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Trent Thornton #57 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches in the third inning during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on May 29, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on in the 10th inning during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on May 29, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida.
DENVER – Unlike the Mike Babcock “there is pain coming” proclamation when he took over as Maple Leafs coach, there has been no such formal warning from the Blue Jays front office.
The action on the diamond is amplifying the message rather adequately, however.
With the messy implosion overseen by team president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins well under way, pain it is and pain it will be.
Painful to watch on many nights. Painful for the players going through it, especially veterans just three years removed from meaningful baseball. And so painful that we are starting to get the hunch that even the perpetually buoyant first-year manager Charlie Montoyo is feeling it.
It was a somewhat wounded-sounding Montoyo following his team’s latest loss, a 4-3 extra-innings affair in Tampa Bay on Wednesday that allowed the Rays to finish off a three-game sweep of their division rivals.
With 11 base runners stranded and his team hitting a collectively meek two-for-16 with runners in scoring position, it was another frustrating night at a deadbeat ballpark.
“We’re going to turn this team around,” Montoyo said, stretching the limits for his default mode of seeking the positive anywhere he can find it. “When that happens, we’re going to score with men in scoring position.
“When (you don’t take advantage) and when you play good teams, sooner or later they are going to get you.”
Almost nightly now, teams are finding a way to “get” the Jays, who are on pace for a historically awful season. The standings show a team with an alarmingly awful record of 21-35, a mark that projects to just shy of 61 wins over a full campaign. In a non-shortened season, the Jays haven’t had a worse record since they were 53-109 in 1979, just their third year in existence.
With the current schedule more than a third of the way through, the small sample size excuse can’t be cited, either.
Will the Jays remain this poor the remainder of the way? The hunch would be no, given that the young lineup is deep in potential and prospects figure to improve rather than regress.
Pitching remains an issue, however both with injuries to starters and an overworked bullpen. And until the bats warm to better than tepid temperature, backing Montoyo’s troops at the betting windows would be a tough bet.
Overall, the attitude among the players seems to be as positive as could be expected given their record and the current miserable run. For the most part, a young and developing group arrives at the park each day eager enough to play and learn. Tough to fathom that what is unfolding hasn’t left some sort of mark, though.
When the Jays landed in the Mile High City in the wee hours of Thursday morning to prepare for a three-game weekend series beginning on Friday, they had a chance to soak up the thin air after playing 16 games in 16 days.
Beaten down by the losses and three trips already to California – and now a fourth trek to the mountain time zone – it has been survival mode of late.
“It’s definitely been a grind, but everybody shows up to the field ready to play,” said rookie pitcher Trent Thornton, who made his 12th start of the season on Wednesday. “So (the struggles) are not something anyone’s worried about. It will be nice to have an off day and come in fresh for Colorado.
Anything to put the current messy stretch in the rearview. Losers of seven of their past eight and coming off a fourth series in which they were swept, it’s been grim. In a division they were never going to be competitive in, the Jays have plummeted to 15.5 games behind the AL East-leading Yankees.
Piling on to the poor record and struggles, a nasty flu bug has swept through the clubhouse over the past week leaving more than a bad taste in their mouths.
So May and it’s 7-20 record can’t end soon enough as for the second consecutive season, the Jays will go through the month without recording back-to-back wins.
Montoyo has maintained that once a player or two starts hammering it at the plate, others will follow. That hasn’t happened yet, of course, and entering Thursday’s play, the Jays had a team batting average of .219, dead last in all of Major League Baseball. The 212 runs the Jays have managed to get across the plate are second worst in the AL.
“Good at-bats are contagious and we aren’t having as many of them as we need to,” outfielder Randal Grichuk said this week, a candidate for understatement of the season.
Through it all, Montoyo has put up a brave front. He diverted the first question of his post-game scrum on Wednesday, for example, to talk about the “positives” – namely a strong outing from that beleaguered bullpen.
It’s been a rough introduction to his first big-league managerial gig, however. The pain is not only coming, it is here and it is real.
“When we become really good, it’s going to change,” Montoyo said, once again turning the glass to half full “I believe that. It’s tough right now and we’re not swinging the bats very good.”
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