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Jays Listed – Top 10 Jays moments in April

With April coming to a close I’ve pushed our regularly scheduled Jays Top 10 back to instead next focus on the first month of the season with the Top 10 Jays moments in April. First though, what constitutes a moment? As far as this list is concerned anything that happened in the month of April involving the Jays counts.

It could be a single play, a game, a whole series or a month’s worth of at bats. If it happened in April and Jay fans remember it that makes it List worthy. Of course, it has to be memorable for a good reason. You won’t find any blown saves or errors on the list. Here we go…

April 5, 2012 – J.P. Arencibia finishes off a long opening day

The season opener in Cleveland was a long one for the Jays this season. Toronto nearly opened the season with two games, going toe-to-toe with the Indians for 16 innings. Cleveland ace Justin Masterson baffled the Jays over eight strong innings, allowing only two hits while striking out 10.

Once Masterson exited the Jays got the bats going in the ninth off Indians’ closer Chris Perez. The Jays scored three runs off Perez, keyed by a clutch two-run double by Edwin Encarnacion. After Toronto tied it in the ninth the bullpens put up donuts until the 16th when Arencibia broke it open with a three-run blast off Jario Asencio.

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Young Jays debuts

A few young Jays prospects got a taste of the big leagues in April as Evan Crawford and Drew Hutchison made their Major League debuts, while Joel Carreno made his first start in the Majors.

Carreno appeared in 15 games for the Jays in 2011, but all of them were out of the bullpen. With Brett Cecil demoted and Dustin McGowan hurting, the Jays needed a spot starter in their first series of the season against Cleveland and Carreno got the call. He ended up taking the loss against the Indians after going six innings and allowing four runs on six hits with three strikeouts. Carreno was victimized by the long ball, surrendering a pair of home runs to Carlos Santana. Depending what happens in the Jays rotation and in the bullpen it may not be the last time we see Carreno this season.

Crawford, who Anthony Gose called the best pitcher in the Jays organization, got the call from the big club after Sergio Santos went on paternity leave for the birth of his son. Crawford made his debut against the Orioles in a 9-2 Toronto blowout win. He went one inning, giving up a hit to Chris Davis, but he also caught Wilson Betemit looking on a wicked curve ball to notch his first Major League strikeout.

With Cecil still MIA and McGowan still rehabbing the Jays turned to Drew Hutchison to fill the fifth starter roll the next time it came around. Hutchison, a top pitching prospect, made his debut on April 21 against Kansas City. He had some command issues in the game and allowed five runs on eight hits and three walks over 5 1-3 innings He also racked up four strikeouts that showed off an impressive fast ball. Thanks to big games at the plate from Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus Hutchison was able to record his first Major League win. In his next start Hutchison held the Orioles to two runs over five innings, but had to settle for a no decision after leaving the game with the scored tied.

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April 9, 2012 – Jays show class at home opener

The home opener was a game to forget thanks to a ninth inning meltdown by Sergio Santos, but it should be remembered for what the Jays did before the game even started.

Before the first pitch the Blue Jays honored Tanner Craswell and Mitch MacLean. Craswell and MacLean, both from Charlottetown, PEI, played for the Lethbridge Bulls of the Western Major Baseball League. Both were gunned down in a tragic and inexplicable incident in December, that also left Shayna Conway, the lone survivor of the ordeal with gunshot wounds.

The families of Craswell and MacLean were in attendance before the game andthey were presented with honorary Blue Jays jerseys dawned with Craswell and MacLean’s names and their respective numbers, 13 and 6. A moment of silence was also held in remembrance of Craswell and MacLean.

The Jays also marked the passing of Gary Carter, Trent Frayne and Marty Springstead in a classy gesture.

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Edwin Encarnacion king of the bat flip

Last season Edwin Encarnacion got off to a horrid start and did not hit a single home run in the month of April. This season with defensive distractions removed Encarnacion has been Toronto’s most consistent hitter, leading the team with a .310 average, 20 RBI and seven home runs.

Most of Encarnacion’s homers so far have been no doubters, leading to the new always enjoyable patented bat flip. In case you missed it take a look at the reply at the end of the clip above. Hopefully we’ll get to see plenty more Edwin bat flips this season. You’ve also got to love Encarnacion’s new super flex he shows off after going yard.

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April 15 – Eric Thames: Bubble Boy

It may be childish for a 30-year-old man to laugh at a guy for having a bubble gum bubble on the top of his hat, but that’s fine with me. I don’t know which Blue Jays player got Thames with the old “bubble on the hat trick,” but it seemed to last forever. Every time the game returned from a break they’d pan over to Thames and there he was with the bubble still on top of his hat. The gag must have lasted at least 3-4 innings. If anyone knows for sure let me know.

The best part of the gag was when Kyle Drabek was pulled from the game. Thames stood on the dugout steps ready to high-five Drabek along with his teammates and you could see Drabek trying hard not to laugh at Thames. Check out the picture of the scene below.

