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Injuries derail Blue Jays' postseason hopes

Drought reaches 21 years as capable club can't find winning formula

Injuries derail Blue Jays' postseason hopes

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' 2014 season had plenty of highs and lows, but more than anything, it will be remembered for the golden opportunity that got away.

Toronto sat atop the American League East throughout June and early July for the first time since 1993. It seemed almost like a foregone conclusion that the Blue Jays would finally put an end to a decades-long drought without postseason baseball.

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Unfortunately for the ballclub, that success proved to be rather fleeting as the club went into a tailspin during the second half and eventually fell out of the race. Instead of preparing for the playoffs, the Blue Jays spent the final weeks wondering where everything went wrong.

"I've said many times, the best teams get there and the lesser teams don't," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said in late September. "That's no secret in this business.

"Especially in this sport, 162 games, when you have your injuries, you have to weather the storm and you have to have some replacements step up and do a good job. But I think the best teams get there at the end."

Each month of the Blue Jays' season had a completely different feel. In April, the club got off to a relatively slow start thanks to a bullpen that looked completely lost without injured closer Casey Janssen. May was the month Toronto took the baseball world by storm with a 21-9 record, but it wasn't sustainable.

The downward slide began in early June when the streaky lineup started to cool off. The struggles carried over into July and were made even worse by injuries to key players Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind. Despite the disturbing trend the Blue Jays finished the month in possession of the second Wild Card spot and the hope was that another upward swing would be on the horizon.

Instead of making a strong push, the season was lost in August when the offense completely fell apart which resulted in a 9-17 record. There was a last-minute grasp in September, but by then it was too little, too late and it is now 21 years and counting for Toronto without reaching the postseason.

"I think it was a disappointment," Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey said. "Having not gotten to the postseason, again, with a team that I felt was very capable. Of course we're all disappointed, and we should be. Everybody in here should be disappointed. You have to learn, you have to grow, you have to look for opportunities to see how you can improve and get better, otherwise the season is lost."

Here's a closer look at how everything unfolded for the Blue Jays in 2014:

Record: 83-79, third in the AL East

Defining moment: The Blue Jays arrived in Houston on July 31 with sole possession of the second Wild Card spot and 2 1/2 games back of Baltimore for first place in the AL East. The postseason dream was very much alive and the club appeared to have fully recovered from a late swoon prior to the All-Star break. The talk on Day 1 of the series in Houston was about the Blue Jays' decision not to make any major additions prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and it wasn't long before the product on the field suffered. Toronto won only two series and went 9-17 in August to all but completely fall out of the race.

What went right: The starting rotation was expected to be the biggest weakness on this year's squad, but instead it turned into a strength for long stretches of the season. Brandon Morrow was the only starter to sustain a significant injury, and for the first time in recent memory, health wasn't a factor on the staff ... Dioner Navarro proved to be a significant upgrade over former starting catcher J.P. Arencibia. Navarro provided a lot of upside with the bat, but even more impressive was the fact that he didn't fatigue in the second half despite setting a career high in games played ... Toronto received contributions from young pitchers such as Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris to provide a glimpse at the future ... Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Encarnacion and Lind -- when healthy -- were a formidible heart of the batting order that could be matched up against anyone in baseball.

What went wrong: The Blue Jays' bullpen wasn't able to find the same success as it did in 2013. Sergio Santos and Steve Delabar were expected to be major contributors, but instead found themselves relegated to the Minor Leagues by the middle of the season ... Injuries once again played a factor on the everyday lineup as Brett Lawrie had another injury-riddled year, while Lind and Encarnacion also went down for significant periods of time. The Orioles were able to overcome their injuries, but the Blue Jays couldn't ... Colby Rasmus' final season in a Toronto uniform was a borderline disaster. Rasmus struggled to make contact, and when he did, he wasn't finding very many holes. By September, he lost his starting job and spent the final month on the bench ... Second base turned into a black hole after the club declined to upgrade the position during the offseason ... Jose Reyes battled a shoulder injury and hamstring issues for most of the year, and it resulted in a noticeable decline in his range up the middle ... A lack of organizational depth in the high levels of the Minor Leagues meant there was a huge dropoff in talent when anyone went down with an injury.

