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This is the award he badly craved, making no secret of how satisfying it would be, and honestly – how much he truly believed he deserved it.

It took eight years to win his second American League Cy Young Award, but this one was the sweetest for Justin Verlander, earning the honor when most pitchers his age are retired or washed up.

Verlander, 36, became the oldest pitcher to win the Cy Young award since 42-year-old Roger Clemens in 2004.

“It would mean a lot to me,’’ Verlander told USA TODAY Sports in September. “Not just because of my age, but having gone through being at the top of my game, to going down and being hurt, and having people count me out, to getting back to where I am now.

“It gives me some perspective. I am enjoying it more. Not just the age, but having gone through at being atop of my game to going down and being hurt, and having people count me out, to all of the hard work to getting back to where I am now.

“All of that does allow me to appreciate the success a little bit.’’

And, yes, there is the revenge factor. He believes he should have won the award last year, too, instead of Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay. He thought he was robbed three years ago when Boston Red Sox starter Rick Porcello won the Cy Young award when he finished second, prompting future wife’s Kate Upton’s famous Twitter comment.

“A couple of those years hurt a lot,’’ Verlander says.

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In 2019, Verlander won 20 games for the second time in his career.
In 2019, Verlander won 20 games for the second time in his career. (Photo: Kevin Sousa, USA TODAY Sports)

Verlander, 21-6, 2.48 ERA, and Cole, 20-5, 2.50 ERA, became the first teammates to finish first and second in the Cy Young race since Hall of Famer Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2002 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Verlander and Cole also joined Johnson and Schilling as the only teammates to reach 300 strikeouts in the same season.

Verlander received 17 of 30 first-place votes, with the other 13 going to Cole.

And their former Astros teammate, Charlie Morton, finishing third, pitching his first season with the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Verlander, who had three Cy Young runner-up finishes since winning the Cy Young and AL MVP awards in 2011 with the Detroit Tigers, led the AL in victories, opponents’ batting average (.172), innings pitched (223), and WHIP (0.80). He also became the oldest pitcher since Johnson in 2004 to throw a no-hitter, the third of his career on Sept. 1, against the Toronto Blue Jays. Only Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan (7) and Sandy Koufax (4) have more no-hitters.

An old-school pitcher, Verlander is an outlier in today’s game. When you ask him what statistics he loves, it’s still victories. It’s still earned-run average. It’s still innings.

“I think wins are important,’’ Verlander says. “You ask any starting pitcher. You go out there and pitch seven innings, give up three runs and lose, you don’t feel as good as you do when you give up three runs in seven innings and win. As much as people want to shy away from the wins and losses, it definitely means something to us.

“I started to amass a good number of them. It comes with being healthy, throwing 200 innings, being out there for your team, covering the extra innings your bullpens doesn’t have to. When you do that, that’s how you get those extra wins.

“That’s how you get 13 to 15 wins instead of 10. That’s how you get 17 to 20 wins instead of 13 to 15. Those extra innings, those matter.’’

Verlander, who has pitched at least 200 innings in all but one season since his rookie year, also takes tremendous pride in the amount of innings he pitches each year. He has lead the major leagues four times, including this season.

“You can’t put a number on it because people can’t quantify how valuable it is,’’ Verlander says. “Just saving the bullpen, the impact those extra innings have, and what that means.”

If you want to go slightly more advanced, Verlander says, he loves WHIP. He had the third-lowest lowest WHIP by a starting pitcher since 1900, trailing only Pedro Martinez in 2000 (0.74) and Walter Johnson (0.77) in 1913.

“I think WAR is a pretty fickle number for starting pitchers, but the WHIP, that’s our job, to limit baserunners,’’ Verlander says. “The batting average against is a nice stat, but if you’re walking three or four batters per nine innings, the way batters now count a hit as good as a walk for OPS, those walks might as well be hits.’’

This season was just another page in his Hall of Fame résumé, becoming only the 18th pitcher in to reach 3,000 strikeouts. He reached that milestone in the fifth-quickest amount of games ever.

And isn’t it ironic that in the year Verlander was the most outspoken pitcher about baseballs being juiced this season – giving up nearly twice as many home runs (36) than during his last Cy Young season (19) – he still was the best in the American League.

Verlander would love to topple one more barrier before he retires, proving, yes, that it really is possible for a pitcher to still win 300 games.

He has 225 victories, and would have to pitch until he’s at least 40 to accomplish the feat, but it’s on his bucket list.

