Bautista, Built-A-Bear, Buehrle, Thole

2B Ryan Goins and his bear buddy on the Blue Jays bus.

2B Ryan Goins and his bear buddy on the Blue Jays bus.

By Bob Elliott

Mark Buehrle faces the Boston Red Sox in Monday’s Labor Day matinee at Fenway Park.

The Blue Jays lefty will be working on seven days rest.

His previous outing saw him allow one earned run in six innings a week ago Sunday as the Jays beat the Detroit Tigers 9-2, so his regular turn should have been Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles.

“I’m not saying I’m not sore, it’s September,” said Buehrle, “I could have started against Baltimore. I’m as capable as starting Monday, as I would have been Saturday or Sunday.”

Buehrle said he was called into the manager John Gibbons office and asked to pitch Monday.

Like any loyal employee he’s taking his turn “when he sees his name on the lineup card” but getting bumped to Monday was not his choice.

In six August starts he was 3-1 with a 4.38 ERA. 

Over the first four months the veteran was 11-5 with a 3.29 ERA in 20 starts.

Bears R Us: The rookies left the home clubhouse at the Rogers Centre carrying their own personally-designed Build-A-Bear.  

Closer Roberto Osuna, set-up man Aaron Sanchez, right-hander Marcus Stroman, outfielder Dalton Pompey, relievers Bo Schultz and Ryan Tepera plus bullpen catcher Greg Densem each had a large teddy bear under their arm. Second baseman Ryan Goins and centre fielder Kevin Pillar aren’t rookies still but veteran LaTroy Hawkins deemed them as bear carriers too.

And they’ll be having their bears with them all the time on this 10-game, 11-day trip to Boston, New York and Atlanta plus the first three games of the final home stand against the Red Sox. They’ll be lugging the bears onto buses, into cabs, clubhouses, restaurants, museums -- where ever their travels may take them -- from Sunday until Sept. 20. 

If not, it’s a $500 fine for a first offence. The fines climb over the next two instances when a rookie is caught without his bear, according to a veteran organizer who renamed nameless.    

And as the clubhouse emptied there sat Devon Travis’ bear alone on his chair at his locker. Travis is on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain, He has been on the disabled list since July 29. The second baseman is in Dunedin and is not expected back until late in the month if at all.  

Sounds like a better idea that making rookies dress up in goofy costumes.

“Oh, we might make them dress up too,” said one veteran.  


Bird Land: Right-hander Chris Tillman entered Sunday’s game 0-3, 15.00 ERA in four starts against Baltimore. When he dust settled and the bombs finally landed he was 0-4 with a 15.50 ERA. Jose Bautista in the first, Troy Tulowitzki in the third and Kevin Pillar in the fourth all took Tillman deep. The O’s most reliable arm last year (13-6, 3.34 in 34 starts) has allowed 31 runs in 18 innings against the Jays on 35 hits (nine homers) and 10 walks ... Not that it was hot Sunday -- how hot was it? It was so hot when manager Buck Showalter brought in Steve Johnson to replace Tillman in the fourth, outfielders Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones and Geraldo Parra headed to the O’s bullpen in right to towel off and get a drink ... Steve Johnson was the 12th Johnson to pitch for the O’s joining Chet Johnson (1946), Connie Johnson (1956-58), Dave C. Johnson (1974-75), Fred Johnson (1938-39), Don Johnson (1950-55), Ernie Johnson (1959), Dave W. Johnson (1989-91) Edmonton’s Mike Johnson (1997), Jason Johnson (1999-2003), Jim Johnson (2006-13) and Steve Johnson (2012-15). 


Back from Bluefield: Catcher Josh Thole proudly has a rookie-class Bluefield Blue Jays cap in his locker. 

Impressing Thole on Dennis Holmberg’s club were catcher Andres Sotillo and infielder Yeltsin Gudino: “Sotillo has a big-time arm,” said Thole, “Gudino didn’t hit much (.185) but he can make all the plays. He was born in 1997 ... when I was in grade school.” 

