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2011 Toronto Blue Jays
From BR Bullpen
 2011 Toronto Blue Jays / Franchise: Toronto Blue Jays / BR Team Page
Managed by John Farrell
 History, Comments, Contributions
The 2011 Toronto Blue Jays started the season looking a bit different than in 2010, with new manager John Farrell and several trades in the off season, losing starter Shaun Marcum, veteran relievers Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg and center fielder Vernon Wells. On February 17th, the team officially announced the signing of 2010 home run leader Jose Bautista to a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $65 million. Newcomers included DH Juan Rivera, obtained from the Angels for Wells, relievers Frank Francisco and Carlos Villanueva, and CF Rajai Davis.
Heading into spring training, the top of the Jays' starting rotation was represented by Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil. With two open spots left in the rotation, top prospect Kyle Drabek was expected to fill one of them, with a number of candidates vying for the last opening, including Jesse Litsch, Brad Mills and Marc Rzepczynski. Litsch initially won the spot, with Rzepczynski becoming the top lefty in the bullpen and Mills being sent down to AAA Las Vegas.
The Jays opened the season at home with a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins on April 1st. The Jays took 2 out of the 3, winning the first two. It was a big start on Friday, with Toronto dominating the Twins in a 13-3 win; Ricky Romero got the win before a sold-out Rogers Centre in his third home opener start in as many years. Pre-game ceremonies honored Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick, who were to be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the season. Bert Blyleven also joined them on-field for a photo-op before the game. Gillick threw out the first pitch, while Alomar caught the ball (he also threw out the second pitch, Alomar missed the first pitch as it was a little low and to the right). Banners honoring Alomar and Gillick were unfurled next to the Jays' collection of division title and World Series banners from the 1980s and 1990s.
In the opener, Romero had an excellent start as the Jays jumped to a quick 10-0 lead against Carl Pavano and reliever Jeff Manship. J.P. Arencibia homered twice and had a two-run triple, driving in five runs in a game reminiscent of his outstanding major league debut the previous August; Bautista added a homer. The next day, Drabek was dominant, keeping the Twins hitless until the 7th inning in earning his first major league win. The Jays lost the series' final game on April 3rd, 4-3, mounting a 9th-inning rally against Twins closer Joe Nathan, making a comeback after losing a full season to Tommy John surgery, but fell a run short in losing 4-3.
Jose Bautista proved that his league-leading 54 homers the previous year were not a fluke, as the fun continued on the field in 2011. 46 games in, he had already hit 20 homers with Toronto. As the month of May drew to a close, Bautista also led all of Major League Baseball in total votes for the 2011 All-Star Game.
Jo-Jo Reyes shined on May 30th, earning his first victory since June 13, 2008, while also pitching the first complete game of his career. Reyes allowed just one run on eight hits and four walks while striking out four in Toronto's 11-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians. He won a few more games after that, but ironically did not pitch as well as during his winless streak. He was 5-8, 5.40 in 20 starts when he was designated for assignment on July 23rd. That came shortly after the same fate awaited the veteran Rivera, who failed to hit much as the team's DH in the early season and was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers after being DFA'ed earlier in July.
J.P. Arencibia hit a grand slam for the Blue Jays as they doubled-up for an 8-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles before 18,587 fans at Oriole Park on June 2nd. Carlos Villanueva also threw 5 1/3 strong innings as he continued his transition from a reliever to a starter with the club. The next day, Eric Thames, Rajai Davis and Jayson Nix hit back-to-back-to-back triples. No major league team had turned that feat since the other Canadian club, the Montreal Expos back in 1981 (Mike Gates, Tim Raines and Tim Wallach). Manager John Farrell called on utility man Mike McCoy to pitch in the 9th inning during the June 11th outing against the Boston Red Sox, as the team was running out of arms in the bullpen. Farrell made this decision to save his relievers from throwing an extended outing. McCoy had some experience pitching in the minors; he retired three of Boston's elite hitters (Carl Crawford, Marco Scutaro and J.D. Drew) as he threw mostly 60-76 mph change-ups along with a few sliders and a fastball. The Jays would lose the game 16-4.
