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Every Monday on Complex Canada, we’ll look in on the Toronto Blue Jays, highlighting different players, the weekend that was or the week ahead for this country’s lone Major League squad.
A little over a month into the 2015 Major League season, the Blue Jays have yet to find any consistency as a team. After splitting a four-game weekend series with the Cleveland Indians, Toronto’s record stands at 12-14, which has them sitting in last place in the always competitive American League East.
As much as the start of the season has been frustrating as the Jays have struggled to build some momentum, the one bright spot on a game-by-game basis has been rookie second baseman Devon Travis.
Acquired in a trade with the Detroit Tigers in the offseason, the 24-year-old had a strong spring and was declared the Opening Day starter despite not having played a big league game in his career. It has looked like a wise choice ever since.
Sunday afternoon, Travis blasted his first-career grand slam in a 10-7 loss to the Indians. It was his seventh home run of the season, tops among rookies and tied for sixth in the Majors through the first month and change. In addition to hitting for power, the former 13th-round pick has registered a .318 average and a 1.019 OPS, which puts him in the Top 10 alongside the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto and Mike Trout.
There have only been six games where Travis has failed to register a hit, leading to manager John Gibbons entrusting the first-year player with leadoff responsibilities for the Blue Jays. While he’s not a speed threat – Travis has just one steal so far this season – his near-.400 on-base percentage and 17:9 strikeout to walk ratio makes him an ideal candidate for the role, especially with such a potent lineup behind him.
Fellow newcomer Josh Donaldson has been the only other consistent hitter thus far, which either means this team is in trouble at the plate this season or better days are ahead. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin are all hitting below .230, though each has shown pop. If those three can raise their averages and the Toronto neophytes are able to maintain their hot starts, the Blue Jays should return to being one of the most dangerous offenses in the American League.
Pompey Sent Down: While Travis and fellow rookie Roberto Osuna have hit the ground running in Toronto this season, Mississauga native Dalton Pompey did not and it has cost the Canadian his spot on the big league roster.
Pompey was demoted to Triple-A Buffalo in advance of this weekend’s series in Cleveland after hitting below .200 over his first 80-plus at-bats this season. With Kevin Pillar playing spectacular defense in centerfield and holding his own at the dish, optioning Pompey to the minors where he can play every day made more sense than having him ride the pine.
Starter Struggles: One of the key reasons Toronto has failed to muster any consistency this season? They’re top three starters – Drew Hutchison, Mark Buerhle and R.A. Dickey – all have ERAs above 5.00 and Dickey’s 1.35 WHIP (Walks + Hits/Innings Pitched) standing as the best of the bunch… and that’s not good.
Rookies Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris have been up and down through 10 combined starts, but as rookies, counting on them to be the anchors of this staff would have been foolhardy. That responsibility falls on the veteran arms and so far, Toronto’s top trio has failed to measure up.
The Week Ahead: The Jays are back home at the dome for three against the New York Yankees Monday to Wednesday before welcoming the Boston Red Sox in for a three-game series over the weekend.