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Homer Bush Jersey

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Aspiring young baseball player visited to Kamloops this week to learn the tricks of the trade from the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Academy travels across Canada, teaching athletes ages 9-16 techniques used by the professionals. Camps are taught by both Blue Jays alumni and Blue Jays Baseball Academy instructors. This year, the camp brought Homer Bush, Lloyd Moseby, Orlando Hudson and Roberto Alomar to instruct the kids.

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Read more: Valley of Champions tournament returns to Okanagan

The camp took place July 16-17. Rebecca Scott, team manager for the Salmon Arm Minor Baseball Association, attended along with 12 team members including her son Brady.

“Wednesday they played a whole bunch of games and it was just really fun; they had a fun time and the Blue Jays were goofy,” Scott said.

The players worked through six stations on Tuesday, learning fielding techniques with Moseby and Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar.

Hitting drills were conducted by with Bush and Gold Glove Award-winner Orlando Hudson.

Over the two days, Brady said he learned something new from the pros.

Read more: Baseball teams swing into action in Salmon Arm

Read more: Cracked Peppers finish season in second place

“When I’m playing second and trying to get a double play, I should lead with my left foot instead of my right,” Scott said.

Kamloops was the Jay’s only stop in the Interior. The next stop for the camp will be in Richmond, B.C. at Latrace Field on July 18-19.

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With the exciting pennant races of 1985 a fresh memory, the Royals traveled to Toronto for the American League Championship Series. The 1985 season marked the first year that the Championship Series went to a best-of-seven format. The Blue Jays, who started as an expansion team in 1977, won their first American League East crown by holding off the New York Yankees by two games. For the Royals, their West division title marked their seventh playoff appearance in the past ten seasons.

Conventional wisdom would seem to favor the veteran Royals, but this was a tough Blue Jays team. The Jays featured young stars Tony Fernandez, George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield along with ace pitchers Dave Steib, Jimmy Key and hard throwing closer Tom Henke. The Jays also had their share of former Royals – Rance Mulliniks, Buck Martinez, Willie Aikens and a 21-year-old first baseman by the name of Cecil Fielder. The series also featured the Iorg brothers – Garth for Toronto and Dane for Kansas City.

Vegas installed the Jays as the favorites in the series. The Blue Jays had homefield advantage, if you can call it that. Their home was Exhibition Stadium, a facility that had been built for the CFL Toronto Argonauts. Jays President Paul Beeston once called Exhibition “not just the worst stadium in baseball, it was the worst stadium in sports.”

They tried calling it “The mistake by the lake” but that name was already taken by Cleveland. The stadium sat near Lake Ontario and the weather was often cold at the beginning and end of the baseball season. In the Jays first game ever, on April 7, 1977, they had to borrow a Zamboni from the Toronto Maple Leafs to clear the field of snow. The main seating area was a bowl reconstructed from two grandstands that ran the length of the third and first base lines and was open to the elements. A huge covered grandstand ran the length of left field and extended well past center field. There were no seats in right field, just a fence and a whole lotta space. It was, and remains, one of the strangest baseball fields I’ve ever seen. Calling the first two games for NBC were former Yankee great Tony Kubek and a young Bob Costas.

Game One

The game was played October 8th in Toronto. The Blue Jays started their ace, Dave Steib. Steib only went 14-13 in 1985 but made the All-Star team and led the American League in ERA with a 2.48 mark. Kansas City countered with lefty Charlie Leibrandt, who had posted a sterling 17-9 record in his second season with the club. The Jays wasted little time, jumping on Leibrandt for six runs in the first four innings. The Royals finally got on the board in the ninth when Willie Wilson scored on a ground out by Pat Sheridan.

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The six runs were more than enough as Steib held the Royals to three hits in eight innings of work and Tom Henke, who looked more like a high school science teacher than one of the best closers in the game, worked around two singles in the ninth to preserve the win and give the Blue Jays a 1-0 series lead. Leibrandt gave up five runs in two innings of work before Dick Howser went to Steve Farr. Mark Gubicza and Danny Jackson for the final four innings. The odd pitching rotation highlighted a serious lack of depth in the Kansas City staff. Howser basically had five decent starters and Dan Quisenberry. Steve Farr, who had only thrown 37 innings in the regular season, emerged late in the year to give Howser a little more depth.