Kyle Drabek was sent to AAA Las Vegas on June 14th, after struggling on the mound. He gave up eight runs in four-plus innings to Boston the Sunday prior. His move down to the minors allowed Zach Stewart to come up to make his major league debut. A quick trip to Detroit, MI on June 27 to make up for a rained out date in May wasn't worth the extra mileage on the team bus as the Jays fell to the Tigers, 4-2.
The Pittsburgh Pirates came to town for Interleague action on June 28th, but a four-homer night was not enough for the Jays, as they lost to the Pirates 7-6 in the opener of a three-game series. Playing on June 29th, Brandon Morrow dominated over seven solid innings while Eric Thames got his first big league homer, all contributing a 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh. Morrow won 5 consecutive starts starting with that game, showing some of the overwhelming stuff that had excited Jays fans the previous season.
Doc Halladay came back to the Dome with the Philadelphia Phillies for the Canada Day long weekend, marking his first return to the city since being traded. The Phils had been scheduled to come to Toronto for a series the previous June, but those games had to be moved to Philly as they coincided with the G20 Meetings in Toronto, which saw the whole downtown core of the city locked down by police, thus delaying the great Halladay's return by a year. On Saturday July 2nd, Halladay received a standing ovation before his first pitch and delivered with a complete-game victory. The final score was 5-3 for the Phillies.
Heading into the All-Star break, the Jays were 45-47 (26-25 away), losing the first game, but taking the next three against the Indians at Progressive Field on July 7-10. Jose Bautista appeared in the Home Run Derby before the 2011 All-Star Game, only hitting 4 dingers and not moving past the first round. Bautista made his second All-Star Game appearance on July 12, going 1-for-2 with a single and making a terrific sliding catch in the right field corner. Ricky Romero was also named to the American League squad, but did not play in the game.
In the first game after the break, on July 14th, Bautista twisted an ankle sliding into third base and had to miss a number of games. He was then hit in the head by a 91 mph fastball from Jake Arrieta on July 26, and the Jays would lose the game 12-4 to the Orioles. On July 27th, GM Alex Anthopoulos made two big trades. First he send reliever Jason Frasor, who had just broken Duane Ward's record for most games pitched as a Blue Jay, and prospect Zach Stewart to the Chicago White Sox for P Edwin Jackson and 3B Mark Teahen. He then immediately flipped Jackson to the St. Louis Cardinals as part of a blockbuster 8-player trade. Jackson, Ps Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, and OF Corey Patterson headed to St. Louis, in return for young CF Colby Rasmus, and Ps Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters. Rasmus, the prize of the deal, was immediately installed as the starting centerfielder, with Travis Snider headed back to the minors to make room for him, while Miller would be given his walking papers within two weeks and the two other pitchers headed to the minors.
The team designated July 31st "Roberto Alomar Hall of Fame Day" in honor of Alomar's induction into the Hall the week before. The first 20,000 fans at the game received a Roberto Alomar Hall of Fame Bobblehead. During an on-field ceremony, Alomar's #12 became the first uniform number to be retired in the club's 35-year history.
Home run leader Bautista hit his 32nd long ball on August 2 in a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay, ending a 14-game homerless streak for him. On August 4th, right-hander Carlos Villanueva went on the 15-day DL with a right forearm strain; Luis Perez got the call to come up from Las Vegas to take Villanueva's spot on the 25-man roster. Also that day, the club purchased Brett Lawrie's contract from AAA Las Vegas, following a 7-6 loss to Tampa Bay, sending Travis Snider back down to the minors for the second time in 2011. Jose Bautista was moved back to right field after the shuffle. On August 10, ESPN Magazine made allegations that the club was stealing signs via a mystery man in white posted in right field, relaying the info to the batter. Management and players were quick to dismiss the allegations, and MLB confirmed that they had received no complaints from other clubs about stolen signs in Toronto. "This whole thing is stupid!" said Alex Anthopoulos in the press interview regarding the incidents.
