Blue Jays cut Latos, claim Valdez, Pillar player of the month

Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar has been selected the club's Honda Player of the Month for April in online voting.

Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar has been selected the club's Honda Player of the Month for April in online voting.

By Andrew Hendriks

Canadian Baseball Network

The Blue Jays cut ties with veteran right-hander Mat Latos on Friday prior to activating recent waiver claim Neil Ramirez and claiming a starting depth option in Cesar Valdez off waivers from Oakland. 

Signed to a minor league deal this spring, Latos made a pair of appearances with the Buffalo Bisons before coming up and joining the Blue Jays rotation after J.A. Happ was forced to leave an April game with left elbow inflammation. In all, the journeyman starter allowed a WHIP of 1.800 while striking out 10 and amassing an overall ERA of 6.60 in 15 innings with the Blue Jays.

Claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants earlier this week, Ramirez , who has pitched in parts of four big league seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins and San Francisco Giants, will join the Blue Jays bullpen in Tampa Bay on Friday. He’ll occupy Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s former spot on both Toronto’s 40 and 25-man rosters. 

Valdez, 32, is a product of over 180 minor league games since signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks prior to the 2006 season. With a cumulative HR/9% of 0.8, the 6-foot-2 right-hander has gone 54–42 with an ERA of 3.81 throughout 124 starts in the minors. With the claim, he’s set to assume Latos’ spot on the team's 40-man roster. 

A native of Santo Domingo, DR, Valdez has appeared in 13 games at the major league level. In four tilts with the Oakland A’s this season, the veteran right-hander has allowed an inflated  WHIP of 1.929 with four free passes and four home runs allowed in only 9 1/3 innings.

Pillar of Strength

After leading the club with 31 base hits, batting .301, knocking seven doubles, one triple and four home runs in April, Kevin Pillar was selected as the club’s Honda Player of the Month in online fan voting. The Blue Jays made the announcement on Friday.

The superhero-esque centre fielder enters Friday night's opener in Tampa having hit .375 (15-40) when leading off an inning in 2017, and his 15 hits in those situations are good enough for top spot in the American League this season.

Along with the award, Honda is set to donate $1,000 to a charity of Pillar's choice. 

- Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter @77hendriks

Andrew Hendriks

Born in southern Ontario during the late 1980's, Hendriks had a front row seat to watch the Blue Jays reach the pinnacle in '92/'93 as a child, an experience that only bolstered this Canadian's love for the "American Game." Having played since before his memory allows access too, his passion for Baseball grew over years of emulating his heroes on the local sandlots, memorizing the backs of chewing gum scented cards and travelling across North America to experience as many aspects of the game as possible. In 2009, Hendriks began volunteering at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame as a Weekend Tour Guide. By 2010, he was hired on to help curate for the museum & Instruct the fundamentals of the game along side such legends as Tony Fernandez, Roberto Alomar and Jim Fanning during the Hall's annual Kids On Deck program. Following the 2011 season, Hendriks began blogging and co-hosting a weekly podcast for www.BackInBlue.ca, a Blue Jays themed website ran by fans, for fans. Looking to continue connecting with baseball fans across the country, Hendriks is excited to join such a strong team at the Canadian Baseball Network and looks forward to chipping in.