Game Two

Played Wednesday afternoon, October 9th with a 3:00 ET start time, the Jays started their number two-man, Jimmy Key. The Royals countered with Bud Black. Key had gone 14-6 in the regular season, while Black had an off year, finishing 10-15. Key and Black, both lefties, were nearly mirror images of each other, the only difference being Key often threw from a three-quarter arm slot while Black came over the top. The Royals struck first when Buddy Biancalana led off the third with a single to center.

With one out, Willie Wilson fouled off the first two pitches from Key. Key challenged him on the third pitch and Willie deposited it into the left field stands. Wilson had only hit four home runs during the regular season. The Royals increased their lead in the fourth when Daryl Motley walked and scored on a double by Jim Sundberg. Rain interrupted the proceedings in the fifth with the score 3-1 Kansas City. When play resumed, Black lost his rhythm. He hit Bell with a pitch and after a Cliff Johnson single, uncorked a wild pitch. Barfield then punched a single to center to score both runners.

Manager Dick Howser went to his closer, Dan Quisenberry, to start the eighth. Lloyd Moseby singled, stole second, advanced to third when Sundberg’s throw got by Frank White and score the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly by George Bell. The Jays were only three outs from taking a two-game lead and with Henke on the mound, it looked bleak. Pat Sheridan, pinch-hitting for Daryl Motley, said no problem and wrapped a lead-off home run around the flagpole in right to stun the Toronto crowd.

Quisenberry worked around a two-out Mulliniks single to retire the Jays in the ninth. Kansas City took the lead in the 10th, when Wilson singled, then with one-out, stole second. With two outs, Frank White stroked a sinking liner to center. Moseby charged and appeared to have made a shoestring catch. Left field umpire Derryl Cousins didn’t see it that way and ruled that Moseby had trapped the ball, which allowed the fleet Wilson to easily score. Manager Bobby Cox argued vociferously, but to no avail. In those prehistoric days, there was no replay and even today, the YouTube video of the play is too difficult to make a solid ruling.

Howser sent Quisenberry out for the tenth and Tony Fernandez led off with a high chopper to Onix Concepcion. Concepcion fielded the ball cleanly, had the ball in his throwing hand, then for some mysterious reason double clutched, allowing Fernandez to beat the throw. It was ruled a hit but should have been an error on Concepcion. The error/hit proved costly as Fernandez moved to second on a ground out before a Moseby single to right drove him home with the tying run. Fernandez ran through third base coach Jimy Williams stop sign and easily beat Sheridan’s throw to the plate.

Quisenberry then tried to pick off Moseby but first baseman Steve Balboni forgot to catch the ball, allowing Moseby to take second. That brought Al Oliver to the plate. Oliver was a professional hitter in the last year of a brilliant 18-year career which saw him accumulate 2,743 hits and almost 44 WAR. With two strikes, Oliver went the other way, slipping a grounder to left to easily score Moseby with the game winner. The Royals committed three costly errors in the game, four if you count the freebie given to Concepcion, and it cost them the game.

Game Three

Game Three moved to Kansas City, a Friday night game with announced attendance of 40,224. The Royals started 20-game winner Bret Saberhagen while the Jays countered with Doyle Alexander, who had a fine 17-10 season. For the season, Saberhagen had recorded 158 strikeouts and only issued 38 walks. Game Three quickly became the George Brett show. Brett had worked out hard over the winter looking to avoid the injuries that had plagued him since his seminal 1980 season. Looking at that 1980 season, .390/.454/.664, where does a player go from there?

With one out, Willie Wilson singled to center. Wilson attempted to steal second and was called out. The replay clearly shows his slide beat the tag by Tony Fernandez but second base umpire Vic Voltaggio’s view was blocked by Fernandez and since replay didn’t exist yet, Wilson took a seat. Naturally, Brett drove the next pitch about ten rows deep to right to give the Royals a quick 1-0 lead.

It stayed that way until the fourth, when Brett narrowly missed another home run, as his lead off drive bounced high off the right field wall for a double. He advanced to third on a fly out by Hal McRae and came home on another fly out by Frank White.

The wheels came off for Saberhagen in the fifth. The inning went single, home run, fly out, double, single off Saberhagen’s leg and finally another home run, this one off the bat of former Royal Rance Mulliniks. Howser brought on game two starter Bud Black to put out the fire. 5-2 Toronto. Steve Balboni led off the Royals half of the fifth with a hard liner to left, but George Bell made a terrific running catch to rob Balboni of extra bases. Jim Sundberg picked his teammate up with a home run that barely cleared the left field wall. 5-3 Toronto. In the bottom of the sixth, Wilson led off with a sharp single over the glove of Alexander, bringing up Brett. Brett took a ball, then took a violent cut at a ball which he fouled off. On Alexander’s third pitch, Brett drove the ball deep over the left-center wall, up onto the grass to tie the score. The fans gave him a well-deserved standing ovation, getting a curtain call from Brett. Many believe Alex Gordon’s home run in the 2015 World Series was the biggest in Royals history, but this Brett shot was right up there. If the Royals lose this game, they go down three games to none and have to face Dave Steib. Game three was a must win for Kansas City and their star delivered. Again.