Biggest surprise: Cabrera. The 30-year-old might have been snubbed at this year's All-Star Game, but he played at that elite level until a season-ending injury in early September. Cabrera will be a top candidate for the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award after finishing with a .301 average, 171 hits and an .808 OPS. This wouldn't have qualified as a surprise a couple of years ago, but it does now after last season's disappointment.

Cabrera's 2013 came to an end when a tumor was discovered in his back, but he regained full range of motion this season and didn't have any of the leg issues that plagued him in the past. He re-established himself as one of the game's top corner outfielders, and the Blue Jays will now seek for ways to keep the pending free agent in the fold.

Hitter of the Year: Bautista. For the first time since 2011, Bautista was able to remain healthy for an entire season. He surpassed 30 homers and 100 RBIs for the first time in three years and proved there was still plenty left in the tank. There were times this season when Encarnacion was the club's best hitter, but from start to finish, nobody had a year quite like Bautista.

Pitcher of the Year: Dickey. Mark Buehrle was the club's best pitcher in the first half of the season, but Dickey was the most consistent of Toronto's starters. He finished the year leading the team in wins but most crucial was his consistent ability to eat up a lot of quality innings. He surpassed 200 innings for the fourth consecutive year, and more often than not was able to record a quality start. Stroman likely would have been a strong candidate for this honor, but the only thing getting in his way was that the Duke product didn't make his starting debut until the very end of May.

Rookie of the Year: Stroman. He didn't win a job out of Spring Training, but it didn't take very long for the hard-throwing righty to make his presence felt. Shortly after Morrow was lost to another serious injury, Stroman stepped right in and secured his spot as a potential cornerstone of the starting staff for years to come. Along the way, he picked up a pair of complete games, one shutout and added a two-seam fastball midway through the year that contributed to his strong finish. Stroman likely would have been a candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year Award if not for the performance of Chicago's Jose Abreu.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Blue Jays to focus on outfield, 'pen to build for 2015

GM Anthopolous will try to balance payroll in bid to lock down Melky

Blue Jays to focus on outfield, 'pen to build for 2015

TORONTO -- Alex Anthopoulos is about to embark on arguably the most difficult -- and easily the most important -- offseason of his tenure as the Blue Jays general manager.

In the coming weeks, Toronto will face some very tough decisions on pending free agents and players with club options. It will be about finding the right balance between performance and value on a team that might not be able to add a lot of payroll.

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The first order of business is dealing with left fielder Melky Cabrera. There's clear interest from both parties to work out a contract, but that doesn't mean it's guaranteed to get done.

"If ultimately we get priced out by years or dollars, that could happen, but that wouldn't have been the intent," Anthopoulos said in late September. "I'm not alluding this specifically to Melky, but there are times ... we may have had discussions with players in the past, whether it's Spring Training, whether it's during the All-Star break, whether it's in seasoneand maybe we couldn't come to terms.

"Sometimes you collectively agree that maybe it's best that they test the market and they get a feel for what's out there, and that breaks the tie for you."

What Anthopoulos is able to do this offseason will be directly tied to the Blue Jays' payroll. Toronto is notoriously tight-lipped about a definitive number, and Anthopoulos insists he's provided with a general range to work from, but there's always an ability to ask ownership for more.

The "payroll parameters" will be watched very closely as closer Casey Janssen and outfielder Colby Rasmus are coming off the books, while the same could be said for pitchers Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ and Dustin McGowan. But the Blue Jays still have slightly under $95 million in salary guaranteed to eight players next year after spending approximately $137 million in 2014.

Once buyouts, club options and arbitration cases are factored in, Toronto will be on pace to have another hefty payroll. Whatever money is left for Anthopoulos to work with, he'll have to fix glaring holes in the bullpen, second base and potentially two spots in the outfield, depending on what happens with Cabrera and the soon-to-be departed Rasmus.

"I feel like we're real close," Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey said. "We are such a streaky team, if we can just somehow arrest those times when we find ourselves on those negative streaks, I think we would be right in [postseason contention].

"I feel like we have a good contingency of players in here that know each other well enough and are dedicated to the collective goal of winning the pennant. Of course, we're some pieces away otherwise we would have done it if not. So we have to try to identify what that is and move on."

Here's a closer look at where things stand with the Blue Jays as they head into what could prove to be a very busy offseason:

Arbitration-eligible: C George Kottaras, IF Brett Lawrie, IF Juan Francisco, IF Danny Valencia, IF/OF John Mayberry Jr., IF Dan Johnson, LHP Brett Cecil.

