TORONTO – Ross Atkins describes seeing the Toronto Blue Jays leave so many wins on the table in recent weeks as “difficult” and “difficult”. He knows the frustration of fans asking for action to strengthen the relief corps primarily responsible for these difficult times. But as GM, he must balance the impulse to act immediately, hell the price, against the unbiased analysis inherent in modern sports management. He’s trying to walk that line.
“My rational and emotional brain, I’m not sure if anyone can consciously disconnect those two things,” Atkins said on Sunday before his team beat the Baltimore Orioles 7-4, securing their first series win since the start. of the month. “But we’re thinking about improving the organization and right now most of that focus is on race prevention and how we can complement that pitching staff, also thinking about defensive improvements, internally, potentially externally. . We are convinced that this group will recover and play much better and much more regularly, with victories along the way. “
Patience, of course, even after Saturday’s 10-7 win, Sunday’s comeback victory and solid follow-up behind a reborn Hyun-Jin Ryu and a series of roster heart hits in a fifth of four points, is a difficult task. ask. The urgency and clarity around the current need, combined with the corrosive damage from the struggles of the relievers, create an imperative to act, even if it is an atypical moment of the season to make exchanges.
Atkins said dialogue with other clubs has resumed recently. While the starting pitcher market is expected to be sparse, he expects there to be an opportunity to add relief assistance. If so, why not force the problem, then, and get a salesperson to act now?
“It’s not as easy as just knocking,” he replied. “You want to make sure that you feel good with the alternatives, not just the ones you may have today, but which might present themselves in the future and understand the market and the cost. It’s the only thing that would stop you in the end.
For now, that leaves the Blue Jays at a standstill, expecting a correction and improvement in a box of the relievers now among the youngest in the American League, as injuries have wiped out his veteran components, everything. by seeking gains in any way possible.
The Saturday acquisition of right-hander Jacob Barnes is one way to achieve that, while potential returns Ryan Borucki (who is expected to throw a side in the next few days), Julian Merryweather (who is to throw a mound this week) and Rafael Dolis ( cast a side on Saturday and still showing mild symptoms of numbness, but shouldn’t be missing for long) seem to be on the horizon.
Star center fielder George Springer could join the club as early as Tuesday in Miami for the start of a two-man game against the Marlins – “We are very fortunately at the point where we now have a decision to make with him is to do we are continuing that rehab progression or getting him to join the team, ”said Atkins – which, combined with a more flexible schedule, should help close the gap.
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There is a leap of faith needed with this approach, but this Blue Jays front office will not go all YOLO with its forward-looking capital, believing this to be the first year of an extended window of opportunity, as opposed to a last attempt with declining players.
Still, Kevin Smith, Zach Logue, Hobie Harris, Samad Taylor (tearing things up in New Hampshire’s double-A), Chavez Young and Maximo Castillo give the Blue Jays a stable of Rule 5-eligible players to deal with. They won’t have room for everyone on the 40-player roster and using them by the deadline would follow the pattern the San Diego Padres used last summer, allowing them to preserve their best young players.
But waiting will mean more anxious times, even on days like Sunday when the Blue Jays were leading 6-1 with six strikeouts to go. Trent Thornton, however, wasted a low-leverage finish by ceding a solo shot to Pedro Severino and a two-run homer to Trey Mancini three hitters later.
Reese McGuire’s fourth hit of the day, an RBI single from the top of the ninth, extended the lead to 7-4 and Tyler Chatwood locked things in in the ninth after walking four lengths to start the frame.
Manager Charlie Montoyo carried a lot of criticism, but Atkins calmed his manager down, saying he was “exceptionally encouraged by the way he handled everything and continues to do so.”
“He really did an amazing job,” continued Atkins. “If you think about the start of the season, how well you handled the pitch and how hard you worked on it, and our injuries were just too hard to get over in the short term, but we’re going to work to improve that.” . “
The continued improvements from Chatwood and Tim Mayza, along with the return of some injured players, will ease that pressure. But every shaky finish, every missed opportunity will only bring it back up.
“Obviously it’s been tough,” Atkins said of the late-game implosions. “At the same time, we played some good baseball. We have had a very busy schedule. We haven’t played in Toronto all the time. We have the youngest offensive team in baseball which has been extremely productive. We can be better defensively. In the area of stroke prevention, we need to improve. So yeah, it was tough. But I’ll say this: It’s so easy to clean the slate every day because of the morale in our clubhouse, the energy and confidence they have, the positivity they have.
It’s a good start. But setting up the Blue Jays to keep building on the slate, rather than cleaning it, would be even better.