By Bruce Penton
If or when the baseball season finally starts, what would make Blue Jays’ fans happy in 2020? A 14-win improvement to 81-81? A team that contends for the American League East title against foes such as the powerhouse Yankees? Steady improvement while their young players develop? Would a 75-82 campaign do it?
Unrealistic Jays’ fans are wishing for 162-0, of course, and while that’s not possible (100-0 may be more like it), there are strong indications the Jays are in for a vastly improved 2020 over 2019’s disappointing 67-win (.414) season.
To begin with, Toronto’s starting rotation is packed with talent, and promise. Last year, it was held together by string, some Crazy Glue and crossed fingers, but this year it starts with Cy Young Award candidate Hyun-Jin Ryu, the South Korean lefty who signed with the Jays as a free agent after a terrific 14-5, 2.32 ERA season with the Dodgers. Ryu struck out 162 and walked only 24 and is the undisputed ace of a rotation that will also count on right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who was 3-0 last year before suffering a season-ending torn ALC in April, but was solid in spring training this year. Another newby in the rotation is Tanner Roark, 10-10 last year with Cincinnati and Oakland, and a free-agent arrival in Toronto. A potential star in the rotation could be 32-year-old righty Shun Yamaguchi, who comes to North America after leading the Japanese Central League in strikeouts last year (188) and wins (15). And if you’re a fan who wants to see some depth in the rotation, there’s trade acquisition Chase Anderson, who had 38 wins in the last four years with Milwaukee. Trent Thornton, who won six games with the Jays last season, and Anthony Kay, a first-round pick in 2016 with the Mets, who was acquired in the Marcus Stroman deal last season, could both contribute.
Kay will start the season in the minors, but in Ryu, Shoemaker, Roark, Yamaguchi, Anderson and Thornton, the Jays have a solid set of starters. Far better than last year’s mound group.
Solid pitching is what the Jays’ need to complement their young bats loaded with potential. Bo Bichette (11 homers, .311 average in 46 games), Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (15 homers, .272 average in 123 rookie-season games), Cavan Biggio (16 homers in 100 games), Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. (20 homers in 84 games) Teoscar Hernandez (26 homers) and Randal Grichuk (team-leading 31 homers) provide an offensive core that will not only give opposing teams fits, but will be around for a long time as the Jays grow into a contender.
Forget the coronavirus, if that’s possible. Forget the scandals. Forget the trash cans. Forget the cheating. It’ll eventually be time to play ball. Across Canada, Jays’ fans have an exciting 2020 — and beyond — ahead.
Comedy writer Jim Barach, on reports that PGA pro Wyndham Clark was invited to be a contestant on ‘The Bachelor’: “Who fits the role of a bachelor more than a guy with a lot of money who just plays golf all day?”
From various Twitter sources: “Day 2 without sports. Found a young lady sitting on my couch yesterday. Apparently she’s my wife. She seems nice.”
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “So, the rumours are finally official: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are divorcing. At least there won’t be a battle to see who gets custody of Gronk.”
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