Lawrie, Rasmus Are Close

Jays manager John Gibbons said Tuesday he felt Brett Lawrie was “on the verge”. The third baseman then went out and hit a three-run homer in the Jays’ 9-3 win. That and more in Melissa Couto’s weekly notebook

Jays manager John Gibbons said Tuesday he felt Brett Lawrie was “on the verge”. The third baseman then went out and hit a three-run homer in the Jays’ 9-3 win. That and more in Melissa Couto’s weekly notebook

If you listened to John Gibbons' pre-game chat Tuesday, you'd think the Toronto Blue Jays manager was clairvoyant after what unfolded on the field.

Asked about Brett Lawrie, who came into the game hitting .172 with a .182 on-base percentage and .254 slugging percentage. Gibbons said he had a feeling the Langley, B.C., native was about to turn the page on his poor offensive start to the season.

"I think he's on the verge," were the skipper's exact words.

Then came the game...

Tied 3-3 in the eighth inning, Lawrie hit a three-run home run as the Blue Jays went on to beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-3 at Rogers Centre.

"You know what, I see the signs," Gibbons said before Toronto took the field against its division rival. "You look at Lawrie ... he's driving in some runs, he smoked the ball down the third-base line the other day and got robbed."

Gibbons said the "signs" were there, not only for Lawrie, but for the entire bottom half of his lineup, including second baseman Ryan Goins, centrefielder Colby Rasmus, and back-up catcher Josh Thole.

Rasmus walked twice and scored a run against Baltimore Tuesday, while Thole was 2-for-3 with a run and a walk. Goins was hitless in two at-bats before Jonathan Diaz entered the game as his pinch hitter.

Gibbons, then, was 3-for-4 on the night. But his predictions didn't stop with his batting order.

When the conversation turned toward Tuesday's starting pitcher, R.A. Dickey (1-3 with a 6.26 ERA before the game), the manager said he expects his knuckleballer to turn things around, too.

"The way you look at it, you just want him to give us a chance to win," Gibbons said. "He's had some trouble this year with walks, that's hurting him, but he's a key guy for us, no question. ... Put us in a position to win. Keep it close, give us a chance for our offence to do something."

Dickey pitched five scoreless innings, before giving up three runs — on a three-run home run by Nelson Cruz — in the sixth. The 39-year-old, who struck out six in his fifth outing of the year, left the game with two on and nobody out in the seventh inning, and gave up six hits and three walks in total in the no-decision.

NOTES: Toronto picked up OF Darrin Mastroianni on waivers before the game. Said Gibbons of the former Blue Jay: "I heard he's a good tough ballplayer. He can really run, he can play everywhere in the outfield, just one of those gamer types." ... Jose Bautista has the longest streak in the majors by reaching base safely in each of the 20 games he's played this season. The Jays' right-fielder leads the league in walks with 25 ... Edwin Encarnacion hit his 24th career home run against the Orioles Tuesday. He's four home runs shy of 200 for his career.

GET TO KNOW: CF COLBY RASMUS

My most memorable game: "For me, that would probably be a high school game I played (in 2005, as a senior for Russell County  [C-Rasmus] High School in Seale, Ala.) It was a game to get into the State Championship and we won, so it was pretty memorable." — Rasmus led the Russell County team offensively in 2005, hitting .484 with 24 home runs, 69 runs and 66 RBIs.

The best advice I've ever received: "Best advice?" he asked with a smirk. "I don't know. I get a lot of advice all the time, but I never really put it to use, so I don't know how good that advice actually is."

TOP CANADIANS IN THE MAJORS

THE GOOD

Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau is on a tear, and the league is noticing.

Morneau, of New Westminster, B.C., was named the National League player of the week Monday morning after a torrid seven-game stretch which saw him hit .375 with nine hits, six runs, three doubles, three home runs and 12 RBIs.

The 32-year-old was at it again Monday night, going 1-for-4 with a double in Colorado's 8-2 win over the San Francisco Giants, and he went 2-for-4 Tuesday as the Rockies edged San Fran 2-1.

THE BAD

The Seattle Mariners say LHP James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) will be out until at least late May.

