'Tis a Mystery
With the way things have been going lately, it’s hard to not to question things you hear around Blue Jays camp — blame the B.J. Ryan "back injury" thing if you want to point to something specific. Take a scenario within Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Devil Rays, for example.
Toronto was trailing Tampa Bay, 1-0, heading into the eighth inning. The Devil Rays — void of any left-handers in the bullpen — called up righty Brian Stokes to face Jays catcher Jason Phillips (righty), who was leading off the inning, followed by Ryan Roberts (righty) and Adam Lind (lefty). Jays manager John Gibbons called for a pinch hitter: John McDonald, who bats from the right side.
On the bench, presumably, was right fielder Alex Rios — Toronto’s leader with seven home runs who has gone 7-for-17 on the current homestand. McDonald, on the other hand, had never faced Stokes and was 1-for-his-last-25 at the plate. Also on the bench was a left-handed option in Jason Smith if Gibbons wanted to play the percentages.
McDonald promptly grounded out to the pitcher, Roberts (no hits in three games this year and filling in at third for the injured Troy Glaus) flew out to center, and Lind grounded out to second base. Again, Rios or Smith were presumably available to pinch hit for either McDonald or Roberts.
Afterward, when Gibbons was asked why he decided McDonald was the man for the situation, he replied:
"I’ve got my reasons. You don’t need to know everything. I had my reasons. I just chose to do it that way at that time."
With the way Toronto’s clubhouse has been transformed into an infirmary, it was easy to question whether or not that meant something was wrong with Rios. Before and after the game, though, Gibbons insisted Rios was fine. It was merely a day off for the right fielder. Toronto’s manager also said there was nothing wrong with Phillips.
So, in almost comedic fashion, a pack of us reporters waited in the clubhouse for Rios to finally emerge so we could get his take on the situation. When a team official approached Rios to tell him the media wanted to talk to him, he looked absolutely puzzled.
"Yeah, I’m fine."
Could you have pinch hit in that situation?
Do you have any idea why you weren’t playing?
"I have no clue. Day off, I guess."
OK, that’s that. Gibbons had his reasons.
GLAUS UPDATE: After the loss, Glaus said he was "feeling better" after re-injuring his left heel on Friday, and Gibbons said the third baseman might just avoid a second DL stint after all. Toronto doesn’t need to make a roster move until Tuesday, when it needs a replacement starter for the injured Roy Halladay.