Brett Lawrie was off to a great start in the majors, capped on August 10 by hitting a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning, helping the Jays get the 8-4 win over the Oakland A's; in that game, another top prospect, pitcher Henderson Alvarez made his debut. The club lost the next game at Rogers Centre, an afternoon outing; they fell 10-3 to Oakland.
Vernon Wells came back to town for the first time since being traded to the Los Angeles Angels in the off-season on August 12th, tipping his hat to the crowd before hitting a home run on the first pitch he saw from Brandon Morrow in the top of the second inning.
Playing in Oakland on August 21st, Jose Bautista connected on the 10th pitch he saw from Guillermo Moscoso to lead off the 7th inning to smack out his 36th home run of the year. The hit broke up a scoreless game and allowed Toronto to win the game 1-0, giving Luis Perez, who combined with Casey Janssen on a one-hitter, a victory in his first major league start. Two days later, Anthopoulos announced another trade, comprising only infielders, with 2B Aaron Hill and fan favorite John McDonald going to the Arizona Diamondbacks in return for their starting second baseman, Kelly Johnson. Hill had been a serious disappointment the last two years after a great 2009 season, hitting just above .200 with only 6 homers, although his play on defense had been excellent. In Johnson, the Jays got a player who was also struggling with batting average, but had shown better power, although for once the Jays were not getting a younger player or one with more upside, leaving fans wondering what the point was.
Jays manager John Farrell left the game of August 25 early as he wasn't feeling well. Farrell was released from hospital the next day after being diagnosed with pneumonia. Don Wakamatsu took over as skipper in Farrell's absence. Colby Rasmus was placed on the 15-day DL on August 27th, after missing his third straight game with a sore right wrist. Tampa Bay rolled into the Rogers Centre August 26-29, handily defeating the Jays in the first three games. The third-game loss (game pictured) was a Tampa Bay slugfest, with 14 hits and 12 runs for a 12-0 pasting; Desmond Jennings started the fun with a first-pitch homer and went back-to-back with Sean Rodriguez as part of a four-run second inning against Brandon Morrow, while David Price set a Rays team record with 14 strikeouts. With the loss came news that Bautista was no longer the major league home run leader, as the Yankees' Curtis Granderson had passed him. The club came back to avenge the loss on the Monday night, closing the series with a 7-3 win over Tampa, with Bautista hitting home run number 38.
The Jays finished off their home games at Rogers Centre on September 22 with a 4-3 win over the Angels. Edwin Encarnacion led off the bottom of the 12th with a homer off Garrett Richards for the win. The Blue Jays finished the season going 11-0 in extra-inning games at the Dome with a home record of 42-39.
The Jays went to the Windy City for their final games of the season. In a must-win game on September 28, the club pulled through in their season-finale. With a 3-2 win over the White Sox, the club finished 81-81, for another .500 season. The Jays finished 2011 in 4th place in the AL East, coming in ahead of Baltimore.
As of 2011, the Jays ranked 25th in MLB attendance, averaging 22,538 per game. Having improved somewhat over the prior year, they finished 2010 in 26th place with 20,068. (The Phillies lead in 2011 with over 3.5 million in total attendance and an average of 45,450 per game; the Yankees were second with over 3.3 million total and 44,929 per game).
There was talk in the media of a new logo for the club for the 2012 season, with "samples" having been leaked to the press near the end of September. The club would not comment on the logo, asking fans to wait for the official announcement.
Joey Bats won the 2011 American League Hank Aaron Award, his second in as many years for his 43 homers that season. He also won the Silver Slugger Award a week later, also his second consecutive award.
 Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Jose Bautista and Ricky Romero
- AL Silver Slugger Award: Jose Bautista (OF)
- 2011 Topps All-Star Rookie Team: J.P. Arencibia (C) and Brett Lawrie (3B)
 Fun Facts
- Toronto had the second most expensive hotdog in all of baseball after the Yankees at $5.11 in 2011.
- There was talk of having the team play some games in Olympic Stadium in Montreal, QC; Paul Beeston even said on the Jays' website that he was open to taking the team on the road to several Canadian cities to build interest in the franchise.
- After the sign-stealing allegations, fans started coming to games dressed in white, holding up fun signs (to poke fun at the "mystery man in white" as described above).