Blue Jays summon prospects Teoscar Hernandez, Richard Urena
Luke Maile, Michael Saunders, Carlos Ramirez also among triple-A call-ups
The Blue Jays will have some reinforcements on the bench should Friday night's game reach extra innings.
Or, with Toronto out of the playoff mix, perhaps manager John Gibbons will call on one or more of catcher Luke Maile, veteran left-fielder Michael Saunders or outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez to start at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Relief pitcher Carlos Ramirez, who hasn't allowed an earned run in a combined 37 2/3 innings at double- and triple-A this season, and infielder Richard Urena were also recalled from triple-A Buffalo following Thursday's series-opening 11-8 win over the Orioles.
Additional moves by the Jays are expected Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of the Bisons' International League regular season.
"If it's their first go-round, they're really excited, here's my chance," Gibbons told reporters after his team halted a four-game losing skid and defeats in six of its previous seven outings. "It's not going to make or break any of them usually … but it's a great experience."
Hernandez, whom the Jays acquired along with outfielder Nori Aoki from Houston for starting pitcher Francisco Liriano, is the most intriguing of Toronto's first wave of call-ups as major league clubs can expand their roster from 25 players to as many as 40 starting Friday.
The 24-year-old native of Cotui, Dominican Republic warmed up for his promotion by hitting four home runs in his last eight games with the Bisons. Hernandez, who provides a mix of power and speed, has a .222 batting average and .294 on-base percentage in 26 contests since the trade.
In 79 this season with the Astros' triple-A affiliate in Fresno, Calif., Hernandez posted a .279/.369/.485 slash line in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He swatted his first major league homer last August versus the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
Hernandez is Toronto's No. 5 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, and probably will spell veteran Jose Bautista in right field occasionally and could see time in centre should Kevin Pillar require a day off.
Saunders, 30, returns to the Blue Jays, with whom he hit 24 home runs in 140 appearances last season before Philadelphia signed the Victoria native to a one-year, $9-million US contract in free agency.
Saunders struggled mightily with the Phillies, racking up 51 strikeouts in 61 games with a lowly .205 batting average. He was released on June 25 and three days later signed a minor league deal with Toronto. Gibbons could use him in late-inning situations as a pinch-runner or pinch-hitting option.
Many fans will remember his three-homer day in 2016 at Baltimore.
The 26-year-old Maile from Edgewood, Ky., accumulated 99 at-bats across 33 games with the Blue Jays earlier this season but managed only 12 hits for a .121 average. But he should be a solid contributor behind the plate and help solve some of the defensive woes the team has experienced with starter Russell Martin out of the lineup since Aug. 11 with an oblique (rib cage) injury.
Ramirez, 26, is a converted outfielder Toronto signed as an undrafted free agent in March 2009. The six-foot-five right-hander has picked up a combined three wins and three saves with double-A New Hampshire and Buffalo this season to go with 45 strikeouts and just 10 walks.
The Dominican's presence should ease the workload of Danny Barnes and Ryan Tepera, who have logged 56 2/3 and 67 innings, respectively, this season.
"Those guys are barking pretty hard," said Gibbons of the heavily taxed Barnes and Tepera. "I'm not saying they're done and they'll be ineffective [for the balance of the season] but I think it's important when we're trailing we don't have to use certain guys to finish a game."
Urena is the Blue Jays' No. 11 prospect and should make his major league debut this month with regular shortstop Troy Tulowitzki sidelined with a sprained right ankle. The 21-year-old Urena has played 129 games with the double-A Fisher Cats this season, hitting .247 with five homers. He'll share playing time in the big leagues with Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney.