TORONTO – A pathway to the starting rotation for Nate Pearson – or someone else if the Toronto Blue Jays are intent on manipulating their top prospect’s service time – is open after Chase Anderson suffered an oblique strain and is uncertain to be ready for opening day.
Manager Charlie Montoyo says the club still plans to deploy a five-man rotation, which is set to include Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Matt Shoemaker and Trent Thornton, who ripped through a roughly-60-pitch live batting practice session Sunday.
Given the way he pitched during the first spring training, the work he put on from then to now, and how he impressed again during an intrasquad outing Saturday, Pearson would seem like an automatic in light of Anderson’s injury.
But, since the Blue Jays can push his free agency back a year by assigning him to the club’s Alternate Training Site for about a week, he’s far from a lock to break with the team.
“They’re going to compete for that spot,” Montoyo, without specifying names, said of the club’s young pitchers. “I love the fact that all these guys know they are competing. We’re building them all up, so they’re all going to have a chance to compete. We’ll see where we go a week and a half from now. Other stuff can happen from here to when we start, as you know.”
Beyond Pearson, left-handers Ryan Borucki and Anthony Kay and righty Thomas Hatch are the likeliest other contenders, although the Blue Jays are trying to stretch out other pitchers, too.
“It’s a crazy year, as you know,” said Montoyo, “and we’ve got so many options, which is great for all these kids because they’ll be competing for a spot if Chase is not ready by the time this season starts.”
Anderson hurt himself while loosening up ahead of a recent bullpen and Montoyo said the veteran right-hander was already built up for 3-4 innings of work, building toward more ahead of opening day.
Montoyo described him as day-to-day.
THORNTON SHARP: Trent Thornton knows better than to take a place in the Blue Jays rotation for granted but he had essentially sewn up a spot during the spring training and he’s right back where he left off at summer camp.
The sophomore righty looked sharp in throwing an estimated 50-60 pitches Sunday, routinely generating poor contacts and awkward swings. He came away pleased with how he felt physically and, after snapping off a pair of pretty curveballs to catch teammates looking, with how he manipulated his pitches.
“I thought I executed pretty much all my pitches,” said Thornton. “Elevated fastball was definitely a point of emphasis today, I thought I did a decent job with that. As far as my off-speed, breaking balls, changeup, cutter all felt really, really good, and felt like I got to accomplish a lot of what I wanted to.”
Thornton was able to throw throughout the shutdown, getting a key to the field from his high school coach so he could get his work in. His dad gave him a weight set for his garage while a trainer allowed him to work out in isolation at his gym.
“I feel great,” he said. “I don’t feel like I missed a beat at all. Within another week or two, I feel like I can just let the reins off.”
Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.
UNCERTAIN SHUN: Shun Yamaguchi arrived at spring training determined to win a spot in the Blue Jays rotation but appeared to be destined for the bullpen.
“Same as March. I still haven’t gotten a formal notice on what type of role I’ll be playing in,” Yamaguchi, in comments interpreted Yuto Sakurai, said after logging 30-35 pitches during a couple of innings of live batting practice. “For me, I personally do want to be in a starting role so I’m trying my best to get the fifth spot.”
As things stand, it would appear he has some work to do for that to happen.
Yamaguchi allowed nine runs over nine innings with five walks and six strikeouts in four Grapefruit League games as he transitioned to the North American game after 14 seasons in Japan, and the thinking then was that his stuff would be best utilized in relief.
“At this point, to be honest with you, I’ve been able to adjust to the ball and I have a limited amount of time left until the regular season, so I can’t really be talking about the ball slipping out of my hand and whatnot,” said Yamaguchi. “Every day I’m trying to adjust and throw the ball better.”
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Jets F Scheifele’s injury not believed to be long term; remains doubtful for Game 2 – TSN
Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele’s injury is not believed to be long term, TSN’s Sara Orlesky reports.
Scheifele remains doubtful for Monday’s Game 2 against the Calgary Flames.
The 27-year-old appeared to suffer a left leg injury when he went awkwardly into the boards after getting tangled up with Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk in the first period of Saturday’s Game 1.
Following the game, Jets head coach Paul Maurice called the hit an attempt to injure his player.
“It was intentional, it was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg.” Maurice told the media. “You can’t see it on the program feed, but take the blueline feed and you zoom in, he went after the back of his leg. Could’ve cut his Achilles, could’ve ended the man’s career. It’s an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”
When asked about his involvement in the play, Tkachuk denied that he had any intentions to hurt Scheifele.
“No, absolutely not,” Tkachuk said after the game. “You know what, I’m back-checking on him and it’s such an accident and I felt terrible.”
Jets forward Patrik Laine is also doubtful for Monday’s contest.
