Daily Dose: Opening Dose

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While the Red Sox and Yankees give us a pretty decent Game 1 of 2,430, here are some news and notes from around baseball …
* As expected, the Rockies placed Huston Street on the disabled list Sunday with a sore shoulder. Street already experienced a setback with the injury during spring training, so while he’s expected to return fairly soon Franklin Morales should have quite a few save chances in the meantime and needs to be owned in all leagues. If he throws strikes, he can dominate.
* By designating Jack Cust for assignment the A’s are essentially betting that no team will claim his $2.65 million salary on waivers, in which case they can stash him at Triple-A (unlike Jake Fox, who’s out of minor-league options) and basically use a 26-man roster for a while. Cust would help a few teams at that price–including the punchless A’s, of course–but fitting him into the lineup and budget at this late date could be tough.
* By jettisoning Cust (for now, at least) the A’s are suddenly counting on Eric Chavez to play regularly again, albeit at designated hitter. Chavez seems unlikely to stay healthy even at DH and regardless of that hasn’t produced DH-caliber offense since 2005 or 2006. Chavez is worth a flier in AL-only leagues, but don’t feel obligated to stay with him if/when things go south.
* Fox not only made the Opening Day roster in Oakland, he’ll serve as Kurt Suzuki’s backup after the A’s chose not to keep a true second catcher. Fox caught full time early in his minor-league career, but hasn’t played the position regularly since 2006 and started just twice behind the plate last season between Triple-A and the Cubs. He has plenty of offensive upside, but doesn’t seem likely to play a whole lot early on.
* Mike Leake was the eighth pick in June’s draft after starring at Arizona State and now he’s leap-frogging the minors altogether so the Reds can rush him into their rotation at age 22. Leake is often praised for his command and polish, but handing a young arm to Dusty Baker is always risky and a couple months at Triple-A would have been better for everyone involved. Long term, he projects more as a solid mid-rotation guy than an ace.


* Alex Gordon will begin the season on the disabled list and may not be ready to return from a broken thumb until late April or early May, leaving Alberto Callaspo to play every day at third base. Callaspo hit .300/.356/.457 in 155 games last year to rank second on the team in OPS, yet it took Gordon’s injury for the Royals’ braintrust to avoid benching him after handing second base to Chris Getz.
* Mike Aviles will also be part of the Royals’ infield mix after securing an Opening Day spot by going 24-for-51 (.471) this spring. Aviles came out of nowhere to bat .325 in 102 games as a 27-year-old rookie in 2008, but then hit .183 in 36 games before undergoing Tommy John surgery last season. If healthy Aviles could (or at least should) push the execrable Yuniesky Betancourt for starts at shortstop, but keep expectations modest.
* John Bowker beat out Nate Schierholtz for the Giants’ right field job, which gives the 26-year-old one more chance to show that his strong minor-league numbers are no fluke. Bowker has hit just .244/.291/.402 through 142 games in San Francisco, but batted .322/.424/.546 with 23 homers in 129 games at Triple-A and .307/.363/.523 with 22 homers in 139 games at Double-A. He’s definitely worth a flier in NL-only leagues.
* Ron Washington announced that Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden will split time behind the plate initially, combining for what has to be the most letters ever for a catching platoon. Saltalamacchia is a question mark because of a unique condition that gave him rib, shoulder, and neck problems, so easing him back into the lineup isn’t a bad idea. However, ultimately if both guys are healthy he should claim most of the starts.
* Injuries and poor performances have pushed Travis Buck off the radar since hitting .288/.377/.474 in 82 games as a rookie in 2007, but thanks to a strong spring training and Coco Crisp’s fractured finger he’ll be the Opening Day right fielder for the A’s. Buck is certainly capable of being a lot better than he’s looked over the past two seasons, but lacks the power or speed to make a major fantasy impact even if things go well.
* Andres Blanco is slated to start at second base for the Rangers while Ian Kinsler is out with a sprained ankle, but don’t expect fantasy value from the 26-year-old journeyman. Blanco has hit .252/.295/.324 in the majors after batting .264/.319/.352 in 317 games at Triple-A. He’s a utility man, at best. Kinsler is hoping to return within a couple weeks, but high-ankle sprains can be tricky.

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.