True test on deck for Blue Jays

The first two months of the 2010 season have been a joyful surprise for the Toronto Blue Jays, but a time of reckoning is looming upon them.

TORONTO — The first two months of the 2010 season have been a joyful surprise for the Toronto Blue Jays, but a time of reckoning is looming upon them.

A three-game series that opens today versus the woeful Baltimore Orioles and ushers in a nine-game homestand is their last respite before a challenging June schedule, one that features some of the best teams in baseball.

The Tampa Bay Rays and World Series champion New York Yankees follow the Orioles into the Rogers Centre, with series versus the Rays, Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies after that.

It’s a stretch that offers an important measuring stick to assess just how much steak their really is to the Blue Jays’ spring-time sizzle, and will in some part help guide the club’s decision-making ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

“I don’t think there’s any other way of looking at it,” team president Paul Beeston said Thursday. “No matter what happens in these games, we want to look at this year as a building block to the future.

“But you never know, it’s a funny game and that’s why sports are interesting.”

The Blue Jays have certainly been far more interesting than they were expected to be, sitting at 27-22 with nearly a third of the season behind them, within striking distance of the Yankees for the wild card lead.

But the sustainability of their success is hard to gauge and some feel they are headed toward an inevitable drop-off point, much like they did following a strong start last season.

Offensively, they have very much been an all-or-nothing team, combining for a major-league best 79 homers, while posting the 25th best batting average at only .242, and a miserable on-base percentage of .309 that ranks 29th.

The team’s pitchers have made the most of what they’ve gotten thus far, despite an earned-run average of 4.36 that is eighth in the American League and 19th in the majors, but history suggests the one-dimensional nature of the Blue Jays offence will eventually catch up with them.

That’s why general manager Alex Anthopoulos is taking a wait-and-see approach to things, even as speculative talk of buying at the deadline picks up. The sample size is still small enough that it’s foolish to label the Blue Jays as legitimate contenders just yet.

“I know people like to talk about it when things start off well, but we’re only halfway to the trade deadline,” said Anthopoulos. “It’s very difficult to take a two-month sample size — if it was July 31st, that would be a completely different story. We’ve played well, we have to continue to evaluate how our guys perform and seeing how the team is over the next two months.

“It’s just too early for us to get ahead of ourselves.”

Another yellow light worth observing is the that the Blue Jays are 2-7 versus AL East rivals Boston and Tampa Bay so far this season, and have yet to play the Yankees. Those games will certainly alter the season’s complexion, as they’ll need to be better than two of those powerhouses to sniff at the playoffs.

Of more immediate concern, however, is steadying themselves versus the Orioles after a disappointing 3-5 road trip.

Shaun Marcum (4-1, 2.82) gets the call versus Baltimore’s Kevin Millwood (0-4, 3.71) in the opener (Rogers Sportsnet,5 p.m.) and all four of his wins so far have come after a Blue Jays loss.

There are also some looming roster arrangements to be made, with the Blue Jays needing a fifth starter for Tuesday’s game with Tampa Bay — Brian Tallet is ready to come off the disabled list and is the likeliest candidate, with Brad Mills also in the mix — and outfielder Travis Snider’s sore right wrist will soon be fully healed.

Tallet was rocked in a recent rehab outing for triple-A Las Vegas, but Anthopoulos said that wasn’t a concern.

“The line wasn’t good but his stuff was good, his velocity was up to 91 and he pitched well in his Florida State League rehab assignment,” he said. “We know what Brian Tallet is.”

As for Snider, the Blue Jays aren’t sure whether or not he’ll need a rehabilitation assignment or not but he will play once he returns, meaning manager Cito Gaston will need to juggle his lineup to get the young slugger back in.

“He was playing every day and really starting to make great strides,” Anthopoulos said of Snider. “We wouldn’t expect that to change. He was playing very, very well, he really started to come into his own, making a lot of hard contact, having a lot of quality at-bats.

“Travis needs to play. How we’ll configure it, we’ll see.”

It’s the same approach the GM is taking with his whole team.

“We’re very happy with the way the team is playing, there have been a lot of very good individual performances and you hope it continues but you also realize at the same time it is a six-month season,” he said.

“We’re taking a big picture approach to everything.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Red Deer jumps to 449 active COVID-19 cases on Sunday

1,516 new cases identified in Alberta

The QEII was closed Sunday morning due to a pole fire. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
UPDATE: QEII near Red Deer reopens

The QEII has been reopened after being closed due to a pole… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

San Jose's Tomas Hertl, center, celebrates with teammates Patrick Marleau, left, and Rudolfs Blacers, right, after Hertl scored a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Friday, April 16, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s games record

For Patrick Marleau, the best part about Monday night when he is… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at… Continue reading

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian… Continue reading

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

Most Read