Free agents: OF Cabrera, OF Rasmus, RHP Janssen, IF Munenori Kawasaki, 1B/DH Adam Lind ($7.5 million club option with $1 million buyout), RHP Morrow ($10 million club option with $1 million buyout), LHP Happ ($6.7 million club option with $200,000 buyout), RHP McGowan ($4 million club option with $500,000 buyout), C Josh Thole ($1.5 million option).

Rotation: The Blue Jays have more certainty in their starting rotation than anywhere else on the roster. The club could look to move veteran lefty Mark Buehrle this winter, but his $19 million salary in 2015 will make that a difficult task. Barring any moves, Buehrle and Dickey will provide the veteran presence on a staff that will include emerging pitchers such as Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison. Top prospects Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez will be under consideration, which leaves Happ as the only unknown. Toronto could opt to pick up Happ's club option for $6.7 million and keep him in the fold, while a trade also remains a possibility.

Bullpen: Anthopoulos has a lot of work to do in the bullpen. Janssen is expected to leave as a free agent, and McGowan's $4 million club option could be too expensive for his role in middle relief. Sanchez's career would be best served with a return to the starting rotation, and Morrow is expected to explore starting jobs elsewhere before considering a relief option with the Blue Jays. There's strength from the left side in Cecil and Aaron Loup, but not much after that. Toronto will need to find not only find a closer, but also a right-handed setup man this winter.

Catcher: Veteran Dioner Navarro was the Blue Jays' only significant addition prior to the 2014 season, and he'll once again be returning in a starting role. He proved a lot of people wrong this season by not fading down the stretch despite setting a career high in games played. Navarro has his drawbacks -- blocking balls in the dirt and framing pitches -- but he also has a lot of offensive upside and is well-liked by the pitching staff. Backup Josh Thole also could return as Dickey's personal catcher, but the Blue Jays would be well served to add some depth at this spot in case Navarro goes down with an injury.

First base: The Blue Jays have spent the past several years with Edwin Encarnacion and Lind splitting time at first base and DH. That could change this offseason, but they complement each other well, as neither is really equipped to handle playing the field everyday and greatly benefit from occasional rests on defense. Toronto could decide to trade Lind and his $7.5 million salary next season, but if the club goes that route, it will have to find a suitable replacement especially considering his high value against right-handed pitching.

Second base: This position became somewhat of a revolving door after Aaron Hill was dealt to the Diamondbacks in 2011. Kelly Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins and Kawasaki are just a few of the players who have been given a shot at everyday playing time since Hill left. Second base was a position of need last offseason, and it remains one now. Izturis will return next year after missing almost all of 2014 with a knee injury, but he is best served in a utility role with spot starts against lefties. Lawrie is a fallback option at second, but that would require Anthopoulos to find an upgrade at third.

Shortstop: Jose Reyes battled shoulder and hamstring injuries for most of 2014, but he still was able to appear in more than 125 games for the fourth time in five seasons. The fact that Reyes was able to avoid the DL from mid-April until the end of the year was impressive, but the health issues also appeared to take their toll on the field. There was a noticeable decline in Reyes' range, and while there are no current plans to move him off shortstop, it's something that will be eventually need to be addressed in the future. One possible solution is finding an adequate backup so that Reyes can receive more regular time off. Reyes has $66 million and three years remaining on his contract, so he likely isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Third base: Lawrie has yet to find a way to remain healthy, and that's a big problem for the organization. The starting job should once again belong to Lawrie, but Anthopoulos will have to make sure he has a capable backup ready to go in case the health issues return in 2015. When Lawrie played this season, he split his time between second and third, and while that remains a possibility, the organization would like to find a permanent home. The priority appears to be adding a second baseman this offseason, but if it's a third baseman instead, the club could shift Lawrie up the middle. The fact that Lawrie can provide that kind of versatility is one of his greatest assets.

Outfield: Anthopoulos has a lot of things he needs to take care of this offseason, but nothing is more pressing than his situation in the outfield. Rasmus has played his last game in a Blue Jays uniform, but the organization can only hope that the same can't be said about Cabrera. Toronto is all but guaranteed of extending a qualifying offer worth approximately $15 million this offseason, but Cabrera also will have an opportunity to seek out other potential suitors. Toronto could go with a platoon of Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar in center field next year, but the lack of offense from that position would become an even bigger issue if Cabrera isn't brought back into the fold.

