R.A. Dickey surrenders grand slam as struggles continue

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Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey appeared to be getting back on track having logged quality starts in three out of his last four appearances entering this afternoon’s match against the offensively-impotent Mariners. Over six innings today, though, the right-hander allowed three home runs, including a first inning lead-off home run to Michael Saunders (his first of two) and a grand slam to Dustin Ackley in the fourth. When Dickey left after six innings, his ERA was a disappointing 5.36.

The Jays acquired the 2012 NL Cy Young award winner from the Mets with Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas for John Buck, Travis D’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Wuilmer Becerra in one of two big trades the Canadian team made during the off-season. Dickey is just one small part of the 10-21 Jays’ problems, however. Josh Johnson — now on the disabled list — has a 6.86 ERA, Mark Buehrle 6.43, and Brandon Morrow 5.29. Despite having the third-most home runs in the league, the Jays have the lowest batting average (.226), second-lowest on-base percentage (.291), and third-lowest slugging percentage (.389). Their list of injured players is rivaled only by the Dodgers.

As for Dickey, his strikeout rate is down more than six percent and his walk rate is up by more than three percent compared to last year. He is inducing fewer ground balls consequently raising his fly ball rate. Known for having a faster-than-usual knuckleball, its velocity is down 2 MPH from last year. His first-pitch strike rate is at its lowest (52.6%) since 2008 with the Mariners.

Even if the 38-year-old Dickey were to right his sinking ship, the Jays are still in some trouble. But fixing their ace is a good place to start. Fortunately, the Jays are still less than one-fifth of the way through the season, so there is time to turn it around.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.