Blis­ter com­pli­cates An­der­son’s ef­forts

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - SPORTS - ROB LONGLEY

MIN­NEAPO­LIS — What does game 147 of his first lost sea­son as a Blue Jay mean to Rus­sell Martin?

Well, for starters, the com­peti­tor in the vet­eran catcher knows his team can do some dam­age to the Twins wild­card play­off hopes over a four-game se­ries that be­gan here on Thurs­day night.

Then there is the in­jec­tion of en­thu­si­asm pro­vided by the Septem­ber call ups, who have brought some fresh­ness and suc­cess to the Jays over the past cou­ple of weeks.

But most of all, Martin wants to fin­ish 2017 with­out pain and mis­ery. Phys­i­cally re­cov­ered from an oblique strain that kept him out of 30 games, the re­main­ing dates on the sched­ule of­fer a chance to gather some pos­i­tive vibes.

“My goal was just to get back and get healthy,” said Martin, who re­turned to the Jays lineup on Wed­nes­day in Toronto and is with the team here in the Twin Cities. “It’s part of be­ing pro­fes­sional.

“That’s one of the goals. But also to win as many games as we can from here on out and see what these young play­ers can do. At the same time, on a per­sonal level I want to play well and feel good go­ing onto the off sea­son.

“You want to feel en­thused, even when things haven’t gone so well.”

The oblique in­jury was dou­bly frus­trat­ing for Martin, who hadn’t suf­fered any­thing like it in his 12-year ma­jor league ca­reer. He first no­ticed it in bat­ting prac­tice of an Aug. 11 game against the Pirates and then with one swing of the bat — boom, he was off to the DL.

Martin was given the night off for Thurs­day’s opener, af­ter get­ting the start on Wed­nes­day back home against the Ori­oles. Man­ager John Gib­bons said he ex­pects his vet­eran to be be­hind the plate to catch J.A. Happ on Fri­day and Marco Estrada on Satur­day.

It’s cer­tainly a dif­fer­ent Septem­ber for the Cana­dian-born catcher, who in his two pre­vi­ous sea­sons with the Jays was gear­ing up for a play­off push in Septem­ber, a per­fect out­let for his proven com­pet­i­tive­ness. Play­ing out the string is some­thing he’ll bat­tle to avoid.

Is the fail­ure of a sea­son that never gath­ered any mean­ing­ful pos­i­tive mo­men­tum frus­trat­ing? As it is with the vet­eran con­stituency of a club­house that is be­ing de­nied a third con­sec­u­tive play­off berth, of course it is for Martin as well.

While there are plenty of rea­sons for the Jays in­abil­ity to climb out of the AL East base­ment for even a sin­gle game of the sea­son, Martin points to one area that has been a con­sis­tent area of in­ep­ti­tude.

“If I could think of one thing, it’s how we’ve col­lec­tively hit with guys in scor­ing po­si­tion,” Martin said. “We had a down year. Try­ing to find a rea­son for it though, it’s tough. I think we can do a much bet­ter job hit­ting with guys in scor­ing po­si­tion than we have this sea­son.”

The easy road to go down by an­a­lyz­ing the Jays sea­son­long in­jury ward. Don’t go there, Martin ad­vises.

“It’s been tough, but every team goes through in­juries,” Martin said. “It’s not an ex­cuse. The com­mon thing is to go out there and keep play­ing, put the teem first and never lose sight of that.”

With call ups such as short­stop Richard Urena, out­fielder Teoscar Her­nan­dez plus pitch­ers Car­los Ramirez and Luis San­tos hav­ing an im­pact, the ad­di­tions have been in­vig­o­rat­ing.

“It’s en­er­giz­ing to see the young kids,” Martin said. “The ex­cite­ment, you feed off of it. We’ve had some suc­cess too and that’s even more im­por­tant.”

So too does the op­por­tu­nity to put a wrin­kle in the play­off itin­er­ary of teams like the Twins.

“If you’re out of it and the other team is out of it, it can be come a drag,” Martin said. “But when you play teams that are in it and they’re play­ing with pas­sion … you just want to be a spoiler. It makes it a fun en­vi­ron­ment.”

DI­A­MOND DUST

Closer Roberto Osuna, who left the team ear­lier in the week to re­turn to Mex­ico for the birth of his child, re­joined the Jays here in the Twin Cities. Osuna threw on the side prior to the game and is ex­pected to be avail­able on Fri­day … Gib­bons said left fielder Steve Pearce (back) is near­ing a re­turn to the lineup and should be good to go at some point this se­ries … The Jays en­tered Thurs­day’s game with a meek 4-10 mark in their past 14 on the road … Starter Brett An­der­son hadn’t al­lowed a walk in his 17 2/3 in­nings of work prior to Thurs­day’s as­sign­ment. He went three more in the opener against the Twins be­fore sur­ren­der­ing a base on balls to Ed­uardo Es­co­bar in the fourth and then walk­ing three con­sec­u­tive Twins in the fifth. Af­ter a two RBI sin­gle from Jorge Polanco, An­der­son’s day was done with an ap­par­ent hot spot or blis­ter on his throw­ing hand com­pli­cat­ing his ef­forts. rlon­g­ley@post­media.com twit­ter.com/lon­g­ley­sun­sport

JIM MONE/AP PHOTO

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brett An­der­son throws against the Min­nesota Twins in the first in­ning of a baseball game on Thurs­day in Min­neapo­lis.

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