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Juan Guzman turns 53 today.

Juan Guzman was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He was signed as an amateur free agent in 1985 by the Dodgers. The Jays traded Mike Sharperson to LA for him. One of the better trades in Jay’s history. Pat Gillick was a terrific GM.

Juan was called up to the Majors in early June of 1991; the Jay’s rotation was a bit of a mess behind the top three of Stottlemyre, Key and Wells. Dave Stieb was hurt and Denis Boucher didn’t pan out and would be soon traded to the Indians along with Glenallen Hill and Mark Whiten for Tom Candiotti and Turner Ward.

Juan made his first start June 7th and stayed in the rotation the rest of the season. He was great, going 10-3 with a 2.99 ERA. He had 123 strikeouts in 138.2 innings, gave up too many walks (66) but kept the hitting to a minimum (98). He was equally great against left-handed batters (holding them to a .201 BA) as well as right-handed batters (.193 BA). He was second in the AL in Rookie of the Year voting to Chuck Knoblauch. We lost out in the ALCS to the Twins that year in 5 games. Guzman had our 1 win in game 2 of the series.

The next year he was in our starting rotation all season, though he missed most of the month of August with a strained back muscle. He was great once again with a 16-5 record and a 2.64 ERA in 28 starts. He struck out 165 in 180.2 innings, still giving up too many walks (72) but held opponents to a .207 BA. He was selected to the All-Star team and pitched a shutout inning in the game.

More importantly, in the first of the Jay’s back-to-back World Series wins, Juan won each of his 2 starts in the ALCS win over Oakland. In the WS he started game 3 but didn’t get a decision, giving up only 2 runs in 8 innings of a game the Jays won in the bottom of the 9th.

In 1993 we won the World Series again and again Juan was a big part of our success, he was 14-3 in 33 starts with his highest ERA in his career to that point, 3.99. He still walked way too many, 110 in 221 innings. He also gave up more hits than he had in the past, giving up a .252 BA, which is pretty good still but not near as good as he had been his first two seasons. The trouble was a drop in effectiveness against left-handed batters who hit .282 against him, while righties hit just .223. And he was third in the league in strikeouts. He received a Cy Young Award vote. Two other Jay pitchers finished ahead of him in the voting, Duane Ward and Pat Hentgen. Jack McDowell from the White Sox won the award that year. Unfortunately, the writing was on the wall for his arm as he was allowed to throw 120 pitches or more in 12 starts. Cito was never gentle with young pitchers.

Once again won his two starts in the ALCS, this time against the White Sox, but Dave Stewart won the Series MVP for his two wins. Really they had very equal series, Stewart gave up 3 runs in 12.1 innings, Guzman 3 runs in 12 innings. They each gave up 8 hits, Stewart walked 8, Guzman 9, Stewart struck out 8, Guzman 9. Juan also made two starts in the World Series, getting a no decision in a game one win and taking the loss in game 5.

Juan was lousy the next two lockout/strike shortened seasons with ERAs of 5.68 and 6.32 and a combined 16-25 record. He still walked more than a batter every other inning but he was giving up more than a hit an inning as well.

But then in 1996 he found the touch again, leading the league in ERA at 2.93, winning 11 and losing 8. He really cut down on his walks, walking less than a batter every 3 innings. He also pitched better against lefties (.224 BA).

1997 was an injury filled season for Juan, he only made 13 starts with a 4.95 ERA and a 3-6 record. In 1998 Guzman made 22 starts for the Jays before being traded to Baltimore on July 31st for Nerio Rodriguez and Shannon Carter. Yeah we didn’t get much for him but then he didn’t do much for the Orioles before they traded him to the Reds on July 31st, 1999. He made 12 good starts for the Reds then signed with the Rays as a free agent before the 2000 season. He made 1 crappy start for the Rays and his shoulder was wrecked. That was the end of his career.

