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Blue Jays surprised, but ‘ecstatic’ to land Austin Martin

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TORONTO – The chatter started late last week, with suggestions that the Baltimore Orioles might go off the draft board with the second pick.

“There’s a smokescreen there,” one agent said.

Still, as Wednesday night’s first round approached, the consensus among experts remained that the Orioles would take Austin Martin from Vanderbilt, a predominantly third baseman/outfielder widely considered the best pure hitter available. “His profile is as complete as it gets in the 2020 class,” Baseball America wrote of him in their rankings.

But at the moment of truth, the Orioles defied the predictions and chose Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad, possibly to create room in their signing bonus pool for use on later picks.

The Miami Marlins offered up another surprise when they chose Minnesota right-hander Max Meyer at No. 3, taking the flamethrower pegged by some to land with the Blue Jays. The Kansas City Royals then chose Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy, who was expected to land in South Beach.

Then it was the Blue Jays’ turn, the unexpected windfall of Martin staring them in the face, and there was little hesitation for amateur scouting director Shane Farrell, who 10 years ago was Toronto’s 46th-round pick and on Wednesday was running a draft for the first time.

“We were a little surprised (that Martin was available),” Farrell admitted on a conference call. “Obviously we’re keeping an eye on the mock drafts as they come out throughout the week and are aware of industry consensus, but it really started to shake up at picks two and three and we were surprised a bit but certainly prepared to make that selection.

“We were ecstatic to have the chance to pick Austin.”

Source: – Sportsnet.ca

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Kirk has HR, four hits, Jays beat Yankees – TSN

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Rookie Alejandro Kirk became the first catcher 21 or younger since Johnny Bench with at least four hits that included two for extra bases, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Yankees 11-5 Monday night to drop New York 1 1/2 games behind Minnesota for home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Kirk, who played at Class A last season and made his debut Sept. 12, singled in the third off Michael King, doubled in the fourth against Jonathan Loaisiga, singled in the fifth off Nick Nelson and hit an opposite-field homer to right in seventh off Chad Green for his first four-hit game.

“He’s always looking for a pitch to hit, and he did that today,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Speaking through a translator, Kirk called his big night “unbelievable.”

“I was just feeling so comfortable tonight,” he said.

Bench accomplished the feat as part of a five-hit game for Cincinnati at Philadelphia on Aug. 3, 1969, according to STATS.

Randal Grichuk hit his first homer since Aug. 28 and drove in two runs for the Blue Jays.

New York had won 10 straight before Sunday’s 10-2 loss at Fenway Park. The Yankees allowed 10 or more runs in back-to-back games for the first time since July 25 and 26, 2019 against Boston and lost for the third time in four games this year against the Blue Jays in Buffalo. Center fielder Aaron Hicks had trouble with the sky and the lights and allowed a fly ball to drop between himself and right fielder Aaron Judge.

New York (31-23) dropped 4 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay (36-19) for the AL East lead. The Yankees are in position to be the fifth seed in the playoffs and would play at Minnesota (33-22).

“Today was rough, but we’re good, we’re where we need to be,” Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton said. “We’ve got to try to solidify this these last few games to get home field. We know that.”

Judge also said he sees no reason for concern as the post-season approaches.

“The guys are still competing,” Judge said. “That’s all you can ask for.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had three hits and three RBIs while Teoscar Hernández and Bo Bichette each drove in a pair as the Blue Jays (28-26) won their second straight following a season-worst, six-game losing streak. Toronto is on track to be the No. 8 seed and open the playoffs at the Rays.

“They did a lot of their damage with two strikes,” manager Aaron Boone said. “The inability to put guys away tonight really cost us.”

King (1-2) gave up five runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings. Eight of 10 batters reached against Loaisiga, including one on a catcher’s interference call on Gary Sánchez. Loaisiga asked that a rosin bag be brought to the mound with the bases loaded. Boone said he would speak to Loaisiga to make sure he hadn’t needed the rosin bag sooner in that inning.