“People can say whatever they want,’’ Verlander says, “but I’m just going to keep my head down and keep pitching. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes. I do a lot more work now than I ever did before. It’s not just in the gym sweating my ass off, it’s the maintenance, knowing my body, and always kind of adapting and changing.

“I don’t know if I can do it or not, but I’m sure the hell going to try.’’

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The Blue Jays have met with the representatives for free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal, reports ESPN’s Marly Rivera (via Twitter).

It’s perhaps a curious fit upon first glance, given the Jays’ stated focus on adding rotation help, but interest in Grandal reflects both the Jays’ bulk of payroll flexibility and the uniqueness he brings to the free-agent market. One of the best-hitting catchers in the game (if not the best), Grandal also rates as an elite pitch framer, a quality pitch blocker and an average or better thrower. The switch-hitter, who turned 31 last week, has been an above-average hitter from both sides of the plate in four of the past five years and has clubbed 22 or more home runs each season from 2016-19.

Beyond his offensive acumen, bringing on a catcher with Grandal’s experience and framing abilities could be viewed as an important aspect of the Jays’ development of young pitchers. The Toronto rotation is teeming with uncertainty, but young arms like Anthony Kay, Trent Thornton, Sean Reid-Foley, Jacob Waguespack, Nate Pearson and T.J. Zeuch will all likely log some MLB innings in 2020, and the Jays have several intriguing arms on the horizon beyond that bunch. Newly acquired righty Chase Anderson is surely comfortable with throwing to Grandal as well.

Toronto already has Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire and Luke Maile on the 40-man roster, though the Jays have reportedly been receiving trade interest in some of their backstops. Jansen, in particular, rates out as a brilliant defender and was ranked among the game’s top 100 prospects as recently as last offseason. This year’s .207/.279/.360 batting line wasn’t much to look at, but Jansen is only is still just 24 and has another five seasons of club control remaining.

The Jays shouldn’t be considered any kind of favorite to win the Grandal bidding based on one early meeting, of course. GM Ross Atkins and his staff are surely casting a wide net in free agency and doing their best to gauge interest in a variety of free agents. Knowing Grandal’s asking price could also be important when discussing the Jays’ in-house catchers in trades with other teams and, more broadly, when trying to get a sense for how the rest of the league plans to approach the winter. But the meeting between the two sides is reminder both of the fact that Toronto could be more aggressive than some would expect from a 71-win team and that Grandal will draw interest from unexpected teams between now and his eventual signing.

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Unsurprisingly, there’s interest around baseball in one of the Blue Jays’ talented young catchers. If they choose to, they could afford to let one of them go under the right circumstances.
The Blue Jays have a lot of young talent throughout their organization, so it’s no surprise that rival teams are potentially interested in talking trade at this time of the year.

One of those areas of talent is at catcher, as the Blue Jays have the potential luxury of a catching tandem of Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire that are essentially coming off of their rookie seasons, and both looked more than capable of handling starting duties last season. They both have plenty to prove at the highest level yet, but the future behind the plate looks bright in Toronto.

Not surprisingly, other teams have taken notice of the catching talent north of the border according to, and might be wondering if the Blue Jays would consider trading from an area of strength in order to address other weaknesses. While there’s an argument that they should hold on to both of their backstops for now, and I made one a little while ago, they could also consider making a trade now if the right offer comes along, and they should be set up to handle the loss of one of the pair.

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The first important variable is that they still have Luke Maile under contract for three more seasons through arbitration control if they choose, and he’s certainly a capable back-up and not a bad guy to pair with a young starter. It’s tough to see how he fits with the Blue Jays going forward if they keep both Jansen and McGuire, so I would expect that one of the trio gets dealt sometime this winter, and it’s possible that Maile could be the guy. He wouldn’t bring back anywhere near the type of return the other two would though, which is why that option is on the table.

There’s also the fact that the Blue Jays have some catching talent still coming in their minor league system including Gabriel Moreno (#8), Alejandro Kirk (#12), and Riley Adams, all on their top 30 prospects list. The Blue Jays could choose to trade from their pool of minor league catching depth, but again, it’s about what the return might be.

At this stage it’s hard to say what other teams might be willing to pay. Jansen is coming off an impressive first full season as a starter, but it certainly came with struggles as well. He rated well as a pitch framer and ended up being nominated for a Gold Glove, but he’ll need to improve on his .207/.279/.360 slash line next season and beyond. McGuire’s sample size was a lot smaller, and while it was impressive to say the least, one could argue that he played over his head down the stretch in 2019.