Juan had a pretty good 10 year career finishing 91-79 and a 4.08 ERA. He struck out 7.5 per 9 innings. He was wild, walked way too many and led the league in wild pitches in 1993 with 26 and 1994 with 13. He was slow and deliberate on the mound. He was very poor at holding runners. He threw a sinking fastball, rising fastball, slider and curve. Bill Mazeroski said he had “Incredible stuff and he’s just wild enough for hitters to have that in the back of their minds’.

He also had the cool jheri curl.

Juan Guzman’s place among Jay pitching leaders:

bWAR: 6th (21.0)

ERA (>500 IP): 18th 4.07

Wins: 7th (76)

Hits/9IP (>500 IP): 6th (8.14)

Strikeouts/9IP (>500 IP): 9th (7.63)

Games: 28th (195)

Innings: 6th (1215.2)

Strikeouts: 4th (1030)

Games Started: 6th (195)

Walks: 4th (546)

Wild Pitches: 1st (88)

Happy Birthday Juan. I hope you have a good one.

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Gruber was a Rule 5 pick up from the Rangers in 1983. Since we didn’t have 7 or 8 man bullpens back then, a Rule 5 pick could be hidden on the bench, you really didn’t gave to use the full 25-man roster back then. Gruber had all of 16 at bats in 1984, while staying on the roster all season.. It took until 1986 until he played much, playing in 87 games mostly as a defensive replacement. 1987 was the first season he had a real role on the team, taking Garth Iorg’s spot as the right-handed half of the third base platoon with Rance Mulliniks. He didn’t do well, hitting.235/.283/.399.

In 1988 he took over the full time third base job, when Rance became DH. Kelly was much better, hitting 278/.328/.438, with 16 home runs, 81 RBI and 23 stolen bases. 1989 was our first playoff season and Gruber was a large part of success despite a couple of trips to the DL (shades of things to come). Kelly got selected to the All-Star team and hit .290/.328/.448 with 18 homers and 73 RBI. Even his defense improved as he showed a bit more range. And on April 16th he became the first Jay to hit for the cycle. Gruber hit well in our 5 game lost to Oakland in the ALCS, with a .294 average

1990 was Gruber’s best season by far, with 31 home runs and 118 RBI, hitting .274/.330/.512 for a OPS+ of 127. He had career highs in at bats, runs, doubles, triples, homers, RBI. He won the Gold Glove, Silver Slugger award for best offensive third baseman and made the All-Star game, taking a walk and stealing 2 bases in two plate appearances. He also was 4th in the MVP vote. He was 6th in the AL in slugging average, 2nd in total bases and 2nd in RBI.

After that he had a couple of injury filled seasons, but he picked up a World Series ring and was part of what should have been a triple play:

After 1992 Kelly was traded to the Angels. He only played 18 games for the Angels, then injuries forced him out of the game. In total he played 10 seasons, hit .259/.307/.432 with 117 home runs. He also was a very good defensive third baseman. Kelly was blond and good looking and seemed like a fun guy, he was a fan favorite.

Josh Towers turns 42 today.

Towers pitched for us for 5 seasons, winning 37 and losing 42 from 2003 to 2007. His best season was 2005 when he went 13-12 with a 3.71 ERA in 33 starts. Unfortunately the next year wasn’t quite as good, 2-10 with a 8.42 ERA. Towers, even at the best of times, gave up a lot of hits, and a good number of home runs as well, but he kept the walks down and made guys hit their way on base. In 2009 he had a couple of appearances for the Yankees. He was your basic soft thrower, throws strikes, gets hit a lot but didn’t walk anyone.

Mark DeRosa turns 43 today.

Mark played for us in 2013, the last season of his 16 year career. He was brought in to ‘fix the clubhouse chemistry’ and help Brett Lawrie mature. We went several seasons where we seemed to bring someone in to fix the clubhouse every year. I’m not a fan of bringing someone in thinking he’s going to fix the chemistry, unless, of course, he is also a good player. Mark hit .235/.326/.407 for us, not all that bad, in 88 games. He played more than we would have liked. but wasn’t terrible.

In his career he hit .268/.340/.412 with 100 home runs in 1241 games.

And Richard Urena turns 23 today.

We have been talking about him for so long I keep thinking he is older. I was hoping he would get a shot at being a utility guy this year, but when they signed Galvis, that hope disappeared. It would be nice if he got a real shot at a major league job, but it doesn’t seem to be happening.

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Canadian Cal Quantrill will make the start for the San Diego Padres against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday at Rogers Centre, the team has confirmed.

