Jays better than KC? Encarnacion, Hawkins, Hutchison, Osuna

By Bob Elliott

Less than three weeks ago the Detroit Tigers dropped two of three games to the Kansas City Royals, the first American League team to win 80 games this season.

And this weekend at Rogers Centre and the Blue Jays treated the Mo-Town Cats like manager Buddy Bell’s 1996 Tabbies, who lost 109 times.

The Jays outscored the Tigers 30-6 in the three-game hurry, hurry, HARD sweep. The Jays now have 74 wins, second most in the AL. 

So, who is the better team? The Royals or the Jays?

“The Jays are just as good as K.C.,” said Tigers left fielder Rajai Davis. “Obviously they swing the bat well, but the thing is they’ll take their walks (15 in three games), they’ll walk more than KC will.

“The Royals may have a better bullpen, but Toronto’s starting might be better.”

This group can mash but they remain patient. Jose Bautista leads with 83 walks, followed by Edwin Encarnacion (59) and Josh Donaldson (53).

Even second baseman Ryan Goins -- seven walks in 314 plate appearances his first two seasons -- has 29 this year.

During his three years as a Jay, Davis often led off. He watched Troy Tulowitzki start things off for the Jays Saturday and Ben Revere bat first on Sunday.

“Tulowitzki has 16 homers,” Davis said, “then, you’ve got Josh Donaldson, who leads in RBIs and is second in homers, hitting second ... then Bautista ... then Encarnacion ... three 30-homers guys in a row. Impressive.”

While the Royals lead the Central and the Jays lead the East, Houston sits atop the West with 72 wins and the New York Yankees are only 1 1/2 games back of the Jays with 32 games remaining.

There are many miles to travel on this 22-year journey.

Which AL club is the team to beat? The Royals, Jays, Astros or Yankees, Anthony Gose is asked?

“The Jays are the best, I don’t know if they have been like this all season,” Gose said. 

He was told that the Jays swept the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim by a 36-10 margin and answered “well, we caught them at a good time.” 

“We’ve seen KC hot, we haven’t seen the Yankees in some time, but Toronto is better than Houston,” said Gose. “I’ve watched Edwin have some moments, I was there when he got hot and hit 42 (2012) but this was some weekend.”

Encarnacion extended his consecutive-game hit streak to 25 games, fourth longest in club history and his 30th homer gave him 35 RBIs this month -- 11 this weekend.


Banned in Bronx: The motorized power scooters a number of Jays have been using to zoom from their downtown condos to the Rogers Centre, the stadium hallways and through the clubhouse have been banned from Yankee Stadium.

There is too much traffic outside the visiting clubhouse with golf carts, concessionaires and suppliers making rounds. Last time the Jays were in New York they were told not to bring the scooters next month. Ditto for the IO Hawk personal transporter (think power skate board) Mark Lowe uses to toddles around. 

Hawk rules roost: The final pitch had been thrown a month ago against the Philadelphia Phillies. And in the Jays bullpen Bo Schultz finished a side session since he had not worked in a while. The relievers began to leave the left field pen at Rogers Centre.

That’s when LaTroy Hawkins told them to hold on a second ... it has always been his  stance that while it doesn’t matter what inning relievers get to the bullpen, they all leave together.

“You’re not going to throw a knock out punch like that,” said Hawkins holding his hand up, fingers spread wide.

Hawkins curled his fingers into a fist and added “now, like this, we can get things done. We have to work as a unit. We are not individuals.”

And so the other Jays relievers watched Schultz finish his bullpen and walked into the clubhouse.


“It was only a matter of three minutes or so, but he made his point,” said Aaron Sanchez. “When LaTroy laid down the law I was all over it. It’s a great idea, but if I had said it, well, I don’t have the time in to say that.”

Hawkins, 42, had 18 years and 54 days service time on opening day, while. Sanchez, 22, had rookie status with 69 days of service.

“I like the concept,” said Sanchez. “Starters have their own routine, position players have their group.”

Hawkins said during the four-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins, Brett Cecil noticed Twins relievers straggling in one by one from right field.

“Brett told me and I put a stop to it,” said Hawkins, who has the clout of someone who has pitched for 11 different teams. “I phoned Eddie Guardado (Twins bullpen coach) the next day. Every team I’ve ever been on relievers left the bullpen together.”