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With the need for talented and controllable starting pitchers, the only real way I could see the Blue Jays trading Jansen or McGuire is if they can get a worthy starting pitcher back in return. Otherwise, it feels like it’s a little too early to know which one they’ll want to keep, and even if they have their long-term solution just yet. On the other hand, they’re both likeable viewed as quite valuable at the moment, and if the right offer comes along, the Blue Jays can certainly entertain the idea.

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Both are intriguing options, and they’re expected to generate a whole lot of interest from major-league clubs.

There will be competition, but Atkins is interested and the front office has done their homework on the pair, as well as light-hitting infielder Ryosuke Kikuchi.

“Interesting talents that we’ve spent a lot of time on,” Atkins stated. “(Director of pro scouting) Ryan Mittleman has done a great job and (vice-president of international scouting) Andrew Tinnish has spent time on them, as well. We’ll continue to engage with their representatives and understand if they are potential fits or not. Both ways.”

Positionally, they both fit.

Budget-wise, they all should fit, as well, with none of the trio expected to break the bank.

Tsutsugo, who has mostly played corner outfield while also dabbling at first base and third base over parts of 10 seasons in Japan, will be the most expensive since he’ll have to be posted by the Yokohama DeNA BayStars by Dec. 5, meaning an MLB club will have to pay the release fee as well as the contract.

In addition to a touch of positional versatility — the prevailing thought, however, is that Tsutsugo will be below average no matter where he plays — there’s a lot of power in the bat and his ability to get on base (.382 carer on-base percentage) is especially intriguing for a Blue Jays club looking to improve its approach throughout the lineup.

He also fits in nicely with the young core at the age of 28.

“He’s an impressive hitter,” Atkins said. “A lot of fun to watch and an exciting talent. He’s an interesting player, for sure.”

Kikuchi is in the same boat, as the 5-foot-7, 152-pound second baseman is expected to be posted shortly by the Hiroshima Carp.

A top-notch glove, Kikuchi’s .261/.313/.406 slash line in his age-29 season this past year leaves a lot to be desired and he seems destined for a utility role, which isn’t necessarily a need for the Blue Jays.

Akiyama, on the other hand, is eligible for straight up free agency as a 31-year-old, and comes with an interesting blend of pop, speed and defence, slashing .303/.392/.471 with 55 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases this season.

The markets for all three players could take a while to develop, and that might be exactly what Atkins is hoping for, as the 46-year-old general manager has clearly stated his preference is to take care of the rotation before moving on to position players and bullpen help.

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“The more we talk about our strategy publicly, the worse it is for our strategy or our ability to execute it,” Atkins said Wednesday at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia. “I think the good thing about our situation right is the flexibility we do have to be agile.”

Despite some believing teams will try to get out ahead of things and set the market in certain areas, this off-season seems to be shaping up similarly to the past couple of years as teams are content to investigate trades and wait out free agents.

“It’s hard to say,” Atkins said. “I think if I had to pick one of two it’s probably closer to the last few years that we’ve seen. A lot of teams are focused on trades because of how many GMs are in this room over this week and there are a very large number of agents here, as well, but not to the same level of the winter meetings. I think there’s some pattern to it, but that also creates opportunity to think about creative ways to potentially find value in different ways.”


Versatility is en vogue in today’s game, and the Blue Jays have one player that will allow them to do different things in free agency if they wish.

That’s Cavan Biggio.

When he arrived in the big leagues in May, the Jays tried to make things simple for the 24-year-old by keeping him at second base as much as possible.

Biggio held his own at the keystone, posting a minus-1 Defensive Runs Saved mark in 84 starts.

Generally seen as a potential super-utility type while coming through the system, he’s made a case to be the everyday guy at second base, rather than bouncing around.

But his ability to play the outfield and first base gives Atkins some flexibility and the option to add a second baseman and shift Biggio around.

“He’s proven to us that he can be an everyday second baseman,” Atkins said. “Nothing’s ever done, etched in stone, he’s got a career ahead of him and a lot of things could transpire, but we’re confident in saying we feel he has the ability to do that. He also is extremely confident in playing other positions and going into the outfield. That just gives us more opportunity.”

Atkins also mentioned outfielder Teoscar Hernandez could potentially work at first base this winter, and stated the club hasn’t ruled out left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. returning to the infield from time to time.