Blue Jays right-hander Matt Shoemaker was activated off the injured list before the game to make his first appearance since Aug. 21 at Tampa Bay. He allowed one run and three hits in three innings.

Right-hander T.J. Zeuch (1-0) allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings.

Plate umpire Chad Fairchild was hit on the face mask by a foul tip in the top of the second. Fairchild left the game between innings, with Paul Nauert moving behind the plate. Extra umpire Sean Barber replaced Nauert.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Ken Giles will have Tommy John surgery, likely causing him to miss all of 2021 and impacting the deal he will receive as a free agent this off-season. … RHP Nate Pearson (elbow) threw a 25-pitch bullpen before the game and is to be reevaluated Tuesday.. … RHP Julian Merryweather (elbow) was placed on the 10-day IL to make room for Shoemaker. … 1B Rowdy Tellez (right knee) jogged on the field and hit in the cage before the game. Tellez will take batting practice Tuesday. … RHP Jordan Romano (strained right middle finger) will throw a bullpen session Tuesday.

NO DOMINGO

Boone said RHP Domingo Germán will not join the Yankees for the post-season because Germán will not be able to get ready in time after completing an 81-game ban for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. He also missed the final nine games of the 2019 regular season and all nine of New York’s post-season games.

UP NEXT

Yankees RHP Gerrit Cole (6-3, 3.00) will face Blue Jays RHP Tanner Roark (2-2, 6.41) on Tuesday. Boone said Cole will likely throw to catcher Kyle Higashioka instead of Sánchez. Cole has a 3.91 ERA in 46 innings working with Sánchez and a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings with Higashioka. Cole and Higashioka have worked together in each of Cole’s past three starts. For Roark, it will be his third consecutive start against the Yankees.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Oilers' Leon Draisaitl captures Hart, Lindsay as NHL reveals award winners – CBC.ca

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Being named the NHL’s most valuable player was a bit anticlimactic for Leon Draisaitl.

After all, for the Edmonton Oilers star, it was an odd hour when news emerged that he had won both the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Ted Lindsay award.

“It’s about 1:15 in the middle of the night right now so my family’s sleeping,” Draisaitl told reporters on a video call from his home in Germany.

The Hart is given to the player deemed by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association to be the most valuable player to his team each year and the Ted Lindsay is passed out annually to the league’s most-outstanding player, as chosen by fellow members of the NHL Players’ Association.

WATCH | Oilers’ Draisaitl takes home pair of awards:

It was an MVP sweep for Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl at the NHL awards. The 24-year-old became the 19th player to win the Ted Lindsay Award and the Hart Memorial Trophy in the same season. 2:50

The NHL’s annual awards ceremony is generally a glitzy affair held in Las Vegas, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s honours were announced at an empty Rogers Place in Edmonton.

Receiving the honours was still special, said Draisaitl, who led the league with 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) in the regular season, earning the league’s Art Ross Trophy in the process.

“At the end of the day, it’s still the same meaning behind it. It means the same thing for me,” said the 24-year-old native of Cologne, Germany.

“It obviously would have been nice to share it a little bit more with my family and actually have the awards happening. But these are obviously weird times for everyone. So I’m just as happy with it.”

Draisaitl beat out Colorado Avalanche centre Nathan MacKinnon and Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers for both awards.

While Draisaitl and teammate Connor McDavid were offensive juggernauts once again this year, the Oilers lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the qualifying round, marking the third season in a row that the team has missed out on the playoffs.

Draisaitl would trade awards for Stanley Cup

Being MVP doesn’t take the sting out of another lacklustre season, Draisaitl said.

“It’s a nice personal reward, but there’s nothing that comes ahead of the Stanley Cup. It’s the same for every player in the league. And if I could hand those two or three awards back in for a Stanley Cup, I would do so in a heartbeat and I think so would everyone else,” he said.

“It’s a nice day. I’m proud and I’m happy, for sure. But my goal at the end of the day and my career is to win a Stanley Cup.”

