Daily Dose: Jays cut Ryan, eat $15 million

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Earlier this year Scott Downs emerged as Toronto’s closer thanks to
B.J. Ryan’s struggles and Wednesday the Blue Jays welcomed him back
from the disabled list by releasing Ryan. Ryan has been a mess, posting
a 6.53 ERA with 17 walks and just 13 strikeouts in 20.2 innings while
displaying decreased velocity, but the move still comes as a surprise
given that he’s owed $10 million for 2010.

While his days as a dominant closer may be over it wouldn’t be
shocking if Ryan got things together enough to be a capable middle man
or left-handed specialist, yet the Blue Jays are eating the $15 million
remaining on his contract rather than stashing him back on the DL or in
a mop-up role. And they’re doing so less than 24 hours after saying
that they had no plans to let Ryan go. Something is fishy.

While the Blue Jays learn the dangers of handing five-year contracts
to relievers, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Demoted to Triple-A less than a month ago, Manny Parra is
scheduled to rejoin the Brewers’ rotation Thursday afternoon against
the Cardinals. Parra wasn’t all that great in four starts at Triple-A,
posting a 2.92 ERA and 19/13 K/BB ratio, but with Seth McClung coughing
up seven runs in his last outing Milwaukee decided to reverse the
rotation switch that was made last month.

Parra definitely has the stuff to thrive in the majors and went 9-2
with a 3.68 ERA through mid-June last year, but since then he’s 7-14
with an ugly 5.77 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in 156 innings. Plus, while he has
just 44 career starts under his belt Parra is quite a bit older than
his experience level and actually turns 27 years old in a few months.
He still has upside, but even NL-only teams should be cautious.

* General manager Tony Reagins said Tuesday that Kelvim Escobar
still feels “a deep ache” in his surgically repaired shoulder and
hasn’t picked up a baseball in weeks, leading to speculation that he’s
unlikely to pitch again this year. “We’re not writing him off, by any
means,” Reagins said. “We’re going to move forward cautiously. If we
get him back, great. If we don’t get him back, then we don’t.”

* Jose Contreras earned a mid-May demotion to the minors by going
0-5 with an 8.19 ERA, but he’s been a new man since returning a month
ago. Contreras held the Indians to just one run in 6.1 innings
Wednesday, making him 4-2 with a 1.94 ERA and 38/6 K/BB ratio in 44
innings spread over six post-demotion starts. He’s not suddenly an
elite starter, but the solid 4.50-ERA guy from 2005-2008 is back.

Note: I’ll be live blogging this afternoon’s games over at NBCSports.com.

AL Quick Hits: David Ortiz homered and knocked in four runs
Wednesday … Joe Mauer went 3-for-5 with a homer and a double off the
wall Wednesday … Carlos Guillen (shoulder) is hoping to start a rehab
stint this weekend … David Aardsma blew a three-run lead Wednesday as
all six batters reached … Scott Rolen went 3-for-5 with a double
Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 25 games … Tim Wakefield
celebrated his first All-Star selection by becoming the AL’s first
pitcher to 11 wins … Scott Kazmir was rocked for seven runs in 6.1
innings Wednesday, but escaped with a no-decision … David Hernandez had
his third straight Quality Start on Wednesday and should stick in
Baltimore’s rotation … Jim Leyland said Wednesday that he plans to
platoon Magglio Ordonez and Clete Thomas in right field … Moving up a
day thanks to Glen Perkins’ illness, Anthony Swarzak failed to make it
out of the fifth frame Wednesday … Andruw Jones homered in each of his
first three at-bats Wednesday, but then popped out and struck out.

NL Quick Hits: Manny Ramirez went deep Wednesday for the second
time in five post-suspension games … Raul Ibanez (groin) is hoping to
come off the disabled list Friday … Wandy Rodriguez totaled 11
strikeouts in a complete-game shutout Wednesday, slicing his ERA to
2.96 … General manager Mike Rizzo has made it clear that the Nationals
won’t deal Adam Dunn … Oliver Perez returned from the DL by handing out
seven walks in five innings Wednesday … Rafael Soriano has overtaken
Mike Gonzalez as the Braves’ closer, picking up his fourth save of the
month Wednesday … Chris Volstad threw a complete-game shutout Wednesday
after going 1-5 in his previous seven starts … Homer Bailey turned in
his second straight good start Wednesday and may finally be in the
majors for good … Dave Bush (biceps) is slated to begin a rehab
assignment Friday at Single-A.

