I don’t like to keep shovelling dirt on the guy, but the sense of relief I felt when I saw that Tanner Roark got reassigned to the bullpen was palpable.
— Tao of Stieb (@TaoofStieb) April 11, 2021
Other things worth mentioning…
- I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the ugly part of the Anaheim series, which was the Thursday and Friday games, but there are a few things to talk about, so we’ll start with that before looking back on the absolute blast that was Saturday night.
- As great as it is to see that Roark is out of the Blue Jays rotation, there’s still a bit of an issue here with Ross Stripling. After struggling through three innings against the Yankees, Stripling surrendered four earned runs over five-and-one third against the Angels. He hasn’t inspired a hell of a lot of confidence early on this year, though, to be fair, those are two strong lineups.
- The most frustrating part of the Thursday game was Toronto’s lack of killer instinct to win a very winnable game. Jonathan Davis got picked off of first base in the bottom of the ninth inning after Rowdy Tellez worked a walk. That obviously isn’t what you like to see from a guy who’s on the roster largely because he can add value on the bases. Beyond that, the Blue Jays struck out five times in a row in the 10th and 11th with the automatic runner on second base. The strikeouts have been a huge problem early on. It feels as though the team is starting every single at-bat down 0-2 in the count. We know this is a boom-bust offence and strikeouts are a reality, but, boy, the approach has to be better.
- And then there was Friday’s game, which was an ugly slog that resulted in a 7-1 loss. T.J. Zeuch came in after David Phelps tossed a clean first inning as the opener and had himself some tough batted-ball luck. Things really imploded when Bo Bichette made a misplay at short on a grounder that should have ended the inning. There isn’t much room for error defensively when you have a pitch-to-contact guy like Zeuch on the mound and Bo’s performance at short this year has been a bit worrying. Following the trend of doing things like relegating Roark to the ‘pen, might we see Bo moved to second if this continues?
- Things looked really ugly on Saturday as Teoscar Hernandez was placed on the COVID list due to coming in contact with somebody who had a positive test while Ryan Borucki and Tyler Chatwood both got put on the 10-day Injured List. Borucki is dealing with side effects from his vaccine, which also forced Lourdes Gurriel out of Friday’s game, and Chatwood is dealing with a triceps issue. All of those issues on top of a four-game losing streak? Yikes!
- But the team came out and erased all of that anxiety on Saturday night with a huge outburst offensively. The Blue Jays put up 15 runs on the Angels, powered by a couple of very surprising contributors — Josh Palacios and Santiago Espinal. The pair of last-minute call-ups went a combined 7-for-9 on Sunday and continuously set the table for the big bats at the top of the lineup. I’m not sure Espinal’s bat will ever play, but it’s interesting to see Palacios, a lefty bat the organization has low-key been very high on recently, come up and string together a four-hit game. Palacios becoming a guy would certainly be nice, given Toronto’s big lefty bat, Rowdy Tellez, is currently 0-for-23 this season.
Josh Palacios of the @BlueJays is the second player in AL history with 4+ hits and 4+ runs in one of his first 2 career games.
The other was Wid Conroy, who did so for the 1901 Brewers in Detroit in the first MLB game in Tigers history.
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) April 11, 2021
MLB RECORD (tie): Tommy Milone joins A.J. Cole as the only pitchers to record a save while wearing #69. https://t.co/J2rWlDwHmC
— Minor League Working Group Member (@Minor_Leaguer) April 11, 2021
- Throughout all of the struggles offensively, though, Vlad Jr. has consistently been very good this season. He was 2-for-4 with a couple of walks in Saturday’s spanking and has gone hitless in just one game this season. All told, Vlad has 11 hits in 29 at-bats, eight walks, and only six strikeouts. He’s already been worth 0.9 wins this season according to FanGraphs, which, as someone on Reddit aptly noticed, is more than his WAR from 2019 and 2020 combined. Speaking of Vlad, this was a great moment…
Vlad Jr. introducing his teammate Santiago Espinal to Albert Pujols is the most wholesome thing you'll see today
— Bleacher Report MLB (@BR_MLB) April 11, 2021
- Does this mean the floodgates are open and the bats are finally alive? I mean, let’s hope so. Maybe the Angels were just gassed on a weird, rainy night in Florida that featured a long rain delay. But it was an encouraging outing nonetheless. Let’s see if they can keep it rolling against *checks notes* Gerrit Cole on Monday.