The schedule makers are at it again with the curious decision to send the Toronto Blue Jays to Cleveland during the first week of April to play their only four road games of the season against the Indians beginning Thursday night from Progressive Field.
The Indians (2-3) and their anemic offense struggled again with their two-game set against the Chicago White Sox. They were gifted several runs by the bad Sox bullpen in the Home Opener on Monday, and mustered two garbage time runs in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s 8-3 blowout. Cleveland’s offense has put up MLB worsts across the triple slash board, hitting .160 with a .237 on-base percentage and a .231 slugging mark with just seven total extra base hits on the year.
The Blue Jays (3-4) find themselves in the middle of a bit of a rebuild, having gotten rid of many of the key offensive weapons on the club over the last few seasons (names like Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, and Russell Martin). After splitting their home opening series with the lowly Detroit Tigers, the Jays dropped two of three against the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the week, avoiding the sweep on Wednesday with a 5-3 victory. Like the Indians, their offense has not been the greatest, as the club has hit .202 with a .266 on-base percentage and a .350 slugging over the course of seven games. They do not have a stolen base on the year, one of three teams to make that claim (the Indians are the only team to not even attempt one on the season). Jays pitching has carried the lighter offensive production, as their team ERA of 2.05 and 80 strikeouts are second in all of baseball. Toronto starters have an MLB-best 1.16 ERA over 38 2/3 innings.
Sanchez earned a win in his first start of the season, working five innings of three-hit shutout baseball. The 26-year-old right-hander walked three Tigers and struck out six in the win. Bauer was brilliant but took a tough no-decision in his debut last Saturday against Minnesota. He struck out nine and walked one over seven innings, allowing just one run on one hit.
Thornton joined the Blue Jays in November when he was acquired from Houston for shortstop Aledmys Diaz. The 25-year-old fired five shutout innings of two-hit baseball with no walks and eight strikeouts in his Major League debut against Detroit on March 31. Bieber will make his second appearance of the year and his first in a starting nod. The 23-year-old allowed a run on two hits with two strikeouts in two relief innings against Minnesota on March 31.
Saturday, April 6, 4:10 PM ET
TBD vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (0-1, 12.46 ERA, 2.54 WHIP)
The Jays had yet to announce a starter for the contest on Saturday afternoon with Cleveland. Carrasco was roughed up by Minnesota in the series finale with the Twins on Sunday, allowing ten hits and a walk with six runs surrendered over four and one-third innings while striking out four.
Stroman will make his third start of the season in the series finale on Sunday. He walked four in his debut on March 28 against Detroit, but allowed just two hits in seven scoreless innings. He followed that up with a nine-hit effort in five and two-thirds innings against Baltimore in a loss on April 2. Clevinger opened Progressive Field for the year with a dominating effort against the Chicago White Sox on Monday, firing seven scoreless one-hit innings with three walks and a career-high 12 strikeouts, but he took a no-decision as the bullpen blew the save in the top of the eighth inning.
TV: Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (all); SNET (all); MLB.tv (all); TVA Sports, OMNI (4/7)
Radio (all): Cleveland Indians Radio Network; SN 590 (Toronto)
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Jason Kipnis (2B) – 10-day injured list (3/28); right calf strain (starting rehab assignment 4/5)
Francisco Lindor (SS) – 10-day injured list (3/28); right calf strain, sprained left ankle
Danny Salazar (P) – 60-day injured list (3/24); right shoulder rehab
Ben Taylor (RP) – released (4/2)
Bradley Zimmer (OF) – 10-day injured list (3/28); right shoulder rehab
Anthony Alford (OF) – optioned to Triple-A Buffalo (4/4)
Ryan Borucki (P) – 10-day injured list (3/25) – left elbow soreness
Socrates Brito (OF) – acquired from San Diego Padres (4/2); activated (4/4)
Clay Buchholz (P) – 10-day injured list (3/25) – right flexor strain
Jonathan Davis (OF) – 10-day injured list (3/25) – right ankle sprain
Juan De Paula (P) – acquired from San Francisco Giants (4/2)
Alen Hanson (UTL) – acquired from San Francisco Giants (4/2); activated (4/4)
Derek Law (P) – acquired from San Francisco Giants (4/2)
Rodrigo Orozco (OF) – traded to San Diego Padres (4/2)
David Phelps (RP) – 10-day injured list (3/25) – recovery from March 2018 UCL surgery