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Kyle Drabek’s strong April

After last year’s step backwards Kyle Drabek was expected to begin the season in the starting rotation in Las Vegas. However, due to a terrible spring for Brett Cecil and more injury problems for Dustin McGowan, and also a strong spring training from Drabek, he earned a spot in Toronto’s rotation to begin the season.

Even though Drabek really did earn his starting job in spring training fans were still questioning whether or not his command and approach was ready for the Majors. In his season debut Drabek quickly quieted the doubters with a solid outing against Boston, going 5 1-3 innings and allowing one run on three hits. More importantly, Drabek walked only three batters, while striking out four.

Drabek proved that his debut wasn’t just a fluke either by turning in another solid start in his next turn versus Baltimore. The young right-hander pitched a strong 7 1-3 against the Orioles, allowing two runs (one earned) with six strikeouts and only one walk.

Drabek finished the month of April with a 2-1 record, a 2.25 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. He could be 3-0 if the Jays provided him with some run support in his last start against Baltimore. One other important stat so far is Drabek’s strikeouts to walks ratio which currently sits at 1.38. Last season when Drabek walked more batters than he struck out that ratio was 0.93. It may still be a small sample, but Drabek may be starting to turn the corner.

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April 20, 2012 – The Jays turn a triple play

No, not that triple play!

You want to know how rare triple plays are? Before last week the Jays had not turned a triple play since September 21, 1979. That’s not entirely true though, as they did turned a triple play during the 1992 World Series, but the umpire botched the call. Gruber got Sanders on the heel! Look at the picture!

April’s official triple play took place in the third inning versus the Royals. With Yuniesky Betancourt on first and Alex Gordon on second Eric Hosmer hit a screamer to the right side that Adam Lind snared in mid-flight. Lind smartly stepped on first to get Betancourt and fired to Yunel Escobar at second to double off Gordon. One-Two-Three and the Jays shut down the Royals rally and got out of the inning unscathed.

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April 21, 2012 – Colby Rasmus heats up

For some reason there were a few Colby Rasmus haters out there to start the season and he gave them some more ammunition early on by struggling at the plate. In his first seven games of the season Rasmus was scuffling with only three hits and a .125 average. That started to change in his next game when he went 3-4 and drove in a pair of runs.

The haters were really silenced when the Jays took on the Royals on April 21. That night Rasmus launched a pair of home runs while going 3-4 with four RBI and three runs scored. With some sparkling defense in center field and an improving approach at the plate Rasmus looks primed for a breakout season in Toronto.

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April 24, 2012 – Kelly Johnson flips out!

Kelly Johnson made all the highlight reels and may have saved the game with his glove work on April 24. With the Jays holding a 1-0 lead, thanks to a solo home run from Johnson, the Royals struck back in the bottom of the second. Eric Hosmer led off the inning with a solo home run off Brandon Morrow. After a groundout by Jeff Francoeur, Mike Moustakas doubled and advanced to third on a passed ball.

Morrow then got an important out by striking out Brayan Pena. The next batter Mitch Maier sent a slow roller to  the right side. Johnson charged the ball and lacking the time to pick up the ball and throw out Maier at first flipped it backhanded with his glove to get Maier by half a step. That doesn’t do it justice though so be sure to check out the clip below if you haven’t seen it. And if you have seen it, check it out again.

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April 28 – Brandon Morrow rights the ship

 

Brandon Morrow added to his pitching arsenal during the offseason and spring training, but after a solid debut against Cleveland, in which he allowed two unearned runs on one hit in seven innings, he had a couple rough outings. Against Baltimore Morrow surrendered four runs in seven innings, while against Tampa Bay, a team Morrow has had a lot of success against in the past, he was ripped for six runs in six innings. Morrow was plagued by the long ball in both games as he was tagged for five homers.

Also concerning for Morrow in his first three starts were his strikeout total. Known for racking up the K’s, through his first three starts Morrow had only recorded nine strikes. It’s a small sample but through those nine games Morrow’s strikeout rate per nine innings was only 4.1. That’s extremely low when you consider Morrow finished last season with a 10.2 K rate per nine, second best in the Majors.

Morrow got back on track at the expense of the Mariners on April 28. Against his former club Morrow tossed six shutout innings, allowing five hits and walking none while posting nine strikeouts. Hopefully the Jays will see this version of Morrow a lot more often this season.

Video Link – Morrow dominates the Mariners

Honorable Mentions:
Rajai Davis makes an impact at the plate and on the base paths
Brett Lawrie’s double play vs. Kansas City
Jose Bautista’s bomb vs. Tampa Bay
Four-game sweep vs. Kansas City
@PokerDave04 Blue Jays fan of the Game – April 10

Got your own April Jays moments that I missed? Share them in the comments section below.

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