The Toronto Blue Jays wrap up the All-Star break with renewed energy and a positive outlook on what could be a great second-half. At 50-41, the team is just 7 GB of a struggling Rays squad and currently sits in third place in the AL East division. Before the Jays take on the Diamondbacks, lets check out a few storylines to follow.
Blue Jays shuffle starting rotation around
Alek Manoah. Kevin Gausman. Chris Bassitt. José Berríos. Yusei Kikuchi.
This is what the Blue Jays' starting rotation looked like to kick off the 2023 campaign and has largely been the exact unit it's stuck with throughout the season. Now that Manoah has been demoted and only just recently called back up, he's no longer the guy leading the charge.
Instead, the Jays are going to be shifting around their rotation a bit. The new-look staff will see Berríos take the ball in the first game post-All-Star Game. Following him will be Gausman and Kikuchi with Bassitt and Manoah likely behind them, in that order. Keep in mind that Hyun Jin Ryu is making significant progress as he eyes a return from Tommy John surgery, so he will be added to this mix in short order as well.
José Berríos. Kevin Gausman. Yusei Kikuchi. Chris Bassitt. Alek Manoah.
A pair of old friends return to the Rogers Centre
For the first time since the massive trade between the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks went down, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Gabriel Moreno will be facing off against their former team. So far this year, the trade has worked out in different ways for each club, as Daulton Varsho has been a defensive wizard in the outfield while swinging a still-improving bat. For Arizona, Gurriel (who was, at the time, considered to be the 'least important' play included in the trade) just made the All-Star Game and Moreno is viewed as one of the better defensive backstops in the league.
So far this year, Gurriel, 29, has hit 15 home runs with 54 driven in over the course of 79 appearances for the Diamondbacks. Along the way, he has posted a .263 batting average, .810 OPS and 119 OPS+ while remaining a below-average defender in left field.
Moreno, 23, has not seen his tenure in Arizona start off the way anyone would've wanted it to. In 68 games this season, he has just two home runs with 26 RBI, posting a .655 OPS and 80 OPS+ to go along with it. His 1.5 Defensive Wins Above Replacement says a lot about the defensive talent he's brought to the table, but this is not the offensive output the club expected to be receiving at the time of the deal.
Both Moreno and Gurriel had done a lot to become popular figures around Toronto, so it will be nice to see the pair over this weekend.
Jay Jackson and George Springer back in action
The Blue Jays are going to be welcoming back Jay Jackson and George Springer from the Paternity List. Both players recently welcomed little ones into the world before the All-Star break. To make room for the pair, Ernie Clement and Bowden Francis were optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.
Springer, 33, hasn't quite been the dominant force he once was at the plate, but he's been a reliable leadoff hitter for the Jays. In 87 games, he has 13 home runs with 39 RBI and a 110 OPS+. He has been a fairly steady presence atop the lineup and remains a top-shelf defender in right field as well.
Jackson, 35, has spent more time in Triple-A this year than he has the majors, but he's been solid every time the Jays have called upon him this year. In five outings, he has pitched seven innings while striking out six and allowing just one earned run.
Blue Jays to wear jersey patches
Announced earlier on Friday, the Blue Jays are going to be wearing 3"x3" patches on their uniforms featuring the TD logo. This move makes the Jays the 14th club in the league to include patches on their game attire.
Anuk Karunaratne, the Blue Jays' Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations had the following to say on the decision:
"TD is an industry leader whose brand is highly recognizable with our fans. The new jersey patch is emblematic of the strong and unique relationship between TD and the Blue Jays. For nearly two decades, TD has served as an innovative sponsor of the Blue Jays, with a storied history and commitment to baseball. TD has a passionate and meaningful presence in communities across the country and has played a critical role in helping to connect fans to the game we all love."