Scott Mitchell

@ScottyMitchTSN
Cal Quantrill, son of Paul, has been confirmed as San Diego Padres’ starter against #BlueJays on Saturday at Rogers Centre.
It will be the 24-year-old’s fourth-career start, and obviously first in Toronto for the Port Hope product.

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The 24-year-old son of former Blue Jays reliever Paul Quantrill will be making his fourth career MLB start, he currently has an 0-2 record with a 5.40 ERA in 15.0 innings pitched.

Quantrill made his MLB debut on May 1 on the road against the Atlanta Braves and threw 5.2 innings, surrendering two earned runs as he was tagged with the loss.

He made his second and third starts at home against the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates, picking up a no-decision and loss respectively.

The Port Hope, Ont., native was selected eighth overall in the first round of the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft by the Padres.

His father Paul pitched six seasons with the Blue Jays and also appeared for the Padres, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Florida Marlins over the course of his 14-year MLB career.

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The Home Run Derby is the best part of the MLB All-Star Game festivities and the most entertaining aspect of the three-day event surrounding the Midsummer Classic. Over the years, the Blue Jays have had their fair share of players slug it out for the derby title.

No Blue Jay has won the title, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could become the first tonight at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Despite not technically being named an “All-Star,” he’s a write-in candidate for the Home Run Derby.

In total, 15 Toronto Blue Jays players have competed in Major League Baseball’s biggest slugfest, with a few players earning runner-up honours at the festivities. Here’s the full list of Blue Jays competitors dating back in 1986.

Year Player City Home Runs Place
1986 Jesse Barfield Houston 2
1987 George Bell Oakland 1
1991 Joe Carter Toronto 2
1992 Joe Carter San Diego 4
1996 Joe Carter Philadelphia 2
1999 Shawn Green Boston 2
2000 Carlos Delgado Atlanta 6
2003 Carlos Delgado Chicago 2
2006 Troy Glaus Pittsburgh 1
2007 Alex Rios San Francisco 19 Runner-Up
2010 Vernon Wells Los Angeles 2
2011 Jose Bautista Phoenix 4
2012 Jose Bautista Kansas City 20 Runner-Up
2014 Jose Bautista Minnesota 14
2015 Josh Donaldson Cincinnati 18
For the most part, Blue Jays players did very little damage from the Home Run Derby from 1986 to 2006. Joe Carter participated in three separate seasons but failed to make an impact against his competitors.

For two decades, the Blue Jays’ biggest claim to fame at the Home Run Derby was that Skydome was the birthplace of the infamous Cecil Fielder derby performance. Fielder sent two home runs sailing above Windows restaurant, with distances in excess of 450 feet each.

All that changed in 2007 thanks to a budding young Blue Jays outfielder facing off against the father of future Home Run Derby participant, Vladimir Guerrero.

Alex Rios (2007)

It wasn’t until 2007 when an All-Star outfielder named Alex Rios put his name on the map by finishing runner-up to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Interestingly enough, Rios hit the most home runs of any single player in the 2007 Derby with 19 total, but narrowly lost in the finals by a score of 3-2 from Guerrero Sr.

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TORONTO – To put some context on where the Toronto Blue Jays stand as they prepare to open spring training with Thursday’s first workout for pitchers and catchers, look all the way back to the early 1980s, when the franchise was just emerging from its expansion beginnings.

Back then, former general manager Pat Gillick had already amassed a horde of young talent that was just starting to percolate up to the big-leagues, providing what became the framework for the most successful period in team history.

The likes of Dave Stieb, George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Lloyd Moseby, Jesse Barfield, Willie Upshaw and Jimmy Key capitalized on the impermanence of the roster to break through, and in 1985 helped land the team’s first American League East title.

Now, president and CEO Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins are looking to leverage a new generation of young talent, led by potential superstar Vladimir Guerrero Jr., along with other top prospects such as Bo Bichette, Anthony Alford, Cavan Biggio, Nate Pearson and Eric Pardinho. They’ll need to support the charge already started by youngsters such as Ryan Borucki, Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Brandon Drury.

At the Letters
Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.
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If the well of talent is deep enough, and the Blue Jays smartly augment the base through more trades and free agency, perhaps they can rebound quickly into another window of opportunity. If not, well, this could mark the beginning of another era out in the playoff-less wilderness.

So, yeah, no big deal.

One interesting difference between now and then is Blue Jays fans haven’t been through this type of teardown before, one that’s happened stunningly fast after the highs of the 2015-16 post-season runs.

Following the back-to-back World Series championships of 1992-93, the Blue Jays didn’t rebuild, they simply hit a wall, and their subsequent attempt to rebuild around Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Alex Gonzalez, Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter and Kelvim Escobar never came to fruition.

