Edwin Jackson referred to himself as his worst critic on Monday night.
A few minutes before making that declaration, the veteran Blue Jays pitcher didn’t leave much doubt.
“I think my pitching has just been horses***, to be honest, since I have been here,” Jackson said after the Jays lost 10-5 against the Los Angeles Angels at Rogers Centre. “That’s point-blank. Execution has been terrible. I know I am better than that, I know that’s not who I am, but that’s what I’ve shown so far since I have been here.”
So where does the 35-year-old go from here?
“Keep throwing,” Jackson said. “It’s black and white. There is no grey area. Either you quit and you fold or you continue to throw and get stronger.”
Jackson’s latest struggles came in the second inning versus the Angels, when he lasted two-thirds, giving up seven earned runs on six hits, two walks and no strikeouts. Three Angels home runs helped bury the Jays, who had taken a 1-0 lead on a Cavan Biggio solo shot in the bottom of the first.
You know what they say about best-laid plans, Charlie Montoyo.
The Jays manager got a harsh reminder before an announced crowd of 15,227 as Toronto lost its fifth in a row at home, their longest such drought this season.
When last we saw Jackson, he picked up his lone win of 2019 in Baltimore against the Orioles, coming on in the second inning last Wednesday after Derek Law was used as the opener. That went relatively well, as Law threw a run-less first and Jackson went five innings to help carry the Jays to a victory.
Montoyo figured he would use the same strategy against Mike Trout and the Angels. And perhaps again in the future.
“If it keeps working,” Montoyo said before the game. “It worked the first time.”
Law kept his end of the deal, setting down the Angels in order to start the game.
Enter Jackson. A home run to Justin Upton on his first pitch. Another to Kole Calhoun on his third.
And not long after, a two-run double by Trout, followed by a three-run homer by Shohei Ohtani.
As the Angels knocked him around, Jackson’s earned-run average rose to 12.43. He became the first Jays pitcher since Giovanni Carrara in 1995 to allow a home run in each of his first seven appearances in a season, and his record fell to 1-5.
“Edwin was so good last year (with Oakland), we kept waiting for him to find it, he has just not been able to find it,” Montoyo said. “We want to keep giving him a chance, but he just hasn’t been able to do it.”
How Jackson could continue with the Jays is anyone’s guess, even with the pitching ranks as thin as they are.
The visitors scored single runs in the third, fifth and sixth, with the last one coming courtesy of Trout, who hit his 20th homer of the season (off Nick Kingham) into the Flight Deck.
Randal Grichuk belted a two-run homer with one out in the seventh. In the eighth, Biggio’s second homer of the night came with one on and none out.
The Jays lost centrefielder Teoscar Hernandez, who left the game with a sprained left wrist after crashing into the wall. X-rays were negative.
The man wearing the biggest smile in the Jays dugout in the hours leading up to the game was right-handed pitcher David Phelps, finally activated after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Phelps had not pitched in the majors since August 30, 2017, with the Seattle Mariners.
The plan is to use Phelps, who signed a one-year, US$2.5-million contract with the Jays in January, in a setup role out of the bullpen.
And there Phelps was in the seventh, retiring three batters in a row after walking David Fletcher to start the inning.
“I don’t think it has really sunk in yet, fully,” Phelps said before the game, referring to his return. “Over the last month or so when I’ve been thinking about it, I get a little bit emotional. It has been a good while since I have been on an active roster. It has been a grind, especially these last 15 months for sure.”
Phelps thanked his wife, family, the Mariners and the Jays for guidance and support through his rehab process.
“Tommy John (surgery) is interesting,” Phelps said. “It has been normalized in our game. A lot of guys have it, a lot of guys come back from it, but it’s such an individual rehab in itself. Definitely there are a lot of trying times. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
“Huge credit to the Seattle organization for letting me stick around all year last year. Ever since I have been here with these guys, the (Jays) staff has been incredible.”
Phelps acknowledged he had to get past some doubts on the road back.
“There certainly were,” Phelps said. “When you have a little bit of a setback in the spring … coming into the spring the goal was to be ready for opening day, that was right on the 12-month mark. Everyone says 12-14 months, some say 12-16 months is the rehab. Everyone wants to be on the shorter end of it. But there were a couple of moments where I was like, ‘This does not really feel that good.’ The mental aspect of it was the last hurdle, trusting I could really cut the ball loose and not feel pain.
“I feel good. Let’s go out there and let the chips fall where they may.”
If all goes well for Phelps in the next month or so, he could become a trade asset for the Jays.
With Phelps activated, the Jays optioned right-hander Justin Shafer to triple-A Buffalo. Toronto also announced that right-hander Elvis Luciano (elbow sprain) has been transferred to the 60-day injured list and will be eligible to be reinstated on August 12.
RAPPING ON RAPS
Catcher Luke Maile was among the Jays caught up in the Raptors’ championship parade, sipping a coffee at his locker as he watched the festivities on a clubhouse television.
“It’s the height of sports,” Maile said as the Raptors took their places on the stage at Nathan Phillips Square. “It’s awesome. We’re happy for them. Happy for the city. Just being around it, the energy, the amount of people repping t-shirts and jerseys and things like that, it’s pretty special.”
Maile appreciated the arduous task the Raptors accomplished in knocking off the Golden State Warriors in six games for their first NBA title.
“I don’t know a whole lot about the NBA, but from a competition standpoint, when you play a team like Golden State that has been at the height of everything for as many years as they have,” Maile said, “to win it on their court the way they did, the games were battles, they were fun to watch the few times we had a chance to check them out.”
Maile and Montoyo were taken aback by the size of the crowd on the downtown streets, estimated to be more than two million.
“Awesome, it’s pretty cool,” Montoyo said. “Didn’t think it would be this many people. It’s a big city, but that’s pretty awesome.”
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