Jesse Pantuosco

Baseball Daily Dose

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Dose: Blue Jays Bury Braves

Friday, May 19, 2017


Baseball is full of beefs. Half of them involve Jose Bautista.

 

As you’d expect, Bautista was front and center Wednesday when things got heated between the Braves and Blue Jays. The first domino fell in the seventh inning when Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar took exception to a quick pitch from Braves reliever Jason Motte. Pillar’s derogatory comment, later revealed to be a homophobic slur, emptied the benches.

 

An inning later Bautista took Eric O’Flaherty deep for a home run and went out of his way to admire it, even with Toronto still trailing by four runs. Bautista shared words with first baseman Jace Peterson and catcher Kurt Suzuki on his tour around the bases and soon the benches emptied for a second time. The drama continued after the game as Pillar apologized for his gay slur (the Blue Jays responded by suspending him for two games) while O’Flaherty chided Bautista in his post-game interview. “Guy wants to hit a home run in a five-run game, pimp it, throw the bat around,” he said. “It’s just tired. We’ve seen it from him enough.”

 

The Harvey Dent quote, “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain” is a perfect summary of Bautista’s career to this point. Think of how Bautista’s reputation has evolved over the years. It may seem like forever ago but there was a time when Bautista was actually a fan favorite. Back then Bautista was just a journeyman with a drawn-on beard who woke up one day and suddenly became the best home run hitter in all of baseball.

 

But the “aw shucks” factor evaporated quickly. As Bautista’s home run totals shrank, his ego grew. He demanded ludicrous sums of money for his increasingly lackluster work, made enemies with the Orioles and even scrapped with Rougned Odor in one of the more iconic baseball brawls of all-time. Controversy swirled with each bat flip, tensions rising every time he took a little too long to round the bases. Soon the transformation was complete—Bautista had become baseball’s arch-villain.

 

In the grand scheme of things, Bautista is no worse than other abrasive athletes like Draymond Green and Odell Beckham. Sure he’s cocky and you kind of want to sock him one (Odor did just that), but ultimately it’s just a persona. Even the jovial David Ortiz, Boston's bling-wearing former DH, had a little villain in him if you searched for it. When confronted with an agitator like Bautista, you really have two choices—ignore what he’s doing and go on about your business or feed into his mind games by giving it right back to him. Care to guess which option Julio Teheran went for on Thursday night?

 

Teheran went with retaliation, plunking Bautista on the second pitch of his first at-bat. Rather than escalate things, Bautista took his medicine and jogged to first base. Teheran’s intention was clear—he just missed Bautista’s thigh on the first pitch before drilling him on his second attempt. That pitch was clocked at 95.6 mph, Teheran’s fastest recorded throw since 2015. Teheran could easily have been ejected but instead home plate umpire Paul Emmel issued warnings to both dugouts.

 

I’ve never been a fan of baseball’s unwritten rules, a doctrine Teheran was clearly following when he hit Bautista. But it’s not for the reason you might think. I’ll offer that hitting someone with a 96 mph pitch is a pretty incongruent way to avenge a bat flip, but my real problem with what Teheran did is that he put a runner on base. After giving Bautista a bruise and a free pass to first, Teheran allowed three straight hits including back-to-back doubles by Darrell Ceciliani and Chris Coghlan. By the time the inning was over the Blue Jays had already built a 3-0 lead. Whether Toronto used it as a rallying cry or if the three runs would have happened anyway, Teheran’s decision to hit Bautista obviously did not achieve the desired result.

 

The onslaught continued with Teheran serving up three more runs in the third and another three in the fourth before mercifully getting the hook from manager Brian Snitker. Even Toronto’s starting pitcher, Marcus Stroman, got into the act by slugging his first career homer. Bautista also chipped in with two hits including a leadoff double to begin the third inning. The Jays jumped out to a 9-0 lead and held on to win by that exact score. The end result was one of the worst outings of Teheran’s seven-year career. Thursday’s debacle raised his ERA from 4.08 to a hideous 5.47. Fantasy owners were obviously hoping for better after Teheran posted a commendable 3.21 ERA last year while earning his second All-Star nod.

 

Teheran’s letdown certainly influenced Thursday’s result but let’s not discount the impact of Stroman. The right-hander was far from perfect—he scattered seven hits over 5 2/3 innings—but only one of those hits went for extra bases and the Braves were unable to score against him. Stroman showed breakout potential while emerging as a national hero during the World Baseball Classic. The innings he logged during the WBC could come back to bite him later on—countless players skipped the tournament for fear of the fatigue it might cause. But so far Stroman has been as good as advertised, compiling a 4-2 record with a steady 3.00 ERA over his first nine starts. He’s been especially hot over his last three, going 2-0 with a 1.02 ERA during that span. Stroman’s WHIP (1.39) and BAA (.291) are a work in progress, but those rough edges will get smoothed out at some point.

