KANSAS CITY – His Blue Jays mired in their first prolonged slump of the season, losers of six of eight and prone to giving away games in which they've enjoyed healthy leads, star shortstop Jose Reyes has noticed bad habits creeping into the team's games and wants them nipped in the bud.
"We cannot stay the same way the whole season long," said Reyes. "This is not acceptable. Something needs to change because we're a better team than what we're showing right now. It's a long season and we just need to continue to push."
It's been a frustrating week for the ballclub. Dating back to the start of the last homestand, a week ago Tuesday versus Baltimore, the Jays have lost four games in which they've led by at least three runs. The bullpen, usually reliable, has allowed 23 earned runs in 25 2/3 innings (8.06 ERA) in that span.
Making matters worse, the Jays played perhaps their worst game of the season on Tuesday in Kansas City, which starts a string of 20-consecutive games without a day off. There were fundamental mistakes sprinkled throughout, including a run-scoring throwing error; the Royals taking an extra base twice on balls hit to left field; an arcing fly ball that bounced on the warning track for a double to start the Kansas City comeback; and Edwin Encarnacion not hustling out a ground ball and wild throw with two runners on.
"This is baseball," said Reyes. "Sometimes the stuff in baseball doesn't go perfect. Sometimes you're going to make a mistake but you have to learn from that mistake."
It's early and the Jays entered action on Wednesday only three games behind the division-leading New York Yankees but Reyes doesn't want the club consistently giving away games any longer.
"When you go through September, if you're competing for making the playoffs those are the games you say, 'Oh man, I lost those games in April and you see where we are now and we need those games,'" said Reyes. "But like I said that's in the past and as a player you have to put stuff in the past and try to get it the next day."
LAWRIE OUT OF THE LINEUP
Brett Lawrie missed his first game of the season on Wednesday night, sitting out with tightness in his back.
The 24-year-old is hitting .192/.243/.384 in 107 plate appearances. His six home runs rank second on the club behind Jose Bautista (8). Lawrie leads the Blue Jays with 20 RBI.
Lawrie gave no indication he was concerned for the long-term, deeming himself day-to-day.
GIBBONS CONSIDERING McGOWAN'S ROLE
Dustin McGowan's six-inning, two earned run effort on Tuesday night may have earned him another start.
"As of right now it's going to stay the same," said manager John Gibbons. "We're still debating adding that extra guy for that long stretch. We've got to decide quick."
McGowan, a type 1 diabetic, wore his insulin pump for the first time in an attempt to regulate his blood sugar and maintain energy throughout the game. It worked. McGowan alluded to "feeling stronger" as the night progressed.
"He did a helluva job (Tuesday) night," said Gibbons. "He's probably going to start again. My only reservation about it is how good he was in the bullpen. We've struggled at times down there. I'm still not sure where it all leads."
On top of McGowan's move out of the bullpen, Gibbons is without his closer, Casey Janssen, meaning he's down two quality late-game right-handers.
JANSSEN THROWS BULLPEN
Casey Janssen is making tangible progress toward his much-anticipated return from an oblique strain.
He threw a bullpen session of more than 30 pitches on Wednesday.
"Yeah, pain free, just trying to get my arm to work fast again," said Janssen. "I didn't get much of a spring training and want that to start building up and getting strong and getting used to the grind of throwing all those pitches off a slope and throwing aggressively."
Janssen will throw another bullpen on Friday in Pittsburgh. If all goes well he'll head out on another, hopefully his final, rehabilitation assignment.
He'll ask the Blue Jays to place him at Double-A New Hampshire, hoping for better competition than he would get at Single-A Dunedin. Janssen also wants to be closer to Toronto and with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons scheduled to play early next week against the Braves' affiliate just outside Atlanta, New Hampshire seems the appropriate spot.
As for the recent struggles of his bullpen mates, Janssen doesn't expect the issues to persist.
"Honestly, I kind of use this line, but I truly feel that zeroes can be contagious," he said. "When everyone's putting up zeroes it seems easier to put up zeroes. Unfortunately when those hitters are comfortable in the box and putting good swings, their confidence level goes up and makes our job a little bit tougher. It's the same guys that had unbelievable years last year, and I don't want the first month to skew anybody's vision of what our bullpen is and what they can be, because it's an electric bullpen."
LIND TO RESUME BASEBALL ACTIVITIES
Adam Lind, out with lower back tightness, is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday. He won't be back then but the Blue Jays are hopeful his return will come soon.
"He's feeling better," said Gibbons. "He's going to take some ground balls either today or tomorrow. He's swinging the bat. He's starting to feel better. They backed him off a couple of days ago because it was still irritating him but he's back to go."
Lind is under the care of team doctors in Dunedin, Florida. He received a medicinal injection nine days ago to alleviate his symptoms.
He'll appear in at least one extended spring training game and could play in a Gulf Coast League game before rejoining the Blue Jays no sooner than this weekend in Pittsburgh.