Three other awards were doled out on Monday, including the Vezina Trophy, given to the NHL’s best goalie as chosen by the league’s general managers.

Winnipeg Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck received this year’s honours.

The 27-year-old from Commerce, Mich., posted a 31-21-5 record with a 2.57 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in the regular season. He led all goaltenders in games played (58), shots faced (1,796), saves (1,656) and shutouts (6).

WATCH | Jets’ Hellebuyck wins Vezina Trophy:

Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck was named the 2019-2020 Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goaltender. 2:50

Winning was almost a relief after coming second for the award in the 2017-18 season.

“This year was just such a mental grind but also so fun,” said Hellebuyck, who’s team was ousted from playoff contention by the Calgary Flames in the qualifying round.

“I would have liked for playoffs to go a little bit better, but when I’m looking back on this year, I’m going to say we did some great things.”

Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning were also up for the Vezina this year.

There are a lot of good goaltenders in the NHL, Hellebuyck said, but the Winnipeg netminder is already planning to defending his title again next season.

“I’m looking forward to the fight to get back into Vezina talks next year,” he said. “And I’m going to enjoy this one while I have it.”

Preds’ Josi named top defenceman

Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators took home defenceman of the year honours on Monday, edging out John Carlson of the Washington Capitals and Victor Hedman of the Lightning.

The 30 year old is the first Swiss-born player to win an individual NHL award.

“It’s always been a dream of mine and from a personal standpoint, it’s pretty surreal that I’ve actually won this. And it’s definitely a dream coming true,” he said.

Josi led Nashville in scoring through the regular season with 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists).

“Personally, every year you try to prepare for the season, you try to be the best player you can be, you try to work on things in the summer,” he said. “I think if every guy tries to be the best player, that means your team’s going to have a lot of success.”

WATCH | Rookie of the year honours go to Avalanche’s Makar:

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar edged Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. 2:22

Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar took home this year’s rookie of the year title.

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky announced the winner, noting in a video message that he didn’t win the award as a young player.

“It really bothers me,” Gretzky said.

For 21-year-old Makar, getting the award from Gretzky was almost as good as the honour itself.

“I’ve never met him before, so that was a pretty surreal moment for me,” he said.

Makar dazzled in his first full NHL season, registering 50 points (12 goals, 38 assists) and leading all rookies with 0.88 points per game.

He beat out Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes and Chicago Blackhawks left-winger Dominik Kubalik to capture the trophy.

Makar had kind words for Hughes on Monday, saying that along with Miro Heiskanen of the Dallas Stars, there’s an exciting group of young blueliners making their way in the NHL.

“I’m very honoured to even be considered in that group,” Makar said. “They’re both exceptional players. I love watching both of them. There’s so many things you can pick from their games to help myself as an individual. So I’m excited to see where their futures can go. And hopefully we can take d-men to another level.”

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Kirk’s breakout game against Yankees comes at ideal time for Blue Jays – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – Just last week, the Yankees swept the Blue Jays in a series so one-sided that manager Charlie Montoyo started fielding regular questions about a potential mercy rule in baseball. No team in baseball history has allowed as many home runs over a three-game span as the Blue Jays did in the Bronx, and the three losses that followed in Philadelphia were perhaps not shocking considering the team was, to borrow Travis Shaw’s words, still a little ‘shell shocked.’

Even on Monday afternoon, as the Blue Jays prepared for their final series of the season against the Yankees, Bo Bichette hesitated when asked about the rivalry between the two AL East teams.

“I don’t know if you could call it a rivalry,” Bichette said. “They beat us up pretty good. Hopefully, we can make it one soon, but I wouldn’t call it a rivalry when we lost three pretty bad games. But we’re going to come out here and try to show everybody that we can compete with them.”

Livestream Toronto Blue Jays games all season with Sportsnet NOW. Plus, watch marquee MLB matchups, the post-season and World Series.

