The Blue Jays threw a curveball even before their game with the Boston Red Sox began.
But this one turned out to be a strike, not a ball in the dirt.
After announcing that rookie Jacob Waguespack would make his first career MLB start Wednesday upon being activated off the 10-day IL, the Jays instead went with an opener as reliever David Phelps toed the rubber to begin the game.
Pitching coach Pete Walker dropped the idea on manager Charlie Montoyo a couple of hours before the game started and he agreed to give it a whirl.
“I said: ‘Why not? Let’s do it,’” Montoyo said. “It’s always good for a young guy like Waguespack to face Mookie Betts and the top of the lineup just two times instead of three times. That was the whole idea.”
Phelps pitched a scoreless first inning, then turned it over to Waguespack and the big right-hander didn’t disappoint.
Montoyo’s mound moves paid off as Waguespack, a 25-year-old from Louisiana who isn’t ranked among the Jays’ top 30 prospects by MLB, got his first big-league win as the Jays dumped the Red Sox 6-3 at the Rogers Centre.
Waguespack, who went four innings in relief in his MLB debut against the Rays on May 27 before going on the IL with a shoulder strain, probably did enough to deserve an actual start later this season. He gave up three runs on six hits over five innings and, although he was touched for a Christian Vazquez solo homer, he didn’t walk a batter and appeared in control most of the night.
“The consensus was I was going to start. Then they just decided (on an opener) before the game,” Waguespack said. “It didn’t affect me at all. I was just trying to stay aggressive and Jano (catcher Danny Jansen) and Pete had a great game plan. I’m not familiar with those hitters and obviously they are one of the best (teams) in the game.”
Boston lefty Chris Sale struggled for the second start in a row, giving up five runs on nine hits (three homers) and two walks while striking out five in 5.2 innings. He gave up five runs in his last start, too, after limiting the opposition to five runs in his previous four starts combined.
“For some reason we have good at-bats against him,” Jays Montoyo said of his team’s success this season against Sale, who is 0-2 in three starts against Toronto. “Our guys see the ball good against him. He’s still one of the best pitchers in baseball.”
With one out in the third, Rafael Devers drove in a pair of runs with a single to left. to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., halved the deficit by launching a Sale offering over the fence in centre field for his 15th home run of the season. Then formerly light-hitting catcher Vazquez, who hit just five bombs last year, made it 3-1 for the Bosox with a solo blast in the fourth, his 13th homer of the season, to set the stage for the Jays comeback.
Jansen, who has gone from ice cold to red hot at the plate, hit a no-doubt two-run shot off Sale with one out in the fourth after Justin Smoak walked. Jansen has hit now four of his six home runs in his last seven games after going 0-for-17 in his previous six.
Sale got rocked again in the sixth when Brandon Drury hit a two-out, two-run bomb to give Jays a 5-3 lead, which they wouldn’t give up. Relievers Tim Mayza, Daniel Hudson and Ken Giles, who picked up his 13th save, finished it off.
NO-GO FOR STRO?
Starter Marcus Stroman, listed as day-to-day with a left shoulder pectoral issue, could miss his start Thursday, his last before the all-star game on July 9 in Cleveland.
Montoyo said a trip to the IL isn’t being considered right now, but a decision to give the ball to Stroman for the series finale with the Red Sox likely won’t be made until after he gets treatment for the injury.
“We’ll see how (Stroman) feels, that’s why I’m saying day-to-day,” Montoyo said. “If he doesn’t feel 100%, we’re not going to rush him. We’ll make another move (if necessary), whatever we have to do.”
If Stroman can’t go, Thomas Pannone could be recalled from triple-A Buffalo to make the start or the rotation could be shuffled. Pannone, the International League pitcher of the week, is already scheduled to start Thursday for the Bisons.
Montoyo said Aaron Sanchez (3-11), who lasted just three innings Sunday against the Kansas City Royals, won’t be moved up a day. Sanchez is scheduled to start Friday against Baltimore.
With Waguespack activated off the IL to pitch Wednesday, the Jays optioned Sean Reid-Foley to Buffalo a couple of hours before game time.
Reid-Foley didn’t look happy about the demotion but it was made necessary when he threw 3.1 hitless innings Tuesday against the Red Sox.
“He already pitched yesterday,” Montoyo said. “We need everybody else. He did a good job.”
On a positive note, Montoyo said Reid-Foley is an option to join the rotation after the all-star break. The righty is 0-1 with a 3.55 ERA and 12 Ks in 12.2 innings with the Jays in 2019.
Rookie Rowdy Tellez has 14 homers this season, one off the team lead, and has worked his way into the conversation as the Jays first baseman of the future. But he still needs work, Montoyo said. “He’s got a chance to be a good big-league power guy. His approach at the plate needs to get better. For a first basemen, he’s got to get more production.” Tellez was 2-for-3 against Sale … The Jays lead MLB in several rookie offensive categories — hits, home runs, RBIs and extra-base hits. Anyone looking for a nugget of good news in a rebuilding season, that’s it … Dunedin Blue Jays OF Demi Orimoloye was named Florida State League player of the month for June. A fourth-rounder in 2015 from Orleans, Ont., led the FSL in average (.342) with five HRs and 21 RBIs in 20 games.
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