Throwin’ Smoke: Bautista, turf talk
TORONTO — It was an interesting week for Blue Jays fans.
Between Jose Bautista seeing a pitch sail behind his back for the second time this season (at the hands of the same team), and the renewed controversy over the turf at Rogers Centre, there’s been a lot to discuss over the last few days.
Bautista channelled his frustration at Baltimore reliever Jason Garcia’s errant pitch into a two-run home run in the Blue Jays’ 13-6 romp over the Orioles Tuesday night. He did that earlier this season too — when Baltimore’s Darren O’Day threw behind him.
The Blue Jays slugger seems to have a knack for turning anger into results. His teammates see it too.
“I told him in the outfield, ‘dude, you need to get angry more often,’” said centre-fielder and Mississauga, Ont., native Dalton Pompey after that game. “Every time he gets angry he hits home runs.”
The play also sparked some discussion about the Blue Jays possibly retaliating against the O’s over the next two games of the series in honour of upholding baseball’s “unwritten code.”
Veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle had a classic line about that. Asked if he could recall purposely throwing behind someone in a game, the 35-year-old said: “I’ve accidentally hit two people when I’ve been told to.”
“Both of them were situations where the guys batting knew that someone was going to get hit,” Buehrle added. “They put their bat down and ran to first and things were resolved, which is the way it should be.”
The rest of the series played out quietly. Bautista sat out the next two games with a strained shoulder. He also missed Friday’s game in Tampa.
On Friday morning, the Orioles sparked some turf controversy when the Baltimore Sun reported that the team had considered boycotting Tuesday’s game because shortstop Jimmy Paredes had been hit in the face (though not seriously injured) when a ball took a weird bounce off the field during batting practice.
John Chidley-Hill of The Canadian Press spoke to some Blue Jays players about the turf issue.
“It’s different. It’s not always bouncing the way you think it’s going to bounce. It makes it tough,” Donaldson told The Canadian Press on Thursday. “At the end of the day we’re athletes, we’re paid to make those adjustments.”
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
— Rookie second baseman Devon Travis continues to make us all doubt that he’s actually a rookie. Travis hit his team-leading fifth home run of the season against the Rays Friday night. The 24-year-old leads all rookies in hits (12), homers (5), RBIs (16) and is tied for first in doubles (5) with fellow Blue Jay Pompey.
— Third baseman Josh Donaldson is batting .375 over the past six games with two home runs and four RBIs.
— The Blue Jays’ Canadian content expanded by one with the addition of outfielder Michael Saunders (Victoria BC). Saunders was reinstated from the disabled list on Friday night, at the expense of infielder-utility guy Steve Tolleson, who was designated for assignment. The 28-year-old Saunders had been rehabbing in Dunedin, Fla., after having knee surgery during spring training.
MAJOR LEAGUE CANADIANS
Rockies RP John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) is back with the team after spending some time on the family emergency leave list to be with his young son Jameson, who was bitten by a rattlesnake twice during spring training. Jameson is now recuperating at home, rather than in a hospital bed. Axford earned his second save of the season — and first since rejoining the team — on Thursday night, a 2-1 Rockies win over San Diego.
MINOR LEAGUE CANADIANS
OF Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) hit a two-run homer Friday night for the high-A Bakersfield Blaze (Seattle). O’Neill has gotten off to a rough start with 25 strikeouts in 12 games. The 19-year-old, who was selected by the Mariners in the third round of the 2013 draft, is batting .179 with a .203 on-base percentage. … LHP Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.) earned his first win of the season for the triple-A Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay). Diamond went five innings giving up zero runs on five hits while fanning two.