Kevin Pillar (OF) – traded to San Francisco Giants (4/2)
Dalton Pompey (OF) – 60-day injured list (4/2) – concussion
Sean Reid-Foley (P) – optioned to Triple-A Buffalo (4/4)
Clayton Richard (SP) – 10-day injured list (3/29) – right knee stress reaction
Ryan Tepera (P) – 10-day injured list (3/25) – right elbow inflammation
Devon Travis (2B) – 60-day injured list (3/25) – recovery from March 2019 left knee surgery
NEW LOOK JAYS
JAYS’ KEY ADDITIONS: OF Socrates Brito, IF Freddy Galvis, RP Javy Guerra, UTL Alen Hanson, RP Daniel Hudson, RP Bud Norris, RP David Phelps, SP Clayton Richard, SP Matt Shoemaker, IF Eric Sogard, SP Trent Thornton
The most disappointing thing about seeing the Toronto Blue Jays at Progressive Field during the first full week of the Major League Baseball schedule is knowing that fans will not get to see baseball’s top minor league prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The 20-year-old third baseman is dealing with a left oblique strain suffered while working with the Blue Jays as a non-roster invitee during the spring. Whether he gets the Eloy Jimenez treatment and signs a contract before making his Major League debut is yet to be seen, but he will start the season on Thursday night with a rehab appearance at Class-A Advanced Dunedin.
The Blue Jays dealt away several weapons from a season ago and moved another familiar face on Tuesday when they traded defensive wizard Pillar to the San Francisco Giants in a surprise early season trade. The Jays got back three players for Pillar, with right-handed pitcher De Paula highlighting the trade as he joins his third different organization in the last two seasons. He was the Giants’ number 19 prospect at the time of the trade.
The team has gotten younger and is waiting on the arrival of several big name prospects in the farm system over the next couple of years, including Guerrero, Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio (all three the sons of former big leaguers).
Outfielder Randal Grichuk was rewarded with a contract extension earlier in the week and is off to a good start overall, hitting .238 with two doubles, a team-leading three homers, and four RBI. Rowdy Tellez, who went on an extra base tear against Cleveland last season, made the Opening Day roster and has hit .286 with a .412 OBP and a .714 slugging with a pair of homers and four RBI in six games. He was 7-for-17 with a homer and five doubles in four games against the Indians in 2018.
TRIBE IN SEARCH OF OFFENSE
While the Indians have had some dynamite starting pitching performances in three of their five games so far, the lacking offense has proven to be an ongoing issue. The team has mustered just 13 runs on the year, the second-fewest in MLB this season (Cincinnati has scored just eleven runs and is tied with Cleveland with a .160 team batting average for the worst mark in baseball). The team has struck out in bulk, with 13 in each of its first three games and another 19 in the two-game set with the White Sox this week.
If there is one player carrying the team through the first week, it has been Carlos Santana. In his return to Cleveland and to Progressive Field, the veteran switch-hitter has performed nicely, hitting .471 with a .526 OBP. He is the team leader with five RBI and, unlike his teammates, he has kept the strikeouts in check, striking out just once in 19 plate appearances on the young season.
Hanley Ramirez leads the clubhouse with the Indians’ only two homers on the campaign. He is hitting .235 with a .316 OBP. He is tied for the team lead in strikeouts with seven.
Eric Stamets is hitless in his first 13 plate appearances with seven strikeouts. Max Moroff is 1-for-10 on the year with six strikeouts. Tyler Naquin has struck out six times in 12 at bats with a pair of singles. Jordan Luplow is 1-for-7 with five strikeouts. The catching tandem of Roberto Perez and Kevin Plawecki has combined for an 0-for-15 effort at the dish with seven strikeouts and three walks.
ON THE MOVE
The Toronto Blue Jays will continue their six-game road trip after an off day on Monday. They will help the Boston Red Sox open Fenway Park for the season on Tuesday afternoon and will wrap up the series on Thursday night after another off day.
The Indians will hit the road for their second road trip of the campaign next week. After an off day on Monday, they will head to Comerica Park in Detroit for three straight with the Tigers before moving on to Kansas City for a three-game weekend set with the Royals. They will then travel the rest of the way across the country for a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners beginning Monday, April 15, before coming home for back-to-back interleague series with Atlanta and Miami.
Photo: The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn