Game 78: Tampa Bay at Toronto pregame

It’s just a “day off” for Alex Rios, says manager Cito Gaston. Nothing more to it than that — just a way to get Jose Bautista “a few at-bats.” Maybe so, but there is no arguing that it is a well-timed day off for Rios, who has been frustratingly streaky this season.

Rios, whose last day off came on May 26, has hit a paltry .188 with no homers and four RBIs over his last eight games. That comes after a 13-game stretch during which he batted .321 with two homers and seven RBIs for the Jays.

Asked what he’s been seeing at the plate from Rios, Gaston stuck to his usual explanation.

“I say it all the time,” Gaston said. “When guys are in slumps, they just don’t start on time. They’re just late. They don’t get it started. It just boils down to timing — that’s all.”

DOWNS WATCH: Spoke briefly with Jays injured closer Scott Downs this afternoon, between his moving the “No Media Beyond This Point” sign and finding the “Red Bull spot” for his can in the dugout routine. Downs (DL’d with a sprained toe on his left foot) said his foot feels “the best it’s ever felt” and he plans on testing it out a mound and during some fielding drills on Tuesday. He’s eligible to come off the DL for the Jays upcoming series in New York. Not sure if he’ll be ready by then.

ROD READY: Catcher Rod Barajas (sore right hamstring) convinced the Jays to change their lineup on Monday with some successful baserunning prior to the game against the Rays. Barajas has avoided the DL and is back behind the plate. Gaston admitted that having Doc Halladay on the mound Monday played a role in starting Barajas. The catcher has been behind the dish for each of Doc’s 14 starts this season, and the ace has gone 10-1 with a 2.53 ERA. Why mess with a good thing?

HOME RUN HILL: Chatted some with Jays second baseman Aaron Hill this afternoon about where all the power is coming from. He talked about his swing mechanics and also noted that his bat is 1.5 ounces heavier this year. Check later tonight or tomorrow morning for more. … A good story he also shared: Hill set his high school’s record for homers with nine back in 2000 at Redwood High in Visalia, Calif. Earlier this season, Redwood player Blake Proctor broke Hill’s mark. Hill found out from one of his old teammates, Redwood coach Mario Celillo, and decided to call Proctor to congratulate him. Nice move. Just another reason to like this Aaron Hill fellow.

I never got a call when I broke my high school’s record for being hit by the pitch. No love.

TOUGH STRETCH: After bolting out of the gates this season, the Blue Jays have fallen back to earth. The Red Sox, Yankees and Rays are all now ahead of the Jays in the American League East standings, and Toronto’s next 16 games (10 on the road) are all against division rivals.

Said Gaston: “We’ve got all East coming up. All these games are important games for us — right up until the All-Star game. We play these guys three, we go to New York for four and then we go down there [to Tampa Bay] and over to Baltimore. I say all the time, you better take your best game to Baltimore, too. They’re not just going to lay down and let you beat on them. They’ve got a good-hitting ballclub over there. All these games, it’s important that we go out and play well and see if we can win some of these games.”

Today’s lineups:

Rays.jpgTAMPA BAY RAYS (42-35)
Third place AL East, 5.0 GB

1. B.J. Upton, CF
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Carlos Pena, 1B
5. Willy Aybar, 2B
6. Pat Burrell, DH
7. Gabe Gross, RF
8. Jason Bartlett, SS
9. Dioner Navarro, C

Starter: RHP Jeff Niemann (6-4, 4.23)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (41-36)
Fourth place AL East, 6.0 GB

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Vernon Wells, CF
4. Scott Rolen, 3B
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Lyle Overbay, 1B
7. Jose Bautista, RF
8. Russ Adams, LF
9. Rod Barajas, C

Starter: RHP Roy Halladay (10-1, 2.53)

Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter: @MLBastian


One comment


    Well terrible way to start these important games. I’m listening to Jays talk right and agree with Jerry, this team desperately needs a left-handed bat with some pop (see Snider when going well)

    Wells and Rios have been really tough to watch so far. It sucks because these guys are two of my favourites and they just aren’t producing, DROP them down in the lineup Cito! P.S. It now seems like Scutaro is starting to come back to earth, hopefully this wont last much longer.

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