While Duane Ward prefers to start his “scoreboard watching” in mid-August, fellow Toronto Blue Jays alumnus and former centrefielder Lloyd Moseby thinks this year’s Jays’ squad is a post-season ready team.
“This year’s team has gotta be the team that’s going to get us out of the funk of that 20 years of not making it to the playoffs,” says Moseby, who along with Ward and Sandy Alomar Sr., is in St. John’s early this week for the Blue Jays Honda Super Camps, an instructional program for minor league players to learn skills and techniques from former Jays.
Roberto Alomar, who missed the first day of the camp while attending an MLB Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Sunday, will be on hand for Day 2 of the camp today.
Both Moseby and Ward agree the biggest problem facing the 2014 Blue Jays in their quest to bring playoff baseball north of the border this fall is staying healthy, especially when it comes to key players.
“One thing this team’s got to do — and it’s something that’s plagued them for the last few years — is they gotta stay away from injuries,” said Ward,
Heading into this week, the Jays are without sparkplug third baseman Brett Lawrie, the dependable Adam Lind and slugging star Edwin Encarnacion, who has suffered a setback in his six-week rehab of a leg muscle strain.
“We’re gonna get those three guys back, and I don’t want to say it, but you know somebody else will go down,” Ward suggests.
“You can’t have that, you’ve gotta have the whole team firing on all cylinders come August and September.
“That’s what I’m hoping for.”
Moseby and Ward agree that if Lawrie, Lind and Encarnacion can return and stay healthy through to the end of the season, the only help the Jays may need is on the mound, be it through the acquisition of pitchers for the bullpen, or another arm for the middle of the rotation.
“You can never have too much pitching,” said Ward, one of the Jays' most dependable middle relievers in the late 1980s.
Moseby believes the solution may be as simple as moving one of the starters to the bullpen.
“There’s guys who haven’t been getting a lot of work, we’ve got a lot of guys in that category that can go into the bullpen,” said the enigmatic Moseby.
“If we get to the playoffs, our pitching staff is not bad. I’m proud of them.”
There’s no telling what big moves — if any — Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopolous will make ahead of Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline, although he did make a small one Monday, acquiring third baseman Danny Valencia from the Kansas City Royals.
But as for a blockbuster, pundits suggest there’s little in the coffers to play with and there’s not much in the way of MLB-ready bluechips to offer up as trade bait.
“We can’t give up prospects, because we’ve given up too many of them,” Ward says, noting the Jays need to keep the likes of pitchers Drew Hutchinson, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez.
“They’ve got to look at it and ask ‘what are we willing to give up and where do we have help at that position immediately?’”
There’s been speculation in the media that the most likely player to move would be centrefielder Colby Rasmus, what with the speedy Anthony Gose ready to fall into the open spot at a fraction of the price. But Moseby says the team will need a player of Rasmus’ ilk if they’re serious about a deep run.
“I’ve always liked Rasmus, even when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals,” says Moseby.
“When you get to the playoffs, you’re gonna need guys who know they can get the job done.”
While it would be easy for Ward and Moseby to sing the praises of players such as Joey Bautista, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera, the duo were asked to weigh in on some of the more polarizing players on the roster; namely Lawrie, Sanchez and the always surprising Munenori Kawaski.
Ward says Sanchez, while impressive in the early going, is untested at the major league level.
“I want to see him next year. I want to see if he can make adjustmens when all the hitters start making adjustments to him.”
Moseby is a big fan of Kawasaki, the Japanese import who broke into the MLB ranks in 2012 following an all-star career in his native country.
“When he first came up last year, I gotta tell ya, I wasn’t very high on him,” Moseby admits.
“But to see him now, he takes a lot of pitches, he gets on base, and he’s not scared of the big moment. He’s a guy we need, in fact we might need to move him up in the lineup.”
As for Lawrie, the team’s Canadian star and easily one of the most athletics players in all of major league baseball, Ward and Moseby agree his biggest problem is his propensity for getting injured.
“As soon as he comes off the (disabled list) he goes on again,” says Moseby.
Ward believes Lawrie is figuring it out, and while he appreciates the intensity in the young Canuck’s game, he also feels he needs to rein it in if he wants to stay healthy and help the team win.
Lawrie is out with a broken finger on his right hand.
“He gets injured by going that little extra half step into the wall or doing something that’s going to put him on the sidelines for 15 or 16 days,” says Ward.
“ He’s gotta stay away from that and stay healthy and be out there for at least 155 games if he can.”