J.P. Ricciardi aggressively turned over the roster after the 2001 season but had to keep Delgado, who had a no-trade clause, and held on to Halladay, never going down to the studs and getting the Blue Jays into the top of the draft.

After a subsequent window built around Halladay, Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, A.J. Burnett, Aaron Hill and Lyle Overbay never made it over the hump, Alex Anthopolous again transitioned the club after the 2009 season, but never bottomed it out, instead pushing forward his timeline when Jose Bautista unexpectedly developed into a superstar.

That led to the period that brought the Blue Jays to where they are now, essentially in “soft-tank” mode, having already collected assets for a rebuild, looking to add more on the way back up. They’re not actively trying to lose 90 games, but they haven’t totally built a roster to ensure that doesn’t happen, either.

As a result, the 2019 season is going to be a different kind of experience for the fan base, which conceptually has seen rebuilds play out for other teams – with the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros serving as the models to emulate. On the flip side, there’s the risk of landing in rebuild purgatory like the San Diego Padres, who have the game’s deepest farm system but haven’t had a winning season since 2010, or the Cincinnati Reds, who have suffered through four straight 90-loss years with more tunnel before the light.

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The Angels announced Tuesday that Hall of Famer Tony La Russa has joined the organization as a senior advisor to the baseball operations department.

“I’ve admired Tony for a very long time,” general manager Billy Eppler said in a press release announcing the move. “As our paths have crossed over the years, Tony and I discussed the potential of working together and we’re excited to finally get that opportunity. Adding his knowledge and experience will be an invaluable piece to the success and continued development of our baseball operations efforts both on and off the field.”

La Russa, 75, has spent nearly six decades working in professional baseball as a player, manager and front-office executive. He played parts of six seasons in the Majors from 1963-73 and, in 1979, embarked on a legendary managerial career that would eventually lead to his enshrinement in Cooperstown. A four-time Manager of the Year winner who has six League Championships and three World Series rings on his resume, La Russa managed the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals to a combined 2728-2365 record across an incredible 33 seasons in the dugout.

He more recently had a less successful run as the Diamondbacks’ chief baseball officer, working alongside since-fired general player-turned-agent-turned-manager Dave Stewart in Arizona from 2014-17. La Russa resigned from that post after the D-backs dismissed Stewart and brought in current general manager Mike Hazen. He subsequently joined the Red Sox as a special assistant to president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski prior to the 2018 season. He’d reportedly been expected to remain in the Boston organization but will instead now tackle a new opportunity with the Angels organization.

In his new role with the Angels, La Russa will “assist in all areas of baseball operations including Major League player evaluations and minor league development,” per the Angels’ announcement.

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PHOENIX — With an eye on the future of the Blue Jays, questions remain about some of the organization’s up-and-comers, as well as what direction the club will continue to take as it moves forward.

In this week’s Inbox, we take a closer look at the successes of a couple of Toronto’s prospects in the Arizona Fall League, as well as how the Blue Jays approach to Elvis Luciano could shift what some other clubs might do in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, and where the expectations might be for a potential return on closer Ken Giles.

A late addition to the Scottsdale Scorpions roster in the Arizona Fall League, Julian Merryweather has appeared in two games, throwing one inning in each outing. He’s shown impressive command and increased velocity — crediting the rehab process — as he’s continued to make his way back from Tommy John surgery.

“All that downtime that you’re taking for your arm, you’re able to put in work in other areas of weakness,” he said. “So whether it’s mobility or strength, the strength and conditioning aspect has gotten so good now that guys are coming back so much stronger and in better shape and moving better. That’s a huge reason for it, so it’s the double-edged sword of knowing you might be throwing harder but your arm might not be ready for it at a certain stage.”

The 28-year-old right-hander is expected to make two more appearances before the fall season comes to a close and has felt great so far as his 20-month comeback from Tommy John continues. Merryweather originally returned to the mound in June, throwing two innings for rookie-class Bluefield and four innings for Class A Advanced Dunedin five days later. But after another couple of days, he came to the realization that his arm might not have been completely ready.

“I felt fine for the four innings, had good velocity for all four innings, didn’t see a crazy drop, so that was a good sign,” Merryweather said. “It was just the recovery phase, I wasn’t prepared for that, I guess. A couple days later it was like, ‘Wow, this is not great, this does not feel great right now.’

