The Toronto Blue Jays have won six straight games and are playing their best baseball of the season despite a rash of significant injuries. After going just 10-17 in April with a healthy pitching staff, the Jays have won eight of 10 this month with two starters on the shelf. When you dig a deep hole early in the year, that’s what you need to do.
Monday night Josh Johnson went 7 1/3 innings while striking out 10 to help Toronto to its sixth straight victory, a 2-0 win over the Colorado Rockies. That win moved the Jays to three games within .500 and they can move another step closer to catching the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with a win over Colorado and Canadian starter Jeff Francis Tuesday night. The Vancouver native is struggling to keep his spot in the rotation and will be making just his second big-league start in Canada.
“It’s extra special when you get to pitch here in front of friends and family, and against a team you grew up watching,” Francis told the Toronto Star.
Francis (2-4, 5.87 ERA) will share the mound with Esmil Rogers (2-2, 3.21 ERA), who pitched for the Rockies during the first 3 ½ seasons of his MLB career before Francis essentially bumped him from that roster. Now Rogers has a shot at some payback and looks like he’s in a good position to deliver it.
The flamethrower was used as a long reliever coming out of training camp with the Jays but has made three starts recently thanks to injuries to Ramon Ortiz, J.A. Happ, and Brendon Morrow. Rogers is working on a 1.21 ERA in those 14 1/3 innings.
“I’ve seen better command than he’s had coming out of the bullpen,” Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters of Rogers’ hot streak. “He’s turned into more of a pitcher. You have to be when you’re in that role. Just not coming in there and airing it out like he was coming out of the bullpen.”
Meanwhile, the Jays could get more good news on the injury front sooner rather than later. Jose Reyes, who has been out of commission since spraining his ankle April 12, was 2-for-3 with two runs scored while playing five innings for Single-A Dunedin Monday. He could be back with the big club before the end of the month. Morrow threw two innings of work in that game and will likely make two more rehab starts before he’s ready to go for the Jays.
By that time, if the Jays can keep this roll going, they could be right back in the mix in the AL East.