Thole, who didn’t play in either of the games he was there, spent his second season as a pro in the same Appalachian League with the Kingsport Mets in 2006. He said he spent a lot of time talking with the Bluefield catchers.

As is the norm when big leaguers visit minor league outposts, Thole picked up a $900 tab from The Outback treating the Bluefield team to steak and lobster after edging the Burlington Royals 4-2. “Dennis sent an email, thanking me and saying how much the boys loved it,” said Thole.   

The Royals, managed by Cambridge’s Scott Thorman, finished 31-37. Ontario Terriers grad Mattingly Romanin doubled, tripled and knocked in five runs in 33 games at Bluefield, while Dean Bell, son of Jays MVP winner George Bell, doubled, triples and had two RBIs in 17 games.


Scout and about: One scout’s observation on the Jays: “those guys at the top of the order are going to get their hits, but you have to get Ryan Goins, Kevin Pillar and Ben Revere out. I like Toronto’s offence better than the Yankees. New York’s bullpen better. I might worry about Osuna and Sanchez being so young and unproven pitching late into September and October.” ... Jays scouting director Brian Parker gave amateur scouts one-year contract extensions last month. Usually contracts were addressed late in the fall in past years. One scout suggested the early decision was to make sure no one resigned and went elsewhere as has happened previous Octobers. 


Bombs away for Bautista: Knocking him down doesn’t work.

The Baltimore Orioles have tried that over the years.

Pitching to him didn’t work this weekend.

Old reliable Jose Bautista swung the most effective lumber as the Blue Jays took two of three from the Orioles, including a 10-4 roger-over-and-out, finale Sunday afternoon as helicopters -- part of the annual Toronto air show circled over head at times.

Bautista hit a two-run homer in the first and doubled home a run in the sixth as the Jays won the series despite having Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion each go hitless in two games.

We once saw Al Leiter knock George Bell down on a Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium in 1988. Later in the game Bell hit a mammoth blast to left where they used to park the ambulances at the big ball park in the Bronx.

Usually hitters don’t have as much composure as Bautista did earlier this year -- homering after being knocked down by first Darren O’Day and then Jason Garcia.

All was quiet -- save for Ryan Tepera plunking Adam Jones, who went to first without incident -- save for the Jays bat as Kevin Pillar (homer, four singles, one RBI) and Bautista (two doubles, two homers, five RBIs) led the way.

“Ah, I think that’s a lot stuff drummed up by the media and the fans who like that sort of thing,” said veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins after experiencing his first taste of the Blue Jays-Orioles rivalry first hand.

Now, the Jays are off to Boston for three games, Yankee Stadium for four and then south to Atlanta for three with a 1 1/2 game lead.

“We’re playing good ball, we’re gelling, having fun, enjoying ourselves when we come to the clubhouse,” Bautista told reporters. “It’s fun to get out of bed in the morning and show at the yard even though it’s September and we’re all tired. 

“We have a new-found energy in the fact that we’re in first place and that we have a chance.” 

While Marco Estrada wasn’t happy with his start (four walks, two runs in five innings), Bautista said the right-hander did his job.

“He gave us a chance,” said Bautista. “He went five. Gave up two runs, both on the home run he allowed (Ryan Flaherty) ... so one pitch.”

Bautista walked once Sunday giving him an American League-leading 88 free passes to go with 33 homers, 94 RBIs and 86 strikeouts. He’s trying to finish with more walks than whiffs for the third time in the last five seasons.

“Sometimes I get more ticked off than other guys on close pitches (called strikes),” Bautista said. “I think I have a feel for the strike zone.”  

He’s on his way to his highest home run total since 2011 when he hit 43 to lead the majors for the second consecutive year. The next season he had 27 in 92 games, then, 28 in 118 games and last year 35 in 155 appearances.

And this month? 

Bautista vs. HR RBIs Avg
Red Sox 34 81 .249
Yankees 29 58 .244
Rays 25 59 .258
Orioles 24 79 .252
Twins 21 36 .324
Astros 14 34 .232    
Royals 12 32 .287
Indians 10 36 .289
White Sox 10 38 .273
Brewers 10 25 .213