TORONTO – Earlier this week, when the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Adam Cimber and Corey Dickerson from the Marlins, the newcomers were understandably the focal points.
A diver, Cimber has already shown how well he keeps opposing hitters off balance, while Dickerson, now in Buffalo with his new teammates, will provide much-needed left-handed power once he’s healthy.
A less obvious consequence of the trade was what it would mean for Santiago Espinal, but the Blue Jays showed confidence in the 26-year-old by trading infielder Joe Panik to Miami and Espinal has made the most of the opportunity thus far. He had two hits in Saturday’s 6-3 win over the Rays at Sahlen Field, including his first career home run, a two-run shot in the sixth inning that gave the Blue Jays much-needed breathing space.
“It was actually one of the best times of the year,” manager Charlie Montoyo said later via Zoom. “Just because of the situation, who we played against and who did it. Everyone loves Espy because this kid works every day. He’s always ready … He was a big part of this victory. “
By the time he got back to the dugout, Espinal could barely hear what his teammates were saying to him because they made a lot of noise while celebrating.
“It was amazing to see my teammates jumping and screaming,” he recalled. “It was a special moment. I couldn’t hear anything because it was so loud.”
On the season, Espinal is now hitting .304 / .355 / .402 thanks to a first-contact approach that forces opposing defenses to make plays. Of course, that success lies in a relatively limited sample of 110 plate appearances and some good fortune in batted balls seems to be helping, but if you can come close to maintaining this while also providing above-average defense in the infield. , the Blue Los Jays will be delighted.
“He’s elite,” starter Ross Stripling commented afterward. “He really is. I compare him to Enrique Hernández, Kike, who I had in Los Angeles. You can put him anywhere in the frame, or with Kike in the outfield as well, and you know that he will make the routine plays every time and probably a really amazing play in almost every game and it looks like Espy does. “
Of course, no one is counting on Espinal to lead the Blue Jays’ opener, especially at a time when the top of the order continues to produce. Hitting the cleanup spot for the second straight game, George Springer hit his fifth home run of the season, a solo shot that landed 403 feet off the left-field wall to open the second inning.
Since returning from the disabled list on June 22, Springer has quietly produced as well as ever while regaining his rhythm at the plate. Small sample warnings apply again here, but there has been a lot of hard contact behind its .250 / .390 / .583 bar line.
On the mound, Ross Stripling continued his streak of good starts by allowing just one earned run in 5.2 innings. The right-hander struck out five and allowed just three walks and two hits in one day, his ERA falling to 4.06.
From there, the Blue Jays turned to the bullpen and enjoyed scoreless starts from Cimber and Tim Mayza before Jordan Romano allowed two runs to score in the ninth. With the victory, the Blue Jays enter the middle of their season with a 43-38 record, having gone 10-3 in their last 13 games and expecting more reinforcements in no time.
As he looks to the future in the second half, Montoyo believes the Blue Jays are capable of more than they have shown thus far.
“We have to keep pitching and we have to keep catching him,” Montoyo said. “We’re going to hit the mark, so that’s the main deal. You are going to win in this league with pitching and defense. That is exactly what it is “.
After an encouraging rehab outing on Friday, Rafael Dolis is about to return and could be activated as soon as Sunday. Considering that there will be days when Romano will not be available, Dolis’ return is significant as the main office continues to look for updates on new operations.
Although Ryan Borucki is not as close as Dolis, he felt good after throwing 25 pitches from the mound at Sahlen Field on Saturday morning and a rehab assignment could be scheduled next week.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are making it work with what they have, combining contributions from stars and depth players as all good teams should.
“The talent speaks for itself,” Stripling said. “You get production of types that you don’t even necessarily think about.”