HOUSTON - Their hopes of playoff contention a distant memory, the Blue Jays show up to the park each day with a game to play – and to win – knowing the result is irrelevant to the standings.
"It's awful, it's no fun, it's frustrating, I mean I could probably keep going," closer Casey Janssen told TSN.ca prior to Saturday's game.
Janssen kept going.
"I never would have thought we would be in this situation," he said. "We're not playing good baseball."
Following Saturday's second straight embarrassing loss to the pathetic Astros, the Blue Jays are mired in a seven-game losing skid. The latest calamity, by an 8-5 score, was a clumsy effort which saw the Jays down 7-0 by the fourth inning thanks to lousy starting pitching and shoddy defence.
In other words, a familiar script.
Still, guys have to find a reason, or reasons, to continue to grind to the end of a lost season.
"Springboard for next season," veteran Mark DeRosa told TSN.ca in a conversation in New York last week. "A chance for guys to finish strong. A chance for young guys to earn some playing time and see if they can maybe make the 2014 roster or maybe open up some eyes to the point where they're given serious consideration. A guy like Rajai Davis getting a chance to play every day. He's going to be a free agent at the end of the year, those at bats matter to him."
"Pride, you know you're getting paid to play and do a job," said Janssen. "There are always people watching you. If it's the fans, your family, there's still a lot to play for as far as that and to finish with as good a year as you can have. Maybe more from a mental standpoint of keeping mentally strong about not giving in."
Sounds like the right approach. Does Janssen believe everyone's buying in?
"I don't know," said Janssen. "That would have to be a question for each individual person if they were to look in the mirror and say, hey, I did everything I possibly could this season and it worked out or it didn't work out. Then they would have to maybe evaluate either their preparation in their in-season or off-season program to make it better."
"You can never take anything for granted at this level," said manager John Gibbons. "You can have a great career in this business and you're a young man when you're finished anyway. One thing about the great players, I mean day in, day out, it doesn't matter the circumstances, how the team's doing or how they're doing at the time; they compete. You know they don't give any at bats away if you're a hitter. Pitchers, regardless of how the game is going, you know they don't give in to it."
Recent call-ups Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar, Ryan Goins and Moises Sierra are dotting the field and with more to come when rosters expand on September 1, the Blue Jays' front office is getting a glimpse of the future. Perform well and there could be a 2014 roster spot available.
Opinions are varied, somewhat, about whether the 2013 Blue Jays, given the benefit of a new start, could perform better.
"I would think that there would need to be some changes," said Janssen. "I would also say that the snowball is so big that right now it's tough to say because a fresh start would do a little bit of good. There are definitely some holes that got exposed. I would say, just from my evaluation, if we came back with the same team, although I think it would be different, it might not be a championship team."
"I do but certainly some things have to be addressed," said DeRosa. "I come from an old school way of baseball where things were done a little bit differently. It's become a super young man's game. When I broke in 30 was considered you're in your prime. Thirty-two, 34, these guys were playing and I know people are going to say a lot had to do with what guys were doing off the field and I understand that but there are so many young guys in the game now and productive young guys that you either adapt or die and go home. I would like to see a little bit more reversal back to an old school mentality. How you do that I don't know but I think if I'm back next year, if I'm fortunate enough to be back in this uniform next year, I'd definitely feel with a year under my belt, I've never lacked for speaking my mind but I definitely think I'd speak it a little bit more."
The record is awful at 57-73 and it appears there will be more losses than wins the rest of the way, making for a long final five weeks.
"We've had our team meetings," said Janssen. "We've been loose, we've been tight, we've been anywhere in between from there and for the most part it seems to still come out with the same type of outcome."
JANSSEN DISCUSSES HIS HEALTH
Casey Janssen hasn't had a save opportunity since August 15 when he converted his 22nd of the season (in 24 chances) against the Red Sox.
In fact his mop up appearance on Friday, the eighth inning of a 12-4 loss to the Astros, was his first game action since.
As well as Janssen's pitched all season, it's been a battle through near-constant shoulder pain following a surgery last offseason.
"Can't wait for the offseason to really heal this thing and get it right," said Janssen. "Not that I'm looking ahead but I'm excited for next year and hopefully the little everyday aches and pains subside completely and I can just go about my whole program the way that I would normally do it 100-percent healthy."
Is Janssen a better pitcher today because of the injury?
"I feel like I've learned a lot from not necessarily going out there with my best stuff every night and how important it is to pitch, changing speeds and hitting spots, and still being able to accomplish my task pretty much."
IZTURIS' SEASON OVER
To accommodate Chien-Ming Wang's addition to the 40-man roster, the Blue Jays transferred Maicer Izturis to the 60-day disabled list, ending his season.
Izturis sprained his left ankle in the fifth inning of Tuesday night's game against the Yankees.
He remains with the ballclub and is wearing a walking boot on his left foot.