 

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Darrell Ceciliani a recent call-up from Triple-A Buffalo, earned the start in center field Thursday with Pillar beginning his two-game suspension. His night was memorable for reasons both good and bad. Ceciliani swatted a home run, the second of his career, but seemed to injure himself in the process. At first it looked like Ceciliani might have been imitating Edwin Encarnacion’s patented “parrot on the shoulder” act, but soon it became clear that he was actually in pain. The Blue Jays are saying he may have suffered a dislocated shoulder but an official diagnosis won’t be made until he undergoes more tests.

 

The Braves have won five of seven, but losing Freddie Freeman to a broken wrist has taken the wind out of their sails. Even the most optimistic timetable calls for Freeman to miss at least eight weeks and it could be as many as 12. Atlanta acted quickly by signing James Loney to a minor league deal on Thursday. Loney is known for his superior glove-work and has been a decent contact hitter throughout his career, batting .284 across 5,023 major league at-bats. He could eventually land in a platoon with Jace Peterson at first base, though after failing to make the Rangers out of spring training and struggling during a minor league stint with Detroit, Loney is a definite gamble. The Braves already rolled the dice with Ryan Howard this year before pulling the plug on that experiment after only a few weeks.

 

The absence of Sean Rodriguez, who was lost to season-ending shoulder surgery after getting hurt in a car accident, looms even larger now that Freeman is out for the foreseeable future. Prior to signing with Atlanta, Rodriguez was a quiet savior for the Pirates, clubbing 18 homers last year while playing solid defense all over the diamond. Having Rodriguez at their disposal would have saved the Braves from indulging in tapped-out veterans like Loney and Howard, but no team is immune to injuries. Now it’s on the Braves to fight back.

 

AL Quick Hits: Jose Berrios was remarkable in Thursday’s win over Colorado. He allowed just two hits (both singles) while recording a career-high 11 strikeouts over 7 2/3 scoreless innings. The 22-year-old is 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA in two starts since getting called up from Triple-A Rochester … Doug Fister’s deal with the Angels became official when he passed his physical on Thursday. He’ll head to the minor leagues for a couple tune-up outings before joining the Angels’ starting rotation early next month … Yonder Alonso sat out Thursday’s game after injuring his knee Wednesday against Seattle. Alonso is still waiting for his MRI results but doesn’t anticipate missing more than a handful of games … Mitch Haniger is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment this weekend. He’s been sidelined with a strained oblique since late April ... Manny Machado sat out Thursday’s series finale against Detroit due to a sore right index finger. Ryan Flaherty filled in for him at third base and went 1-for-4 in the Orioles’ 6-5 loss … The Tigers were also playing shorthanded on Thursday. They were without Miguel Cabrera, who was diagnosed with a strained oblique earlier this week. The Tigers are optimistic the injury will only cost him a few games … Brad Miller suffered a lower abdomen strain earlier this week and wasn’t improving, so the Rays placed him on the 10-day disabled list. Miller enjoyed a breakout season with 30 homers last year but has only homered twice in 2017 … Corey Kluber (back) made it through a 40-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday and will follow that up with a simulated game on Saturday. The next step after that will be a minor league rehab assignment.

 

NL Quick Hits: Eric Sogard reached base five times with four hits and a walk Thursday in a win over the Padres. He’s hit a ridiculous .588 with two homers and seven RBI since his call-up last week … Eric Thames (strep throat) didn’t start Thursday’s game against the Padres but appeared as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. Brewers manager Craig Counsell confirmed that Thames will return to the starting lineup Friday against the Cubs … After a brief stint in the minor leagues, promising rookie Amir Garrett returned to the mound Thursday at Wrigley Field. Garrett looked rusty, allowing six runs (four of which came on a grand slam by Cubs second baseman Javier Baez) in only four innings. The slumping Reds have now lost six straight … The Dodgers are finally getting healthy. Adrian Gonzalez returned from the disabled list Thursday after missing two weeks with an elbow injury. Meanwhile Kenta Maeda (hamstring), who is slated to throw four innings in a rehab start for High-A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday, is due back on Wednesday or Thursday of next week. Logan Forsythe, out for the past month with a broken toe, is also nearing the end of his rehab assignment. He could be back in L.A. as early as Sunday … Steven Matz (elbow) and Travis d’Arnaud (wrist) both began rehab assignments for High-A St. Lucie on Thursday. D’Arnaud is expected back early next week and Matz shouldn’t be far behind him.



Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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