Blister complicates Anderson’s efforts
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.”
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. firstname.lastname@example.org twitter.com/longleysunsport
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brett Anderson throws against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning of a baseball game on Thursday in Minneapolis.