The Mariners rookie was taken out of his second start of the season after five innings with a strained left lat muscle Apr. 8. He went [MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners]  on the 15-day disabled list the next day.

Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters Monday that Paxton's workouts are "coming along fine," but he was hesitant to confirm the Canadian's status within the Mariners' rotation once he returns to the big league club.

"We’ll see — six to eight weeks he should be healthy and ready to pitch again," McClendon said. "Whether or not he's in the rotation, I don't know."

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

Tampa Bay LHP Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) started a major league game for the first time in 2014 last Friday, but only lasted 3 2/3 innings in the Rays 11-5 win over the New York Yankees.

Bedard, 35, struck out three, but allowed four earned runs on six hits and a walk. He's scheduled to start Thursday against the Minnesota Twins.

NOTES: Pittsburgh's Russell Martin (Montreal) has been suspended one game for his role in the dugout-clearing brawl that erupted Sunday between the Pirates and Brewers. Former Blue Jay and current Pirate OF Travis Snider got a two-game suspension. Both plan on appealing. ... Cleveland's John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) picked up his seventh save of the season, pitching a 1-2-3 ninth inning against Kansas City Monday. Axford earned his sixth save the day before — despite giving up two hits and walking a batter — as the Indians edged Toronto.

TOP CANADIANS IN THE MINORS

Left-handed pitcher Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.) is 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA through four starts (22 2/3 innings) for Cincinnati's triple-A Louisville Bats.

Francis pitched 6 2/3 innings in his last start — a 4-2 win over the Indianapolis Indians Sunday — striking out a season-high 10 batters and giving up two runs on seven hits and a walk.

Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.), meanwhile, is getting another crack at pitching.

The 30-year-old signed a minor-league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies last Wednesday and the organization reportedly wants him back on the mound — after spending the last five seasons playing first base and outfield for minor league affiliates in the Mets and Blue Jays organizations.

Loewen was drafted fourth overall by the Baltimore Orioles in 2002 — as a left-handed pitcher — but converted to a position player after the 2008 season. He made his major league debut in 2006, going 6-6 with a 5.37 ERA through 22 games (19 starts), and made 13 more appearances for Baltimore's big league club over the next two seasons.

CANADA DAY IN CALIFORNIA

Arizona State LHP Ryan Kellogg (Whitby, Ont.) went toe-to-toe with former junior national teammate, RHP Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) when Stanford hosted the Sun Devils Friday night.

Kellogg (5-2) picked up the win, pitching seven innings and giving up two unearned runs in the 3-2 victory. Quantrill (3-4),  [R-Kellogg] meanwhile, was just as impressive, striking out seven through six innings and allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits for the loss.

After the game, Kellogg spoke to the Canadian Baseball Network, admitting it was "a new experience" seeing Quantrill on the mound in an opposing uniform.

"It was a great experience, may have been once in a lifetime," the 20-year-old southpaw said of the extremely rare all-Canadian PAC-12 pitching matchup. "Being able to see him again and watching him transition into the collegiate level was great to see. ... He pitched well and I'm sure he'll continue to have success."

The two pitchers won silver together at the IBAF 18-U World Championship in Seoul, South Korea in 2012, and figure to go relatively high in their respective draft years (2015 for Kellogg and 2016 for Quantrill).

ThrowinSmoke is Melissa Couto's weekly notes column on the Blue Jays and the major leagues, as well as a peak at Canadians in the game.

- Follow Melissa Couto on Twitter @ThrowinSmoke

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Melissa Couto

My name is Melissa Couto. I'm a sports reporter-editor at The Canadian Press, where I've worked for the past two years. Mostly I work on the night desk, editing copy for print, online and broadcast, but I have been doing more and more writing recently. I also contribute to the Canadian Baseball Network, a website founded by renowned Toronto Sun columnist Bob Elliott.

 

I'm a graduate of Centennial College's sports journalism post-graduate program. Before that, I went to Western where I completed a BA and MA in American history (it's helped me impress people when we're watching Jeopardy). In all seriousness, my time at Western was valuable.  I walked away with a real passion for writing. When I took the post-grad program at Centennial, I learned to merge that love of writing with the love of sport that I've always had (particularly for baseball), and as they say, the rest is history.