Designated hitter: Lind has a $7.5 million option on his contract, but if that gets picked up, the Blue Jays likely won't need to search for anyone to fill this spot. Mayberry Jr. and Valencia are potential platoon partners for Lind, who has struggled against lefties throughout his career. Another option would see players like Reyes, Cabrera and Jose Bautista get occasional days off from the field with a spot start or two at DH.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Dickey absorbs a hard-luck loss in season finale

Veteran knuckleballer allows only a solo shot over six innings of work

Dickey absorbs a hard-luck loss in season finale

TORONTO -- One run was all it took to disrupt the Blue Jays' hopes of securing a series sweep of the Orioles on the last day of the regular season on Sunday at Rogers Centre.

R.A. Dickey pitched six strong innings and allowed only two hits before a packed house at Rogers Centre. But a solo homer by O's second baseman Jonathan Schoop proved to be enough to down the Blue Jays, 1-0.

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"They won the division for a reason, and to have a performance like that, at the end of the year, when it's very easy to cash it in, I was happy that I was able to fight through it," said Dickey, who threw his seventh consecutive quality start and his 23rd of the season.

The 39-year-old knuckleballer gave up only a leadoff double to Nick Markakis in the first, and Schoop's homer in the fifth. Schoop battled Dickey to a full count before sending a fastball over the wall in left-center field for his 16th homer of the season.

Outside of that, Dickey was effective, as he delivered his third quality start against the O's this season. But despite that, he wasn't able to record a win against the American League East champions. The loss was Dickey's first in eight starts -- and just his fourth in 14 starts since the All-Star break.

"For me, giving up two hits to that lineup, I'm satisfied with that," said Dickey, who finished the season at 14-13 with a 3.71 ERA. "I made a mistake to Schoop, and it was the difference in the game. But, outside of that one pitch, I thought I did pretty good."

Ryan Goins had a two-out triple to left field in the fifth which was misplayed by Alejandro De Aza that gave the Blue Jays some life, putting the tying run 90 feet away. Jose Reyes nearly cashed him in, but his sinking liner was nabbed by Markakis in right field to end the inning.

Jose Bautista attempted to rally his squad and the 45,901 fans in attendance when he swiped second base after reaching first on a Ryan Flaherty throwing error to start the sixth. But O's reliever Ubaldo Jimenez fanned Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Dalton Pompey in order to escape the jam and preserve the O's lead.

The Blue Jays had one last chance to tie it in the ninth, when Edwin Encarnacion singled to lead off the inning. But pinch-hitter Danny Valencia lined into a double play at first base to eliminate that possibility, effectively sealing the victory for the O's.

"It was great game, overall," said O's starter Miguel Gonzalez, who earned his 10th win with five scoreless innings of five-hit ball. "The Blue Jays weren't giving up at all, and our offense and defense did a good job. I think that was the difference. Markakis made a great catch in the outfield in the fifth inning. Steve Pearce, that double play we got on the line drive in the ninth, I thought that was the difference in the game."

The loss meant the Blue Jays finished with an 83-79 mark for the 2014 campaign, and a 46-35 home record. After a retrospective pregame session with the media, manager John Gibbons said there wasn't much left to talk about during his regular postgame news conference.

"We're all disappointed in the way it ended up, but there's some guys out there that had good years," Gibbons said. "We played some good ball along the way, we just didn't play good enough."

After spending six weeks at the top of the division, spurred by a 21-9 record in May, there's been a lot of talk about the Blue Jays being close to where they need to be to make the playoffs.

Dickey said the team needs to be more consistent and less streaky if it wants to make a postseason appearance in the future.

"How can we have the May that we did," said Dickey. "... and how [do we] eliminate the August we had?"

Closer Casey Janssen came on to pitch the ninth, in what was likely his last appearance after eight seasons with the Blue Jays. Janssen said saying goodbye to teammates is always difficult at the end of a season.

"It's tough, I'm gonna miss some guys," said Janssen. "I [started] a lot of great friendships here, and [I'm] wishing everyone well. We've got a talented group in here -- and wherever people end up, I think they're gonna land on their feet."