The GM also noted shortstop Bo Bichette, who cleared concussion protocol on the final day of the season back in September, and Gurriel, who had his appendix removed, are both 100 per cent and working out fully this off-season.


Bullpens are always in flux and the Blue Jays’ relief corps is no different.

With teams focusing on starting pitching, there hasn’t been much Ken Giles trade talk at the GM meetings in Scottsdale, and a trade does not seem imminent.

The Blue Jays would be completely comfortable going into the season with Giles as their closer once again, giving them a shutdown arm at the back end of the bullpen.

Aside from Giles, right-handers Sam Gaviglio, Anthony Bass, Wilmer Font and Derek Law, Justin Shafer and Jordan Romano are all on the 40-man roster, but more proven depth will be needed.

“We’re going to need to add there,” Atkins said. “What we do feel good about is the depth of our 40-man roster, the number of guys that could potentially help our major-league team that will potentially be in Triple-A. We feel like we have a number of guys that will stabilize our bullpen a bit, but we’ll be looking to increase that level of execution with higher-leverage arms that have experience doing that. The starting pitching acquisitions that we, hopefully, make will have some impact on that at the same time.”

With Tim Mayza (elbow) out for the entire 2020 season, there could be a need for a left-hander, but Atkins doesn’t believe it’s a priority since you can find right-handers who can get lefties out.

“We haven’t been big on situational left-handed relievers,” Atkins said. “We like guys that can get multiple outs and we’ve, for the most part, deployed even our left-handed relievers that way. I think the industry, really, is using the situational reliever less and less.”


One area of depth at both the major-league level and within the system for the Blue Jays is behind the plate.

Rival teams seem to realize that, as well, and Atkins has been fielding calls on Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire, while also hoarding prospects Riley Adams, Alejandro Kirk and Gabriel Moreno in the minors.

That depth could be used to add a starter in a trade at some point this winter.

“Yeah, we do feel that we do have some depth and other teams have let us know that by talking to us about those areas, our outfield as well,” Atkins said. “It could be an area that creates opportunities for us.”

Gurriel and, to a lesser extent, Hernandez would be the outfielders Atkins is talking about.

Other than that, there isn’t much outfield depth to speak of, but there’s an abundance of corner outfielders on the free-agent market that could be intriguing if Atkins deals one away.


With his first year as a big-league manager in the books, Charlie Montoyo showed up at the GM meetings on Tuesday, making the two-hour drive from his home in Tucson.

There was no real reason for the visit, other than to listen in on some conversations, provide input, and have a presence.

“A big factor is we want to spend as much time as we can together, and we’re a team,” Atkins said. “Any opportunities that we have to do that, we will, and him living in Tucson made that a bit easier. I think there’s a couple of other managers that are here, actually. But we’re doing this together. That’s the biggest reason.”

Much more at ease in his role now, Montoyo is confident the front office will be busy this off-season.

“Talking to agents, talking to players,” Montoyo said of what he’s been doing. “We met with players (Tuesday). We’ve been really aggressive talking to people, to teams, and that’s been fun for me to see and I appreciate Ross wanting me to be part of this process.”

It wasn’t a shocking development to hear Montoyo say they’re prioritizing starting pitching and despite being a big supporter of the opener as a way of getting through a long season, watching the playoffs gave him a reminder of how important it is to have arms that can pitch deep into games.

“The teams that got the horses, the starters that can take you deep in games, they win in the playoffs most of the time — and that’s what we saw,” Montoyo said. “The two teams that were in the World Series, they had those horses starting games and so they have a chance to win every game, every day. So that’s what I saw. Something that you all know. At the end of the day, you need those guys to win games. The starters that take you deep in games.”

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TORONTO — The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame pulled Kelly Gruber from its induction weekend festivities after the former Toronto Blue Jays third baseman made an awkward appearance during a Pitch Talks panel discussion a day earlier.

Gruber was briefly on stage at the Homestand Sports event Thursday night with host Ashley Docking and Rogers Sportsnet broadcaster Kevin Barker in Toronto. In a joint statement Friday, the Hall of Fame and Pitch Talks said the proceedings were stopped 45 minutes early because of Gruber’s “unacceptable and inappropriate behavior.”

“Basically what happened was by the time he got on stage he appeared to be inebriated,” Homestand Sports founder Kevin Kennedy said. “He was just acting sort of obnoxious, kind of erratic, he was confrontational with our host, Ashley, and quite quickly I knew that this wasn’t going in the right direction.”

