays, of course, ended up losing the game, but, even worse, they might have lost their closer. Giles is headed for an MRI today to see if there’s anything wrong, and losing him for any major amount of time could be catastrophic in a shortened season.
After the game, Montoyo defended his decision to leave Giles in the game, stating that his closer said he was fine.
“He was fine. He got the first two outs, like he always does,” Montoyo said. His command wasn’t there, but he looked fine. He never complained or anything, that’s why I thought he was fine the whole time.”
“Of course, we asked on the bench, but he said he was fine. We called from the bench and he said he was fine.”
This is… not ideal. I mean, come on, what do you expect he’s going to say? Giles is a competitive guy. He’s a closer. He wants to lock the game down. He already has two outs. The last thing he wants to do is leave the game one out before recording a save.
As the manager, Montoyo can’t just be asking him from the bench if he’s feeling okay or not. He needs to come out to the mound and figure out what’s going on and be the one to make the decision.
“I’m proud of my team,” Montoyo said. “They were right there, three good games against one of the best teams in baseball. So you can nitpick, everybody can say here and there, I think we played great. I think we outplayed them, but they’re that good so they beat us two out of three.”
Montoyo is right. There’s a lot to be happy about when it comes to the way the Blue Jays played this weekend as they went toe-to-toe with one of the better teams in baseball. But this weekend would have been even better if they had come out with two or three wins, and, unfortunately, they didn’t due in part to Montoyo’s in-game decisions.
There isn’t room for moral victories this season. A successful weekend isn’t the Blue Jays coming out of three tight games with one win. As a wise man once said, “this isn’t the try league, this is the get it done league.”
I’m not trying to just pile on Montoyo here. There’s absolutely plenty to like about him. He seems like a genuinely fantastic person and there’s no doubt that he’s a great, positive leader to have around a group of young players. But, this weekend, his management was minor-league level, and, if the Blue Jays are going to be competitive this year, they need better from their manager.