TORONTO – The Blue Jays outfield entered Thursday as a crowded, complicated picture, and quickly turned into an adventure in the 7-4 loss to the Red Sox.
With six outfielders on the active roster, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. due back from the injured list soon and a handful of infielders who have also dabbled at the position, the Blue Jays are looking to strike a balance between prioritizing current performance and seeing what their young guys can offer in 2020 and beyond. Thursday’s game showed why that’s such a difficult balance to strike.
With Derek Fisher, Randal Grichuk and Billy McKinney earning the start from left to right, a handful of defensive miscues cost the Blue Jays. With two out in the bottom of the second, the Red Sox jumped ahead 2-0 on an RBI double from Marco Hernandez that McKinney got a glove on while sliding, but couldn’t squeeze to end the inning.
“Billy came up to me and tried to apologize two or three times,” said starter Clay Buchholz, who allowed four runs on seven hits over four innings in his first start against his former team. “I told him, ‘You don’t ever have to apologize. I know you’re not out there trying to do something to cause me runs. That’s not what the game’s about.’ They feel bad, but if I make a better pitch in that scenario then the ball doesn’t even get hit there, so I can take the blame for that.”
Later, in the fourth, Jackie Bradley Jr. sent a 375-foot fly ball to the base of the wall in left field, according to Statcast. Fisher tracked the ball back to the wall and was there in time to make the play, but he appeared to get caught looking between the ball and the base of the wall. It wasn’t charged as an error, but Bradley eventually came around to score an insurance run. Jump to the ninth, and Fisher had a Mookie Betts single bounce in front of him, get past him and roll all the way to the wall, allowing Betts to reach third on an error.
Anthony Alford entered the game as a pinch-hitter for McKinney in the bottom of the fifth, which is one way that manager Charlie Montoyo hopes to use him down the stretch. Alford also should see some starts against left-handed pitching, which makes Saturday’s game against the Yankees’ James Paxton likely. The club’s athletically gifted No. 20 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, reached on an infield single later in the game. But he made a defensive miscue of his own, too, as a Brock Holt single bounced off his glove and skipped behind him, allowing Holt to take second on the error before scoring later in the inning.
With Alford out of options next season and Jonathan Davis also in the picture, Montoyo would love to get reps to as many players as possible, but there are only so many blank spaces on the lineup card. With the club still hoping to give opportunities to Fisher, McKinney and others down the stretch, it creates more of a squeeze on Alford and Davis than there would be in an average September.