“I thought, ‘Oh no, I tore it again,’ and everyone has their dramatic thoughts like your life is over, but once the training staff checked it out, they knew there was nothing wrong with the ligament … but it was definitely my arm telling me it was not ready for the amount of workload it was. So we’re doing things differently this time to prevent that from happening.”

Beyond his time with the Scorpions, Merryweather will proceed with regular offseason activities, and is likely to head to Triple-A Buffalo out of Spring Training, where he was slated to land before his arm derailed him in June. — Alexis

What’s your perspective on Jackson Rees and his progression through the Jays system — could you see him starting in New Hampshire in 2020 knowing his history of injuries and [trouble] consistently throwing strikes based on how much his pitches move?
– Jon C.

Jackson Rees has been one of the most impressive hurlers in the Fall League over his small sample size of 7 1/3 innings. The 25-year-old right-hander has appeared in six games and allowed five hits, walked one and struck out 12 over that span, showing impressive stuff and earning a roster spot among the Fall Stars.

After making his way to Dunedin this season and finding success in the Florida State League before dominating with the Scorpions, a natural progression for Rees could be to head to Double-A New Hampshire out of Spring Training, if the undrafted free agent signing continues his dominance ahead of the ‘20 season. — Alexis

What the Blue Jays did with Luciano should be a model for other organizations, especially those without realistic hopes of contending in ‘20. Yes, most teams enter a season eyeing at least an outside run at a Wild Card spot, but a quick glance at the Astros and Nationals shows just how wide of a gap exists between the good teams and the great ones.

For Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins, the entire process of selecting and rostering the 19-year-old Luciano was about the rarity of the opportunity. Young, athletic right-handers with multiple pitches that profile at the Major League level don’t grow on trees. This is about quantity as much as quality, too, and the Luciano experiment ended with the Blue Jays adding a high-upside arm for free, in baseball terms.

I’d argue that Major League Baseball in 2020 caters particularly well to Rule 5 picks, even before the 26th roster spot gets involved. Versatility is valued highly by some clubs, and the opener strategy — or bullpen days — means that teams are burning through plenty of relievers over the course of a season. If you have a spot for a seventh right-hander or second utility player, why not roll the dice on someone who could provide long-term value?

Other organizations noticed what the Blue Jays did with Luciano, so it will be interesting to see if the appetite for risk increases across the league this December. — Keegan

“What should the Jays expect in a Giles trade and could it land them a decent OF prospect? Maybe [someone] like Brandon Marsh?”
– Craig P.

Let’s give Atkins the first word on this, as he was asked about Giles during his year-end media availability.

“We’ll weigh what it means to have him versus what it means to trade him for some other value,” Atkins said in early October. “He makes a significant contribution, so we would have to factor in that subtraction if we were to trade him. Thinking about it from a strategy standpoint, he’s been exceptional. He had an incredible year, so he’s not someone that we would have to say we are open to trading. I’m sure there will be significant interest in him.”

There’s an argument to be made that the Blue Jays could keep Giles into the season, wait for a new closer to emerge by July and flip him at the Deadline. That’s a risk with a 29-year-old reliever who throws gas, though, as a down year is always lurking just around the corner at baseball’s most volatile position.

Finding a comparable trade is difficult, given the shifting value of relievers. This would not be another case of Aroldis Chapman for Gleyber Torres, who was baseball’s No. 24 prospect at the time, with the Yankees.

This past July’s Shane Greene trade from Detroit to Atlanta might be closer in line to expectations. The same goes for the Marcus Stroman deal, where the Blue Jays acquired a pair of pitchers who ranked outside of the MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects but were highly regarded. A prospect on the edges of the top 100 would make sense to lead a package, and the Blue Jays have plenty of groundwork laid if they choose to explore it actively. — Keegan

Rowdy Tellez Jersey

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After a successful but brief stint in late 2018, Rowdy Tellez returned to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019, where he experienced the highs and lows of a full year in Major League Baseball.
In 2018, Rowdy Tellez was called up to the Toronto Blue Jays during the September roster expansion, and he took advantage of the small window of opportunity.

No stranger to adversity with his mother’s passing to cancer just weeks before his MLB debut, Tellez would absolutely rake in his first taste in the MLB. In 23 games, he would slash .314/.329/.614 with four home runs, 14 RBI’s, and nine doubles, with his extra-base hits breaking two MLB records in the process.

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It was quite the introduction to the big leagues.

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Rowdy Tellez is the first player in the live-ball era with 4+ XBH in his first 5 career plate appearances. He is also the second player in the live-ball era with 4+ doubles in his first two games – Oakland’s Ben Grieve had four in 1997 (courtesy STATS).