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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GM thinks Blue Jays are on the cusp of success

Anthopoulos discusses state of the team at year-end news conference

GM thinks Blue Jays are on the cusp of success

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays put the finishing touches on a disappointing season on Sunday afternoon, but the message general manager Alex Anthopoulos wants everybody to hear is that "we're close."

In his final news conference of the season, Anthopoulos didn't shy away from the fact Toronto didn't to live up to expectations in 2014. The team, which held a six-game lead in the American League East on June 6, didn't find a way to crack the postseason for the first time since 1993. However, Anthopoulos believes there is plenty of hope for the future.

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He talked at length about the current core that is already in place and all of the young pitching that has emerged over the past few months. What he likes the most about the offseason, though, is the supposed flexibility of the roster that will make upgrades more possible than a year ago.

"I'm pretty excited about this offseason," Anthopoulos said. "It's probably the first time I've said it as much, because there's going to need to be some turnover in certain areas. We're going to have some flexibility, just because we had a set roster coming into the year -- whether it was guys who were coming back, guys who were under contract.

"As much as it seems like we've got some looming free agents -- and we do -- or some guys with options -- and those decisions need to be made -- there's also an opportunity to add some players and to have some turnover with some guys that I think are going to continue to take a step forward. It can be really exciting."

Anthopoulos might be excited, but this will likely prove to be his most difficult offseason as general manager to date. The 37-year-old has several pending free agents, players with expensive club options and some overall uncertainty surrounding at least five positions on the field.

The first order of business will be making some tough calls on the team options. It seems unlikely that Dustin McGowan ($4 million) and Brandon Morrow ($10 million) will have their options picked up. But the future isn't nearly as certain for Adam Lind ($7.5 million) and J.A. Happ ($6.7 million).

Then, there are the free agents. Outfielder Colby Rasmus and closer Casey Janssen are all but officially guaranteed of heading elsewhere in the offseason, but the team would still like to work out a contract with left fielder Melky Cabrera. That might be easier said than done. But if Cabrera leaves, it will open up another hole that needs to be filled -- and that's the last thing the Blue Jays need.

When looking at the future, Anthopoulos seems at least relatively content with his core group of starters -- which includes R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez and possibly Happ. There's less confidence in a bullpen that struggled for long stretches this season and is without a legitimate closer now that Janssen is on his way out.

"I do think we have some relievers -- and I think there's some guys out there that might not be quote-unquote closers, that if given the opportunity can close," Anthopoulos said. "We're going to look to add relievers, and there may be someone that we add via trade or add through free agency that we announce as the closer. There may be a bunch of guys that we add or sign and say they're going to compete to be the closer, depending on who they are."

In a lot of ways, the Blue Jays' 2014 season will be looked at as a missed opportunity. Toronto held onto first place in the AL East until July 3, and were a Wild Card team until early August. For a long time, it seemed like an almost foregone conclusion that this would finally be the year the club would end its prolonged postseason drought.

That didn't end up being the case, and it's Anthopoulos' job to figure out why. The club needs a second baseman, some help in the bullpen, possibly an outfielder and maybe even a designated hitter -- depending on what happens with Lind. It won't be an easy task, but Anthopoulos says he's prepared for the difficult road that lies ahead.

"We know the free agents that are out there," Anthopoulos said. "I have a sense of some of the players that could be available [via] trade. Once you get to the offseason, I expect a whole other group of players to be available. That gets done in the month of October. At some point, we'll come up with where the payroll is going to be, all that kind of stuff. But I expect us to continue to try to build and add and put a World Series team on the field."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Janssen takes what's likely his final bow in Toronto

Closer is slated to hit free agency after the postseason ends

Janssen takes what's likely his final bow in Toronto

TORONTO -- Casey Janssen's tenure in a Blue Jays uniform likely came to an end on Sunday afternoon. But before he left, there was one final appearance to finish off.

Toronto's closer came out and pitched a clean 1-2-3 ninth inning during a 1-0 loss to the Orioles. Like so many of his previous outings over the course of his eight years in Toronto, Janssen's inning was quick and almost effortless.

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Janssen is set to hit free agency when the postseason comes to an end next month, and the sold-out crowd at Rogers Centre knew it. When Janssen walked off the field after the visitors' half of the ninth inning, he left to a standing ovation.