Maple Leafs left searching for identity after Game 1 loss to Blue Jackets – Sportsnet.ca
TORONTO – If we are billing the Toronto-Columbus elimination series as a tug-o-war between two distinct identities — and best believe we are — then the first 60 minutes was textbook Blue Jackets.
Even in diagraming his plan and readying a mindset to defeat the more talented offensive outfit, John Tortorella could not have drawn up a better Game 1 than the one that unfolded at Scotiabank Arena Sunday night.
Wearing their “above the puck” mantra like a second crest on their sweaters, the Blue Jackets gave up nary an odd-man rush, only committed a single minor penalty, and patiently waited around a scoreless seesaw until one costly Maple Leafs’ mistake made enough of a difference.
The Tortaterrific result: 2-0 Blue Jackets and the first shutout victory in Columbus playoff history.
Livestream the Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, plus every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sportsnet NOW.
“They did what they do best,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe had to admit post-loss. “You can’t win when you don’t score.”
“That’s the way we have to play,” said Jackets forward Cam Atkinson. “A greasy, in-your-face defensive style.”
To that end, Tortorella’s first smart move was selecting the right starting goaltender.
In his first-ever post-season game after four seasons in the shadow of Sergei Bobrovsky, Joonas Korpisalo turned aside all 28 shots he faced. Most prominent was a 10-bell save on an Auston Matthews one-timer, a rare Leafs chance from the slot.
“The save on Matthews is probably one of the best of the night,” Blue Jackets defenceman Seth Jones said. “He’s done his time behind Bob for years now, and it’s finally his chance.”
Looks like Torts finally picked the right goalie #heritageclassic
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) August 3, 2020
Tortorella’s second wise choice was drilling discipline into his troops.
Well aware that Keefe’s Leafs want to feast on the man-advantage, Columbus has elected to win the special-teams battle by avoiding it altogether.
Tortorella took note of the frequency of whistles Saturday in the bubble (the Rangers and Hurricanes combined for a silly 42 penalty minutes in their first outing, for example) and reinforced the need to stay out of the box.
“There’s been a lot of penalties called in these games here. We’ve really put an emphasis on playing the right way — skating, keeping our sticks down and just checking the right way,” Tortorella said.
“It’s a dangerous power play we’re playing against. We can’t give them that many opportunities.”
In the two minutes the Leafs did have 5-on-4, they registered just one shot.
The primary focus of Maple Leafs’ camp was improving defensively, and that they did, particularly in the affair’s conservative first half. But on Sunday the steady defence came at the cost of what got them into the post-season to begin with.
The highest-priced forward corps in the bubble couldn’t weasel through the layers of frustration Columbus stacks up.
So, after a hemmed-in start, Keefe abandoned his fourth line almost immediately. (Deadline rental Kyle Clifford skated all of 3:21.) He ran out his most dangerous weapon, Matthews, more than Mike Babcock ever did in a regulation playoff game (24:38). And he flashed his All-Star Game line.
And yet? Nada.
It’s difficult to win a track meet when the other guy won’t even give you a second to tie your shoes.
“They play playoff hockey. This is playoff hockey,” Zach Hyman said. “Not much out there. It’s tight.”
“We’ll learn from this.”
Each member of the Leafs’ top-six forwards finished with a dash in the plus/minus column. Mitch Marner did not register a shot on net.
The new-look third unit, featuring teenage sniper Nick Robertson, was built to produce. Yet after Robertson’s Grade-A chance on his first shift, they went quiet.
“That would be by far the hardest game he’s ever played in, I imagine,” Keefe said.
Credit Tortorella’s game plan, and the Jackets’ commitment to it, for drawing first blood in what could well be the series with the thinnest margins for error.
Knotted at 0-0 heading into the third period is where Columbus is comfortable.
This season the Jackets had 12 wins when tied after two. They celebrated 20 one-goal wins. Both marks are the most in the NHL.
Just give them a window.
Ask Frederik Andersen, who was fantastic all night but made one third-period gaffe. The goalie guessed high on an Atkinson wrister from the right wing that zipped far-side over his pad and under his blocker.
“I closed my eyes,” Atkinson said. “I knew where I wanted to shoot. I wasn’t really expecting it to go in, but obviously one of those I’ll take.”
After Alexander Wennberg thumped the empty net, Keefe stood by Andersen.
“As far as I’m concerned, he did his job. He kept them to one goal. We have to find a way to get him some help.”
One day at training camp, we asked Keefe if he was ready for this chess match with Tortorella, and the former player assured he was.
Columbus has knocked over the first significant piece and taken a firm step towards planting its own identity all over this best-of-five.
“We can’t lose sight of who we are as a team,” Keefe had reminded in the lead-up. “We need to be really good offensively.”
Tuesday, Game 2, would be a fine time to start.
Everyone thinking this Leafs-Jackets series will be a fun high scoring series has never met Torts.
He’s looooooving this game!
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) August 3, 2020
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