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In 2019, Rowdy Tellez was on the bubble to make the squad for opening day, but veterans Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak were in his way. Fortunately for Tellez, Morales would be dealt to the Oakland Athletics just before opening day, creating room for the 1st baseman on the 25-man roster.

For the rest of the season, the power-hitting first baseman/designated hitter would slash .227/.293/.449 in 111 games. He would smash 21 home runs while also gathering 54 RBI’s, 29 walks, and 19 doubles, along with 116 strikeouts.

Tellez would split time between the 1B and DH position with Justin Smoak for most of the regular season. In mid July, the Toronto Blue Jays would send Rowdy back down to the AAA Buffalo Bisons, a month long assignment on the heels of a stretch where he was sitting consistently between a .210 and .230 AVG while striking out at-least once a game (minimum).

The demotion would only prove to be a confident boost for the left-handed hitter, as Tellez would destroy the competition on the way to a ridiculous .366/.450/.688 with seven home runs and 21 RBI’s in just 26 games.

He would return to the Blue Jays on August 14th and would continue to play at a consistent level similar to before his demotion, not wavering from his eventual season-ending slash line over the next month and a half.

While 2019 did see Rowdy Tellez improve in some areas, the jury still seems to be out as to whether the power hitter will be the first baseman/designated hitter of the future Blue Jays core.

On one hand, Tellez possesses natural power in his swing that you don’t naturally see with just any regular baseball player. He has the ability to take pitches out of the zone and find a way to put them in play, sometimes even over the fence or into the gap for an extra base hit. When he was able to put the ball in play, 48% of hits would be for extra bases, a stat that really benefit the Blue Jays this season.

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“It’s pretty special,” Rowdy Tellez said of becoming just the fourth rookie in @BlueJays history to hit 20 home runs.

“It’s one of those things that a lot of people dream of that’s hard to do. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

(Via @bnicholsonsmith)https://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/little-line-orioles-blue-jays-plenty-stake-players/ …

Little on the line for Orioles, Blue Jays, but plenty at stake for players
Long after the possibility of a collective accomplishment disappears, these games still matter on an individual level. Roles, roster spots and reputations are still at stake, after all.

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Rowdy also found a way to improve midseason against left-handed pitchers, with first glimpses being an awkward exchange where it appeared that he was outmatched most of the time. This led to Tellez being pitch hit for when lefties were brought into the game in the later innings.

He would improve his game against lefties as the season wore on, and by the end of September, Tellez was able to put the ball in play for a .270 AVG with 6 home runs and 23 RBI’s in 115 at-bats

On the other hand, Rowdy Tellez does strike out quite often with 28.4% of his at-bats in 2019 ending in this result. This is kind of normal for ‘power hitting’ types like Tellez, but unfortunately can be a trend that teams may be looking to avoid. With it being his official rookie season and first real taste of a full season in the MLB, he will need to improve this statistic or at least try to stay par for the course considering opposing teams will have more video to develop a plan against Tellez with the more at-bats he takes.

Tellez is also an average fielder, which isn’t the worst thing in the world considering he could be a prime candidate for the DH position moving forward. His fielding percentage is indeed solid at .996%, but it’s his abilities to save teammate throwing errors or pick balls in the dirt is something that needs to be worked on.

To be fair, the Blue Jays did have an exceptional fielding first baseman in Justin Smoak (gold glove nominated again), and fans have been a bit spoiled with tough plays being made to look routine.

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Some small improvements both in the batters box and on the field could see an increase in reps for the power hitter, but there is the potential for increased competition both internally and externally (via trade or free agency).

Other prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays organization are looking for playing time on the active roster, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the organization starts giving some other prospects some playing time on the right side of the diamond (coughVladdycough). There also is the potential that Smoak does return to the Blue Jays if the deal is right, re-creating the platoon that was featured through the 2019 campaign.

The 2020 season will be the callback audition in trying to find a role for Rowdy Tellez in the Toronto Blue Jays rebuild musical (off-Broadway). While fans can debate back and forth whether to put their faith in the California native, the rebuilding years will be a proving ground for prospects like Tellez, so fans will definitely be seeing Rowdy and other prospects over the next few years.

NEXT: Anthony Alford and his biggest opportunity yet
Whether he remains with the squad after the rebuild depends on how he can progress and improve his slash line and/or his defensive ability moving forward, with the ultimate goal to be convincing the Blue Jays brass he deserves a spot on the roster.