Prior to his solid ninth-inning performance in Wednesday's series-clinching 3-1 win over Boston, Sergio Santos had been rekindling memories of Bill Caudill for longtime Toronto Blue Jays fans.
Acquired from Oakland for Dave Collins and Alfredo Griffin on Dec. 8, 1984, Caudill, who had saved 88 games in his previous three seasons, was thought to be the answer to the club's perennial late-game woes. But Caudill registered a whopping 6.28 earned-run average in his first month in 1985 and Tom Henke would supplant him as the team's closer that July.
Santos, the most heralded reliever the Jays have traded for since Caudill, was acquired to prevent the late-inning drama that became commonplace in 2011.
Unfortunately in his previous two outings, the 28-year-old converted shortstop, whose slider was named the best strikeout pitch in baseball by ESPN last July, had elevated fastballs and struggled with his command. And after he blew his second save on Monday, he was booed off the field by many in the raucous crowd of 48,473 for the Jays' home opener.
Santos's redemptive performance Wednesday should temporarily quiet his naysayers, but the ineptitude of Jays closers over the years - outside of Henke and Duane Ward - has made the ninth inning a sore spot amongst Rogers Centre faithful.
And though there were plenty of encouraging signs during the first week of the season, Santos's bout of ineffectiveness likely ranks as the biggest concern amongst Blue Jays fans.
Here's a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly from the first week of the Jays' regular season that saw them finish with a strong 4-2 record:
1. Kelly Johnson
The Jays second baseman leads the team with a .292 batting average and has registered six walks. His lofty .452 on-base percentage could inspire manager John Farrell to promote him to the leadoff spot.
Opponents are hitting just .174 off of Jays' hurlers, which is by far the best in the American League. On the flip side, the pitching staff also tops the circuit in walks (31). Propelled by excellent performances from Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek, the starting staff has been very effective. And with the exception of Santos, the bullpen has been outstanding. Four relievers - Jason Frasor, Darren Oliver, Carlos Villanueva and Luis Perez - have yet to surrender an earned run in a combined 11 appearances.
3. Edwin Encarnacion
The man known as E5 for his less-than-stellar defensive work at third base in years past has been A1 as a designated hitter this season. Through six games, he leads the club with six runs batted in, a .500 slugging percentage and is hitting .444 with runners in scoring position. He's making a good case for himself to replace Adam Lind as the club's everyday cleanup hitter.
4. The defence of Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind
Rasmus has made two highlight-reel catches in centre field, while Lind's work at first base continues to improve. He possesses surprisingly soft hands and has already saved his fellow infielders multiple throwing errors.
5. Rajai Davis
The fleet-footed outfielder scored the game-tying run on opening day, knocked in the winning run in the second game and scored the winning run in Wednesday's contest. His speed has proven to be a tremendous asset off the bench.
6. John Farrell's game strategy
God bless Cito Gaston, but Farrell may have employed more game strategy over the past week than Gaston did in his entire 12-season tenure as dugout boss. Farrell's decision to pinch-run Davis for Lind in the ninth inning in the season's first game proved ingenious when the speedy outfielder scored the tying run on an Encarnacion double that likely wouldn't have plated Lind.
Later in the 12th inning, Farrell substituted Omar Vizquel into the game for left-fielder Eric Thames to create a five-man infield, which worked to perfection when Asdrubal Cabrera grounded into an inning-ending double play. Farrell also had the foresight to insert Davis in place of Thames in the ninth inning of the second game and the speedster rewarded him with a two-run double in the 12th.
1. Brett Lawrie vs off-speed pitches
The scouting report on Lawrie is clearly to throw him a steady diet of off-speed pitches, and so far the strategy is working. The scrappy Canuck has struck out eight times in six games and has yet to record an extra-base hit. It should be noted, however, that Lawrie's defence has been spectacular.
2. Yunel Escobar
The Cuban shortstop has looked uncomfortable at the plate and is striking out at an uncharacteristically high rate (seven strikeouts in six games). If his struggles persist, the hot-hitting Johnson could replace him atop the order.
3. J.P. Arencibia
His game-winning home run in the 16th inning on opening day was one of the most memorable moments in recent Jays history. The likeable catcher also recorded a clutch two-run single in the sixth inning of Tuesday's win over the Red Sox. Unfortunately, those are the only two hits he has recorded this season. On a positive note, he has thrown out the only two runners that have attempted to steal off of him.
4. Eric Thames's defence
Despite devoting himself to improving his defence in the off-season, the 25-year-old left-fielder has already missed two catchable balls and boasts a below average arm.
1. Sergio Santos
After retiring both batters he faced Wednesday and securing a save, Santos's stat line - 12.00 ERA, four walks in three innings - isn't quite as ghastly. The Jays do, however, have another capable closer in their pen in Francisco Cordero if Santos should falter.
2. Team Offence
Regardless of how well the Jays pitch, they won't win a lot of games unless they start hitting. Heading into Friday's game against Baltimore, the club is batting an anemic .202 and slugger Jose Bautista is 1-for-19 since opening day.
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