Toronto Blue Jays: The good and the bad from Thursday

TORONTO, ON - JULY 09: Matt Shoemaker #34 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during an intrasquad game at Rogers Centre on July 9, 2020 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JULY 09: Matt Shoemaker #34 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during an intrasquad game at Rogers Centre on July 9, 2020 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

There were some encouraging sights for the Blue Jays on Thursday during their intrasquad game, but a few concerns were evident as well.

There weren’t any fans in the stands, and all we really got to see were a few highlights from Thursday’s intrasquad game for the Blue Jays, but it was sure nice to see baseball happening at the Rogers Centre in Toronto again.

As the the team continues to navigate a difficult situation with the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been made all that much more complicated by being the only team to play outside of the United States at a time when the Canada-US border is closed to non-essential travel. They haven’t even assembled their entire roster in Toronto yet, and in theory they’re supposed to start regular season games in two weeks.

That said, there were a few positive to focus on from Thursday’s tune-up game in addition to the negatives. Let’s have a look at a few of those storylines.

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The Good

For starters, let’s talk about one of the starting pitchers who took the mound on Thursday, Matt Shoemaker. For those who may have forgotten, Shoemaker was off to a torrid start last year before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in his knee. It was a real shame for the veteran who had battled back from arm injuries earlier in his career, as he was 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA across 28.1 innings before being placed on the Injured List.

Fortunately the right-hander looked to be in strong form this week, as he threw 60 pitches across five innings and allowed just two runs. He had solid command, throwing 42 of those 60 offerings for strikes, and looks to be on track to help the Blue Jays’ rotation this season, which is great news.

The other thing that stood out to be from the limited video was the home run from Rowdy Tellez against Brian Moran. Seeing Rowdy hit a ball in the seats of the Rogers Centre is nothing out of the ordinary, but I got pretty excited when I had a closer look at him as he rounded the bases. The slugger looks to be in fantastic shape at the moment, and that can’t hurt his chances of having a breakout season, even if it’s a short one.

The Bad

As I mentioned above, the Blue Jays (and the rest of baseball) are being asked to get ready in a hurry, and that’s not exactly an easy task. It’s especially difficult if players can’t get back on the diamond, and that’s still an issue for this roster. To make matters worse, it looks like there could be a shortage of available outfielders, at least in the immediate term. That was pretty obvious when bullpen coach Matt Buschmann was slotted in the outfield throughout the day.

That kind of thing can happen from time to time during something like an intrasquad game, but in this case it sounds like it was born out of a lack of available outfielders. In fact, Sportnet’s Shi Davidi wrote about this yesterday and mentioned that Teoscar Hernandez is the only regular outfielder that has been spotted with the team thus far. They also listed the players that he and his staff have noticed at the Rogers Centre, and the list includes 43 of the 46 that have reportedly arrived in Toronto.

We know that as many as 12 players were held back in Dunedin because of at least one positive test for Covid-19, and that player having been in contact with the rest. We don’t know the subsequent results from any of those situations, or who they are exactly, but you’ve gotta think there are at least a few outfielders in the group. There’s no sense in getting too ahead of ourselves at this point, but this could obviously pose a problem for the Blue Jays if most of their outfield group is unavailable for any length of time.

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Chances are we’ll learn a lot more about the testing situation over the next few days, and then the Blue Jays’ front office will be able to take things from there. On the plus side, the players that were available on Thursday were showing some encouraging signs, and if nothing else, it’s sure nice to see the Blue Jays back on the diamond in one form or another.