For one night, at least, the Blue Jays did just that, beating the Yankees 11-5 in a game that included a few encouraging developments beyond the result itself. Most importantly, the win gives the Blue Jays a 28-26 record and lowers their magic number to three with six games to play. There are no guarantees, as last week’s skid shows, but the Blue Jays’ chances of reaching the playoffs remain in the 98 per cent range, according to FanGraphs.

Of course, not all wins are created equal, and in this case, how the Blue Jays won is also important. Alejandro Kirk, the 21-year-old catcher who had never played above Class A until this month, has now exceeded any realistic expectations the Blue Jays could have had when they made the surprise decision to promote him nine days ago. He became the youngest catcher in franchise history to homer and finished the night with four hits.

“It felt great,” Kirk said through interpreter Hector Lebron. “The satisfaction that I felt. When you make contact and sometimes you don’t even feel the ball hit the barrel. It was just unbelievable. I can’t describe it.”

Added Montoyo: “His approach at the plate has been amazing.”

If and when the Blue Jays reach the point that they’re building a playoff roster, Kirk must now be on it. And to be sure they make the most of his discerning eye, consistently hard contact and sneaky power, the Blue Jays might even want to roster a third catcher like Reese McGuire. In theory, that would enable Montoyo to use Kirk’s bat off the bench without worrying that he’ll be caught short-handed later in the game.

Meanwhile, Matt Shoemaker pitched well in his return from the injured list, going three innings against a Yankees lineup that offers little room for error. Despite missing a month with a lat strain, the right-hander was throwing harder than usual with a fastball that topped out at 95.9 m.p.h. over the course of 54 total pitches.

“I didn’t even know I hit that until some of the guys told me,” Shoemaker said. “My body’s in good shape, and maybe velocity ticks up as a result.”

Radar gun readings aside, Shoemaker felt strong during and after his start. Already, he’s looking forward to his next chance to pitch.

“It felt phenomenal,” he said. “When you’re out there on the mound, it’s where you belong. It’s so exciting. I’m so thankful to be back.”

This season, Dan picks an issue, trend, news item or story from around MLB, and digs in on it with a guest. And he does it five times a week for about 15 minutes a day. Enough time to inform and entertain, but also get fans back to all the sports going on.

His command eluded him at times, and two second-inning walks helped the Yankees score their first run of the game, but some rust is understandable after an extended absence. Holding New York to one run over three innings has to be considered a success for Shoemaker, who suddenly looks like an option to start a playoff game.

On paper, his next start would be Saturday and the one after that would be a week from Thursday when Game 3 of the wild card round would take place if necessary. At this point it’s still too early to make final calls on who pitches when, but if nothing else Shoemaker belongs in that conversation.

“If we can stretch him out enough, he’ll be in the conversation for sure,” Montoyo said. “You can count on that.”

In contrast to those positives, the Blue Jays’ bullpen looks weaker now than it has in weeks (and did even before Wilmer Font’s rough ninth-inning appearance). The club announced Monday that closer Ken Giles will undergo Tommy John surgery, officially removing him from the equation. Even beyond Giles, Rafael Dolis remains day to day with right knee discomfort and Julian Merryweather was placed on the injured list with right elbow tendinitis.

Considering Merryweather was starting to look like a valuable multi-inning reliever, his absence will hurt down the stretch and potentially into the playoffs. Perhaps Nate Pearson, who was up to 97-98 m.p.h. in a 25-pitch live batting practice session Monday, can fill that role but there are just six days remaining in the regular season and as Shoemaker’s start shows, there’s value in working through some things before the playoffs begin.

Either way, this isn’t the first time the Blue Jays have had to adapt on the fly. Many times, their momentum slowed before the Yankees stopped it completely last week. And yet here the Blue Jays are, firmly in playoff position with less than a week remaining in the season.

“Internally, we’re not surprised at all. We’re where we expected to be. Maybe even a little bit under,” Bichette said. “We’re excited to get going this last week and hopefully clinch.”

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