"It was weird, because I didn't know what to expect from the fans," said Janssen, who stopped and acknowledged the crowd with several waves before going into the dugout. "They gave me a nice ovation, and I appreciate everything they gave to me. It was just nice."

Janssen spent the past week doing a countless number of interviews that have brought up questions about his seemingly inevitable departure from the organization. Throughout it all, he has talked about the highs of his debut and later being named closer. But there has also been an underlying theme of regret.

Toronto is the only organization Janssen has ever known. He was taken in the fourth round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft and made his big league debut in 2006. Over the ensuing eight years, Toronto never made the postseason or really ever even came all that close.

The lack of team success, more than anything, is what has bothered Janssen over the years. In what was likely his final day with the Blue Jays, he still had a message for the fans he has come to love.

"I'll probably do a lot more on the way home and in the offseason," Janssen said, when asked if he's had time to reflect on his Blue Jays career. "I enjoyed my time here, if it is coming to an end. I was grateful for the opportunity I got. I got promoted, was a starter, then got the opportunity to close -- and for that, I'm forever grateful.

"I still apologize to the fans and everyone that we couldn't bring the playoffs and a championship here, because deep down that's all I wanted to do -- and it was disappointing in that regard."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Blue Jays plan to stick to contract philosophy

Anthopoulos says the club will not offer deals that last over five years

Blue Jays plan to stick to contract philosophy

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays could be making a lot of adjustments this offseason, but one thing that won't change is the club's policy of not offering contracts that span more than five years.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos confirmed on Sunday afternoon the Blue Jays won't be in the market for any free agents that require at least six seasons on a deal. During the tenure of Anthopoulos and president Paul Beeston, the Blue Jays have never gone beyond five guaranteed years with any player. That stance isn't going to change any time soon.

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That will likely keep the Blue Jays out of the running for top free agents like Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and possibly James Shields. But Anthopoulos believes it's the smart approach.

"I can adamantly say you won't see any eight-year, nine-year, ten-year deals -- barring the [average annual value] all of a sudden is much lower and it's the same total value that we would pay over five," Anthopoulos said. "Our five-year policy is still firmly in place. That's not going to change.

"But I still believe, even with that, you could still be very competitive. ... I still think there's a lot of good free agents that -- if you need to go to five years, I don't even know with some of them you're going to need to go to that number -- we'll be able to sign them."

The reason behind the policy is the fact the success rate for contracts that last more than five years is very low. There have been times when it's worked out, but there's also a large risk that injuries will play a role and the contract would become problematic during the back-end years of the deal.

The five-year policy was at least one reason the Blue Jays haven't entered the mix for a significant free-agent signing during Anthopoulos' time as GM. There have been minor signings and a two-year deal with Melky Cabrera prior to the 2013 season. But, for the most part, Anthopoulos has done the vast majority of his work through trades.

"Philosophically, we've said this before, we're not believers in those eight-, nine-, ten-year deals -- not because the talent isn't there, the players aren't there," Anthopoulos said. "Too much can happen. No matter how good you are, when it's that long, too much can happen over that period of time.

"I understand that will take us out of [the running for] some players, but it's something philosophically we're opposed to. With that five-year max in play, we still feel we'll be able to get players or certain guys."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Blue Jays claim Burns; recall Hague

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays claimed right-hander Cory Burns off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday. They also selected the contract of first baseman Matt Hague from Triple-A Buffalo.

The 26-year-old Burns appeared in 43 games this season for Triple-A Round Rock, Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham. He's played in 27 career big league contests, posting a 1-1 record with a 4.60 ERA in games with San Diego and Texas.

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Hague, meanwhile, hit .377 with seven doubles, one homer and 10 RBIs in 13 games with the Bisons. To make room on the 40-man roster, both Melky Cabrera and Chad Jenkins were moved to the 60-day disabled list.

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Gibbons eyes ending October drought in '15

Gibbons eyes ending October drought in '15

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays now own the dubious honor of being the team with the longest postseason drought in Major League Baseball.

Kansas City possessed the longest skid until it officially clinched a spot in the postseason for the first time since 1985 on Friday night. Toronto's last appearance in October baseball occurred when the Blue Jays put the finishing touches on back-to-back World Series championships in 1993.

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The Royals' shot this season, combined with Pittsburgh's Wild Card berth last year, has left Toronto all by itself. Seattle has the second-longest drought, with its last appearance in the playoffs coming in 2001.