So, there they sit, Hawkins, 42, alongside closer Roberto Osuna, 20.

“He’s taught me to how to anticipate situations,” Osuna said, “to use your first pitch to get ahead and you don’t have to get an out with your first pitch.”

It has been a learning experience from day one:

Hawkins: “Osuna? Any relation to Antonio Osuna.”

Osunda: “My uncle, he pitched for the Dodgers.”

Hawkins: “We broke in together in 1995.”  

Osuna was born Feb. 7, 1995.

Scout and about: One scouting director recalls knowing how good Drew Hutchison was the final day of the three-day, 2009 high school Florida showcase in Sebring, Fla.

“Each pitcher worked two innings,” said the scout, “every time a guy warmed up scouts would leave behind home plate and head to the bullpen so they could see all a guy’s pitches.

“Hutchison had the last two innings on the last day. He goes to the pen, is ready, looks around, sees like two scouts. There wasn’t any parade to the pen for him. The kid put his hands on his hips like ‘where the heck are you?’ Not many high school kids would do that.” 

Told the story Sunday morn Hutchison, who is from Lakeland, said the reason he went last was because he had played shortstop. His double play partner was a kid from West Palm Beach named Devon Travis.  

“They split the state into four teams and had it on a weekend,” Hutchison said. “I missed Friday due to graduation and played short Saturday. I was the last guy on the Sunday ... most scouts had left for flights.”

Jays scout Joel Grampietro signed Hutchison, who has 13 wins, after scouting director Jon Lalonde chose Hutchison in the 15th round. Mike Mangan and Ryan Mittleman scouted the right-hander as well. 

Travis went undrafted, attended Florida State, went to the Tigers in the 13th round in 2012 and now wears a Jays uniform.


Ed-Wing update: Encarnacion one of four Jays to homer is the fourth player in franchise history with four 30 or more homer seasons. Carlos Delgado did it eight times, while Joe Carter and Bautista also have four 30-homer seasons ... Roy Howell knocked in nine runs against the Yankees Sept. 10, 1977 in the 139th game in franchise history. And a mere 6,022 games later Encanracion equalled the output on Saturday with his three homers ... Another 10 hats were found -- tossed after Encarnacion’s hat trick, three-run homer day on Saturday -- bringing the total to 73 hats tossed. Plenty did not make the field landing on the wrong side of the outfield hat. A blue New York Yankees lid was hurled as well as a straw hat. 


Scout and about II: Bob Engle, former Jays scouting director, who drafted Cy Young award winners Pat Hentgen and Roy Halladay plus Chris Carpenter, who won the award with the St. Louis Cardinals, is on the market. In charge of Latin America Engle also signed Felix Hernandez, another Cy winner. Engle and Patrick Guerrero, son of the late Epy Guerrero, were not retained by the Los Angeles Dodgers. 


Not a fan fave: Anthony Gose heard the boos from Rogers Centre fans all weekend.

“Aw, to heck with them,” the former Blue Jay and current Detroit Tiger centre fielder, said. Or something like that.

“I played my butt off all the time I was here, I didn’t do anything wrong, they traded me,” said Gose.

Well, there was that slide Saturday afternoon when he rammed into shortstop Troy Tulowitzki at second on a force play on Andrew Romine’s grounder in the eighth with the Jays up 15-1.

“He was mad because I slid in hard,” Gose said, as Tulowitzki pointed to the scoreboard.

“What was I supposed to do veer off? Allow then to turn two easy? I play the game hard. All I do is play the game hard.”

Gose, shipped to the Tigers for Devon Travis at the general managers meetings in November,  

He was 2-for-10 this weekend with a two-run homer Friday off R.A. Dickey and made a fine running catch on the track for what he thought was the third out. Instead, it was only the second. Ryan Goins tagged and scored giving Josh Donaldson an RBI. 


Briefly: One veteran set of eyes said Goins is the best defensive second baseman the Jays have had since Robbie Alomar retired ... Corporal Angela Gore, who started at CFB Borden and served her first deployment at OP Impact in Iraq, was being honored between innings Sunday as Revere headed for the dugout. The left fielder stopped to give a congratulatory hug ... Diane Ford, who takes care of the Blue Jays wives and guests, is flush with cash after winning a recent 50-50 draw worth $8,600. Good things happen to good people.