Blue Jays clinch 1st playoff spot since 2016, beat Yanks 4-1

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Barred from playing in their own ballpark this year because of COVID-19, the vagabond Toronto Blue Jays have found a home in the playoffs.

The slumping New York Yankees, meanwhile, look likely to play on the road in the postseason, where they’ve struggled all year.

Hyun Jin Ryu pitched seven shutout innings and the Blue Jays clinched their first postseason spot since 2016, beating the Yankees 4-1 Thursday night and further damaging New York’s chances of hosting a first-round series.

New York lost for the fourth time in five games following a 10-game winning stretch and remained two games behind the slumping White Sox for the fourth seed. Chicago lost 5-4 at Cleveland, its fifth straight defeat.

“We’ve got to get it rolling again, obviously, if we’re going to get to where we want to go,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I’m confident we can do it.

New York went 21-7 at home this season but was 11-18 on the road. Boone said he’s not concerned about that split even as a potential road playoff series looms next week.

“We’ve got to get ourselves in order and start playing really good baseball if we’re going to give ourselves a chance,” Boone said.

Toronto secured at least an AL wild-card spot and ensured its eighth trip overall to the postseason. The Blue Jays had endured three losing campaigns since their previous playoff trip, going 67-95 last season.

“I’m just so proud of my club and everything we’ve gone through all year,” second-year manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Canada’s federal government refused to allow games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre this season, citing the closed Canada-U.S. border and the travel risk associated with the pandemic. Stuck on the road to start the season, the Blue Jays eventually ended up at their Triple-A ballpark, Sahlen Field in Buffalo, but didn’t gripe about their fate.

“They never complained,” Montoyo said. “They had their mind set on getting to this moment right now.”

Blue Jays players embraced after Rafael Dolis struck out Aaron Hicks to end it, donning blue T-shirts that said “Respect Toronto.”

“This is something we want to make an every year thing,” infielder Cavan Biggio said. “For us, we’re happy, we’re excited we’re able to put ourselves in this position, but this is only the start of hopefully something special for a long time.”

The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by two games for second place in the AL East. Both teams have three games remaining. Toronto hosts Baltimore in Buffalo this weekend while the Yankees host the Marlins.

New York failed to hit a homer for the fourth straight game, matching its longest streak since June 2016. It’s the first time the Yankees have failed to homer in a four-game series since doing so at Texas in July 2013.

“I’m concerned with the way we’ve played recently,” outfielder Brett Gardner said. “Any time you’re not playing your best baseball and the postseason is right around the corner, something needs to be corrected rather quickly.”

New York loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez flied out to deep center, where Randal Grichuk made a leaping catch at the wall.

“It’s good to see him get a really good swing off in a big spot,” Boone said of Sanchez. “Just unfortunately, that short.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for Toronto, his eighth.

Ryu (5-2) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out four. Luke Voit and Hicks hit back-to-back singles to begin the sixth but Ryu struck out Giancarlo Stanton, got Gleyber Torres to fly out, and retired Gio Urshela on a groundball.

“He’s an ace and he did what an ace does,” Montoyo said.

The left-hander lowered his ERA from 3.00 to 2.69.

Dolis got four outs for his fifth save in six chances.

Guerrero opened the scoring with a solo homer off left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-3) in the second.

The Blue Jays extended their lead when Biggio and Bo Bichette hit back-to-back, two-out doubles in the third.

Toronto made it 4-0 in the sixth. Grichuk chased Montgomery with a single and Guerrero singled off Adam Ottavino before rookie Alejandro Kirk hit a two-out, two-run double.

Montgomery lost for the first time in four starts. He allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays finished 5-5 in their 10-game regular season series against the Yankees.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (elbow) was activated off the injured list and RHP Wilmer Font was designated for assignment. . RHP Jordan Romano (strained right middle finger) will throw a second bullpen session Friday.

Yankees: Aaron Judge came on as a pinch-hitter but is expected to start all three remaining regular season games, Boone said.

SHARED DUTY

Boone said he expects to use both Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka at catcher in the postseason. Higashioka has hit well while working with ace Gerrit Cole, while Sanchez has struggled with both offense and his defense down the stretch.

SEVEN UP

Ryu became the first Blue Jays starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2019, to pitch into the seventh. It had been an MLB-record 88 games since RHP Jacob Waguespack pitched into the seventh at Dodger Stadium last year.

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.25) starts Friday as New York returns home to begin a three-game series against Miami. RHP Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.12) starts for the Marlins.

Blue Jays: RHP Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.86) starts Friday in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore. The Orioles have not named a starter.