Gruber was one of several former Blue Jays chosen to participate in various Hall events in the lead-up to Saturday’s ceremony in Ontario, where former major league stars Pedro Martinez and Lloyd Moseby will be inducted along with baseball historian William Humber.

Gruber’s representative, Don Graham, emailed a statement from the former player to The Canadian Press on Friday evening.

“There’s two sides to every story and I would love to tell mine,” Gruber said. “Maybe what I said was taken the wrong way. My intention for being there was to honor my teammate and buddy Lloyd, and the interview part went south for a variety of reasons which I will detail at a later date.”

The 56-year-old Gruber made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1984. He won a World Series with Toronto in 1992 and ended his career with the Angels the following year.

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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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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.

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“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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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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A postseason dud notwithstanding, Rocco Baldelli’s first season as a major league manager was a huge success.

Baldelli led the Minnesota Twins to a regular season record of 101-60 and their first American League Central title since 2010. They withstood a late-season challenge from the three-time defending division champion Cleveland Indians before being swept by the New York Yankees in three games in an AL Division Series.

The San Diego Padres are on the verge of hiring someone who could be the National League version of Baldelli. Multiple sources are reporting that the Padres have decided on Texas Rangers player development coach Jayce Tingler to replace Andy Green, who was fired with eight games remaining in the season.

Tingler, like Baldelli, is young as both are 38. Also, like Baldelli, Tingler has a varied background in his professional baseball career.

Tingler spent four seasons playing center field in the minor leagues from 2003-06 with the Toronto Blue Jays and Rangers. Following his playing days, Tinger stayed in the Texas organization.

Among Tingler’s duties have been managing at the lowest levels of the farm system in the Arizona Rookie and Dominican Summer leagues, serving as the minor league field coordinator, a one-year stint as an assistant to general manager Jon Daniels and three seasons on the major league coaching staff.

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A.J. Preller was Daniels’ right-hand man with the Rangers until becoming the Padres’ GM in 2014. Thus, Preller knows Tingler well.

In fact, the industry perception is that Preller made a convincing argument to hire Tingler to ownership, which wanted a more seasoned manager such as former Rangers skipper and current Atlanta Braves third base coach Ron Washington.


It remains to be seen how Tingler will fare as a major league manager. The same questions surrounded Baldelli at this last year when the Twins hired him to replace Paul Molitor, a Hall of Famer and Twin Cities legend.

One of the main concerns was if Baldelli was too young for the job. Unlike Tingler, Baldelli had not managed at any level.

However, Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine believed Baldelli’s other experiences would help him adjust to managing. Baldelli worked in Tampa Bay’s baseball operations, minor league and scouting departments after injuries brought an end to a once-promising playing career with the Rays when he retired in 2010.

The Padres were 70-92 in 2019, extending their streak of losing seasons to nine. The franchise also hasn’t been to the postseason since 2006. Worse, the players seemed to quit on Green in the second half of the season when the Padres went 25-47 after having a 45-45 record at the All-Star break.

Yet Tingler walks into an enviable situation as the Padres have plenty of young talent on their roster, a group that includes left-hander Joey Lucchesi, right-handers Chris Paddack and Cal Quantrill, catcher Francisco Mejia, second baseman Luis Urias, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., and center fielders Manuel Margot and Franchy Cordero among others.

Tatis has the look of a generational talent and Paddack could blossom into a No. 1 starter next season following a strong rookie year. Yet when the 2020 preseason predictions start being made, it’s doubtful many will pick the Padres to capture the NL West, which has been won by the Los Angeles Dodgers each of the last seven years.

However, few thought the Twins would win the AL Central this year under such a young manager. They did and long-suffering Padres’ fans might be able to find some hope in that.

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TORONTO — When the Blue Jays broke camp at the end of March, Trent Thornton was a rookie with a loose grip on a rotation spot. By the time the season ended, Thornton led the club in starts and innings pitched while representing the one surprise constant in the rotation.

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After beating out Thomas Pannone and Sam Gaviglio for that rotation spot out of Spring Training, it seemed likely that the eventual return of either Clay Buchholz or Ryan Borucki would bump Thornton back to Triple-A. That moment never came, though, and the 26-year-old right-hander went on to post a 4.84 ERA over 154 1/3 innings. As the Blue Jays battled injuries alongside the trades of both Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, Thornton’s starts were one of the few forms of consistency on an ever-changing roster.

Acquired last offseason from the Astros for Aledmys Díaz, Thornton has now positioned himself well to lock down a rotation spot in 2020 and beyond.

