ST. PETERSBURG -- The Blue Jays went their separate ways on Sunday as the regular season came to an end, but not before the club had a little bit of fun by appointing Russell Martin as the unofficial manager for the day.Martin was responsible for filling out the lineup card
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Blue Jays went their separate ways on Sunday as the regular season came to an end, but not before the club had a little bit of fun by appointing Russell Martin as the unofficial manager for the day.
Martin was responsible for filling out the lineup card and making all of the pitching changes during the Blue Jays' 9-4 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. Right-hander Sam Gaviglio took the loss after he allowed five runs on six hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings, while center fielder Kevin Pillar finished with a three-hit game.
Toronto closed the book on its 2018 campaign with a 73-89 record and a fourth-place finish in the American League East. The Blue Jays finished tied with the Giants for the ninth-worst record in the Major Leagues, but since San Francisco had a lower winning percentage in 2017, Toronto will pick 11th in next year's MLB Draft. The Blue Jays normally would have owned the 10th pick, but Atlanta has a compensatory pick at No. 9, which pushes every club down one position.
"It was fun. I didn't realize how much went into it, how much preparation, how much you have to think ahead," Martin said. "It was a cool experience. It's tougher than it looks. You have to know your personnel. You have to be ready 20 pitches in advance almost, with each guy. So you have to look at the matchups and it's September, when it seems like there's an endless amount of guys on the bench.
"It's crazy how many moves you can make, but overall I still kept it simple. I knew, going into the game, who I was going to use and when I was going to use them. Didn't get the result we hoped for, but it was still a fun experience for me."
Martin moved Pillar into the leadoff spot for the final game of the year for one simple reason: He wanted the everyday center fielder to reach 40 doubles for the first time in his career. Before the game, Martin said that if Pillar doubled, he would be removed from the game for rookie Jonathan Davis. Pillar singled in his first two at-bats and then doubled in the top of the fifth. Martin, true to his word, pulled Pillar between innings after he became the 25th player in franchise history to reach 40 doubles.
Gaviglio struggled in his final start of the year. He allowed two runs in the third and three more in the fifth before he was pulled by Martin with two outs in the sixth. Gaviglio threw 51 of his 90 pitches for strikes and finished the season with a 3-10 record and 5.31 ERA. The 28-year-old remains under club control next year and should have an outside shot at competing for a job in the rotation, if he's able to hang onto his spot on the 40-man roster during the offseason.
• 5 big questions for Blue Jays going into 2019
Martin actually intended to remove Gaviglio after five innings, but when he went to go shake his hand, Gaviglio was having none of it. Gaviglio shook his head and said he wanted to go back out for one more inning. Martin obliged and praised Gaviglio for his determination.
"It's a little bit easier talking to him than [manager John Gibbons] about that," Gaviglio said, laughing after the game. "I've had some conversations with him before, and thankfully he let me go out for that sixth."
Randal Grichuk finished 1-for-3 with an RBI double, completing his season with a .245 average and .803 OPS with 25 homers and 61 RBIs over 124 games. The home runs are a career high and the RBIs fell seven short of a personal best he set in 2016 with the Cardinals. Grichuk's final numbers are particularly impressive considering he was slashing .103/.203/.221 on June 1.
First baseman Rowdy Tellez picked up a pair of hits to cap an impressive first month in the Majors. Tellez hit .314 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 23 September games. Justin Smoak is expected to return as next year's starting first baseman, but if he gets hurt at some point during the year then Tellez should be expected to take over the position.
"I like where we're going," Grichuk said. "I know we have a lot of young guys. We have guys in the Minor League system who can impact us up here in the future and we have a lot of guys up here who performed well this year, but who can perform even better, including myself. I think there are bright things to come."
HE SAID IT
"In between that inning, I was actually thinking of shaking his hand. I went to shake his hand and he didn't want to shake it. I was like, 'All right, well we're going to call back down and let Biagini know that he's not in there.' I was happy to see that attitude. He wanted to get out there and leave it all out on the field and I like that kind of attitude. But they're a scrappy team and they just found a way to get some runs." -- Martin, on his conversation with Gaviglio
The Blue Jays' 89 losses are their highest total since 2012, when they finished with the same record. Toronto finished 6-13 vs. the Rays this season. The Blue Jays finished 33-48 on the road, 40-41 at home and 30-46 vs. the AL East.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.