Too late now – loss of Donaldson doomed Jays from the start

BALTIMORE — He is the highest-paid Blue Jay at US$23 million and on Tuesday Josh Donaldson made his first game appearance on a baseball diamond in almost three months.

That it was with the Dunedin Blue Jays says so much about this disastrous season, one that added another shameful moment here at Camden Yards on Tuesday as the putrid Orioles destroyed the big-league version of the Jays, 12-5.

To say the Donaldson follies were a major part of the Jays downfall for a second consecutive campaign is not an understatement, however.

Out for an interminable time with a calf injury, failing to live up to next to nothing of that big contract and ultimately becoming an asset nearing worthlessness at the end destroyed any plans the Jays had for contention this season.

“We haven’t had him for the bulk of this year, we missed him for a great deal of last year,” Jays general manager Ross Atkins told the Toronto Sun during the third inning on Tuesday as the Orioles were putting up four of their dozen runs. “It is very tough to win when you don’t have your best player for the majority of two seasons.”

Add the complete season loss of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and the destructive moments from young pitchers Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna and the Jays were doomed from the start.

It is clear that Donaldson was always going to be the top key to success, however. But his injuries and struggles were only the start of the unravelling of a transition year plan stitched together partially by hope.

“When you have players like Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki and experience like Russell Martin, a player like Justin Smoak and young pitchers you believe in, we felt like we could contend,” Atkins said.

“Josh Donaldson was a massive part of that contention.”

Tuesday’s rehab start — a recovery process that has essentially been steered at Donaldson’s pace since he hit the disabled list on May 29 — was the first step of the Jays possibly being able to salvage something from this mess.

In order to be placed on waivers and thus be eligible to be dealt to a contender by this Friday, Donaldson needed to prove he was in prime baseball shape.

With the asterisk that it came against single-A pitching, Donaldson was somewhat sharp at least. He drew a walk in his first plate appearance and then ripped a line-drive single to left. And in his third trip to the plate, Donaldson flew out to centre before leaving the game after five innings.

Atkins isn’t able to comment on potential suitors for the Bringer of Rain, but it is well known that interest is high. Now he needs to beat the clock and garner enough to make a deal worthwhile.

The ability to salvage something at this point is the goal, although that would do little to undo what has unfolded this season.

Overall, the Jays GM acknowledged the potential fragility of the game plan for 2018, one in which Donaldson and Tulowitzki where key position players while Sanchez, Stroman and Osuna were the arms pegged to carry the team.

For varying reasons with each of those, it has been five strikes and you’re out.

“There are things that have been frustrating and disappointing if you look at some of the complimentary pieces in and around those that we tried to build around,” Atkins admitted. “With guys like Aledmys Diaz, Lourdes Gurriel and Justin Smoak, we had some of the solutions.

“But replacing your potential No. 1 and No. 2 players for the bulk of the season is very difficult to do, very difficult to overcome. We knew that. We knew if those things weren’t there for us, it would be very unlikely for us to win.”

That said, Jays management felt one more roll of the dice was worthwhile. The playoff success wasn’t that far distant and prospect wise, the future was bright.

But in 2018 with no Donaldson and no Tulowitzki there was no chance.

“We understood that but we felt it was worth the risk,” Atkins said. “Fortunately we have not sacrificed our future. We have controllable depth on our team and we have a ton of young, exciting prospects in our system.”

GAME ON

There are still 30 games remaining, but it’s readily apparent that the current season can’t end soon enough for the Jays.

With Tuesday’s loss, the Jays have now dropped six in a row on the road (a season high) and seven of their past nine away from the Rogers Centre. And getting blown out by the O’s on back-to-back nights has to be chalked up as another low point.

The aggregate for the series through two games: Worst Team in Baseball 19, Blue Jays 5.

As for game details as played out before a crowd of 11,762, the no-hitter watch didn’t last long for rookie Thomas Pannone in his second career start. After retiring the first two Orioles batters he faced, Pannone allowed three consecutive hits, the first a double from Trey Mancini.

That was just the beginning of the trouble for Pannone, who took a no-hitter into the seventh last week at the Rogers Centre. A three-run homer to Tim Beckham gave the O’s a 4-0 lead and with one more in the inning, the Jays trailed 5-0 for the fourth consecutive game. Pannone’s night was done when he gave up a two-run shot to Craig Gentry in the fourth.

“It was his second major league start, don’t worry about it too much,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “It wasn’t an easy night to pitch, sweating bullets out there. Chalk that one up and move on.”

AROUND THE BASES

Among the rare bright lights for the Jays on Tuesday was a two-run homer from first baseman Justin Smoak, his 20th of the season. The Smoak homer snapped an 0-for-17 stretch … Getting the win for the Orioles in his first career start was rookie Josh Rogers who allowed seven hits and three runs over five innings … Randal Grichuk added a solo homer in the seventh for the Jays, his 19th of the season and matched a career high with a four-hit night … The Orioles belted out a ridiculous 17 hits, four of them from right fielder Adam Jones.

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Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies