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General manager Ross Atkins preaches patience as Toronto Blue Jays struggle

Ross Atkins isn’t happy with the Blue Jays record, but he wants fans to know that there’s a sense of urgency in Toronto’s clubhouse that might not be apparent to people outside the organization.

The Blue Jays general manager addressed reporters at Rogers Centre on Saturday, hours before Toronto hosted the Tampa Bay Rays. The 20-minute news conference in front of the home dugout was mainly focused on the Blue Jays’ disappointing 19-24 record that Atkins feels doesn’t reflect the team’s potential.

“We have seen some encouraging things of late that have not resulted in wins and have seen some encouraging things in our offence that we feel with time and the talent that’s on the team that we can certainly see righting the ship,” said Atkins. “However, that needs to start pretty soon.”

Atkins is made available to media about once per month and Saturday’s scrum was part of that schedule. However, it also came as Toronto has dropped back-to-back games, including not reaching base for the first 7 1/3 innings of a 4-3 loss to the Rays on Friday night.

Although Atkins preached patience, he said that there’s a limit to that patience.

“It’s not like a hard date,” said Atkins. “We’re at the quarter pole and like once you get to the halfway mark, there’s not much you can do if the whole remains the same.”

Atkins said the Blue Jays front office has had conversations with other MLB teams for possible trades but would also consider bringing up some of its top minor-league players from the triple-A Buffalo Bisons.

“It’s just where and what position and which players would you subtract, not necessarily subtract from the team, but decrease playing time. The challenge remains the same with trades,” he said. “If we were to acquire a player, at this point, you obviously are paying a premium. We can do that, we have the players to trade for that level of talent. 

“We feel that the best contributions that could create that change in run scoring is going to come from within our clubhouse or with triple-A with the players that are here.”

Hitting is the Achilles heel of the 2024 Blue Jays so far this year.

Toronto’s 155 runs through 43 games this season is the second-lowest total in the league, with only the Chicago White Sox (130) scoring less. The Blue Jays’ 36 home runs are tied with the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies for third worst in all of Major League Baseball. Their .227 team batting average is 25th overall.

Atkins, however, said that he thinks those numbers will improve if Toronto’s hitters stick with their process. 

“We’re getting into better counts. We’re getting ourselves into better situations, making good decisions,” he said, singling out catcher Danny Jansen, left-fielder Davis Schneider, and outfielder Daulton Varsho for their strong starts to the season. “You don’t want to say that every player has not been getting their best swings off but a big enough number of them that it impacts our ability to score runs.”

Stars George Springer, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. have especially struggled to start the season.

Springer has a .196 average and three home runs through 153 at bats this season and, for the first time on Saturday, was moved out of the leadoff spot in favour of Schneider. 

Bichette is hitting .221 with two home runs and Guerrero has a .268 average with four homers, although both have been starting to scratch together some hits.

“It’s always a team component,” said Atkins. “I think you look across winning teams that year in and year out or teams that score runs like our teams in 2021 and 2022 and your better players are having solid years in those cases.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2024.

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