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What went right?
Thornton’s season offers a valuable glimpse at what continued development looks like at the Major League level. There were highs and lows through the early half of the season as Thornton adjusted to the big leagues — and life in the American League East — but he finished strong.

In September, Thornton posted a 2.19 ERA over his final five games (two starts), and his pitches remained sharp despite the physical toll of his first full MLB season. Thornton was open throughout the season about his need to do a better job controlling his mental game, and he made strides in that area with the help of the Blue Jays’ staff and their rostered veterans, like Buchholz.

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“I think he’s going to get better and better,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “The more he pitches, the more he knows the league, the more strikes he throws. Whenever his command gets really good, he’s going to be a good pitcher for a long time, I believe.”

What went wrong?
Inconsistency followed Thornton for much of the season, which is to be expected from a rookie whose delivery has so many moving parts.

Based on the projected salaries for this year’s starting pitching market, the Blue Jays have plenty of affordable options to upgrade their rotation, at least in theory.
For one reason or another, there’s a very slim chance that the Blue Jays will get serious in the bidding for Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. We could talk about why that’s a foolish notion on it’s own, but I’d rather move on for now and be blown over in surprise if I’m wrong.

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Should the Brewers target Didi Gregorius in free

Even if the Blue Jays aren’t ready to spend on the top tier of free agent starting pitchers this off-season, it’s widely assumed that they’ll be looking to upgrade their rotation before the 2020 campaign gets underway. After a year that saw them relying on inexperienced options like Jacob Waguespack, Trent Thornton, and many others, and occasionally even inadequate ones like Edwin Jackson, there’s a clear need for improvement. They had far too many games started by an “opener” for my liking as well, even if it was born out of necessity at that point.

The good news is the front office has already started to address the need by acquiring Chase Anderson on Sunday. The Brewers were reportedly waffling on whether or not to pick up his 8.5 million dollar salary, and instead accepted Chad Spanberger as a low to mid-level prospect from the Blue Jays instead. Anderson will help, but he’s not enough on his own to boost the needy group.

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The assumption is that they’ll bring back Matt Shoemaker as well in the last year of his arbitration eligibility, and hopefully add one more veteran to the group. Whether they’re looking for a long or short term option to fill that need, there are plenty of options available on the market. Beyond Cole and Strasberg there likely aren’t any aces, but the Blue Jays don’t need that in order to move the needle, even if it would be nice.

Let’s have a look at some of the affordable options that the Blue Jays could offer a contract. According to and their off-season predictions, there should be several to choose from.

Thornton was evidently searching for the optimal pitch mix and his consistent control, which he would find for stretches of two or three starts before hitting some turbulence again. His fastball, which averaged 92.9 mph according to Statcast, and hammering curveball both have the potential to be above-average pitches in the big leagues, but the development of his secondary pitches will be key.

Enter Buchholz, who Thornton praised often this season for his mentorship. Buchholz and Thornton tinkered with Thornton’s changeup and curveball grips, which brought some encouraging results late in the season. A full winter to make those grips feel more natural will help, both in terms of their consistency and Thornton’s confidence in throwing them.

“I’ll be able to work on it a little bit more,” Thornton said, “but ultimately, you just have to trust the pitch you’re throwing and have full conviction in it, as well.”

Best moment?
Thornton got his first crack at his old team, the Astros, on June 16 in Houston and turned in one of his best performances of the season.

Over 6 2/3 shutout innings, Thornton danced around six hits and three walks while striking out seven, including Yordan Alvarez twice. There were a handful of Thornton’s pitching lines that look similar to this Astros performance, but his performance against a lineup of that quality and ability to balance his emotions on the mound make this one stand above the rest.

Thornton fans 7 in 6 2/3 frames
Thornton fans 7 in 6 2/3 frames
Jun. 16th, 2019
2020 outlook?
If the season started today, Thornton would be in the starting rotation. The same will probably be true when the season actually starts, but plenty can happen between now and then, as the Blue Jays are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of multiple starting pitchers.

“Nothing is etched in stone,” Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said in early October. “I think Trent Thornton has probably put the best foot forward, but his offseason will be very important. A lot of guys could make huge strides.”

If Thornton can take one of those strides himself and drag his 4.84 ERA down by half a run, he’ll have value over another full, healthy season. Until the Blue Jays’ offseason plan becomes clearer, Thornton has the clear inside lane on a permanent rotation spot in ’20.