Per an email blast from the club, in a slightly surprising move this afternoon, Erik Kratz returned to the Jays, as Dioner Navarro has been placed on the bereavement/family medical emergency list. Meanwhile, Neil Wagner has returned to the bullpen, with Chad Jenkins being optioned down to Buffalo.
First and foremost, thoughts are with Navarro and whatever it is that he’s going through that has forced him to leave the club briefly here. As for the baseball stuff, according to the release, he’ll be gone a minimum of three, and a maximum of seven days. Not sure how much they can fudge this, but with him ailing a bit the other week, and this being in his first season of full-time duty behind the plate since 2009– plus the potential that whatever he’s attending to is something that’s happening in his native Venezuela — I’d wager he’s out for closer to the latter than the former. Entirely a guess, though.
Erik Kratz is a fine-enough replacement — strange words given his Arencibia-like .231/.231/.462 line (in a horribly tiny sample size, with a much better walk rate for his career), but he is at least bringing defence and the understanding that the gig is only temporary. And also is still just a backup one — Josh Thole starts tonight with Dustin McGowan on the hill.
Wagner makes all the sense in the world, and always did. Well, except for the time when he was dealing with a minor arm injury and Jenkins was recalled in his stead, but he was back in action on Sunday, pitching an inning in Charlotte, allowing one hit and striking out one, and apparently that’s all the club needed to see. Ol’ Gibbers seems to trust him — something we can’t say of half the relievers back there, it sometimes feels — so we can add that to go with his vast superiority in a short relief role to the reasons why he’s a better fit than Jenkins. And who knows how long Stroman is going to be back there? J.A. Happ probably needs to pitch reasonably well on Thursday to keep his job another five days, in which case Gibbons loses another right-handed power arm from the ‘pen, so they might as well have Wagner up and rolling by that time — especially since Stroman won’t be available over the weekend if he really does end up being slated for a move to the bullpen after an inevitable Happ farm-walking, eh?
Meanwhile, the White Sox activated right-hitting, formerly lefty-smashing second baseman Jeff Keppinger from the DL today, and then immediately designated him for assignment. In other words: the roster carousel may not have come to a complete stop just yet, as Keppinger could actually be seen as a useful piece for the Jays, provided they’re willing to look beyond the pitiful 113 plate appearances against left-handed pitching that he took last season for Chicago, in which he posted a .256 wOBA and a wRC+ of just 53.
Not good, but his overall numbers did rise after a terrible start to the year (his second half wOBA was a still-not-good .294), and it also needs to be noted that he played the whole season with a shoulder problem (which he had off-season surgery for, and was the reason he began this year on the DL — but was also, if Robin Ventura is to be believed, having more of an impact on his throwing than his hitting). For his career his wOBA against lefties is a far, far more impressive .358, and his wRC+ is 121, and in the three seasons prior to the shoulder injury it was .363 and 131. That wRC+ is actually top 50 in baseball in the split over that span (minimum 300 PA), though Kevin Youkilis ranks second on that list, so… y’know. On the rehab assignment in double-A that just ended he had two hits and two walks in eight plate appearances against lefties, for whatever that’s worth (read: nothing), too. (Also, veteran presents, eh Alex?)
Since 2011, Keppinger has been used exclusively at first, second, and third, but in the years before that he also saw some time at short and in the outfield as well. So: versatile? Capable of playing second? Arm enough to play third? Crushed left-handers before a shoulder injury he’s supposedly recovered from? He and Steve Tolleson would be somewhat redundant, I guess, except that it’s not like the Jays don’t need two caddies for their platoon infielders/DHs anyway (or that Tolleson couldn’t just be tossed back to the scrap heap they found him on in exchange for a superior hitter). If they believe his restored health has restored his lefty-killing prowess, they might totally make a move — that is, if only they could bring themselves to dump one of the relievers they don’t have enough innings for anyway to make room for him. Ugh.