"Hey, third time's the charm," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "We'll see. It's good to see [the Royals] have some success -- because it's a great group over there. But hopefully somebody ... can ask [Seattle manager] Lloyd McClendon that next year."

Gibbons knows about this type of streak all too well. Not only has he been the manager in Toronto for a pair of stints, but he was also the bench coach in Kansas City for three years. His time with the Royals started when they were still in the early stages of a rebuild. But the fruits of that labor are clearly evident now.

Kansas City was still three years away from contending when Gibbons left the organization. He thinks the Blue Jays are much closer to making an impact because of the way the current core is set up.

"This is a totally different team," Gibbons said. "We have a lot of veteran, proven players. They had a lot of can't-miss, young guys all at once. They knew it was going to take a few years, and they really had no pitching. The area they struggled with was young pitching coming up and filling the gaps, because they took a lot of chances with a lot of big picks over there.

"But the position players panned out, the pitching didn't. They went out and made some good acquisitions, [James] Shields, [Omar] Infante, Wade Davis. They do a good job over there, [there are] really good baseball people over there."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Unveiling the 2014 All-Prospect Team

Sluggers Bryant and Gallo make the cut, as do pairs of Dodgers, Nationals and Red Sox

Unveiling the 2014 All-Prospect Team

Last week, MLBPipeline.com handed out year-end awards for top hitting and pitching prospects. As much as Kris Bryant and Tyler Glasnow were deserving recipients, it was clear there were many other fantastic performances in 2014 that deserved some attention.

With that in mind, MLBPipeline.com announced its 2014 All-Prospect Team on Friday. There's a prospect for each position, including three outfielders, a DH, a right-handed and left-handed starting pitcher and one reliever. The only requirements were that a player appeared at some point on a team's Top 20 list on Prospect Watch and spent the majority of the year in the Minor Leagues.

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1B: Matt Olson, Oakland A's
Perhaps lost in the shadow of the power displays of Bryant and Joey Gallo, Olson finished third in all of the Minors with 37 home runs. The A's No. 2 prospect also walked 117 times to lead the Minor Leagues, allowing him to finish with a robust .404 OBP and .947 OPS.

2B: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
Betts has more than held his own in the big leagues, playing center field and second base. He began the year as the No. 62 prospect on the Top 100, then moved up to No. 14 on the re-ranked list this summer. The jump was thanks to a huge season at Double and Triple-A. Betts hit .346/.431/.529 with 33 steals in 99 games before getting called up to Boston.

SS: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
The fact that Seager hit in the California League surprised no one. Neither did the fact he kept on raking when he reached Double-A. The Dodgers' top prospect hit a combined .349/.402/.602 to win the Minor League batting title, and his .602 slugging percentage was also good for fourth in the Minors. All coming from the shortstop position, while reaching the upper levels of the system at age 20.

3B: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
He was the Hitting Prospect of the Year, after all. The Cubs' top prospect led the Minors in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS. He was second in OBP, third in RBIs, and he even stole 15 bases while reaching Triple-A in his first full season.

C: Blake Swihart, Red Sox
Ranked as the No. 2 catcher, Swihart began the year in Double-A and finished it with the International League champion Pawtucket Red Sox in Triple-A. Combined, the switch-hitting 2011 first-round pick hit .293/.341/.469. He also threw out 46 percent of would-be basestealers and improved his defense behind the plate.

OF: Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers
Quick quiz: How many professional baseball players went 30-30 in 2014? One: Pederson. At No. 16 on the Top 100 and No. 3 on the Dodgers' list, Pederson was the only player at any level to accomplish the feat. The outfielder did it in just 121 games and 448 at-bats with Triple-A Albuquerque before receiving a September callup. Pederson not only had 33 homers and 30 steals, he also had a 1.017 OPS, good for fourth in the Minors. Sure, he struck out 149 times, but he also drew 100 walks en route to a .435 OBP, third among Minor Leaguers.

OF: Michael Taylor, Washington Nationals
A raw, toolsy shortstop-turned-outfielder, Taylor had a breakout year, largely in Double-A, in 2014. The Nationals' No. 3 prospect had a 20-30 season (23 home runs, 37 steals), went to the Futures Game and earned his first big league callup. His strikeout rate is still quite high, but his walk rate and OBP improved this year, signs he's moving in a very good direction.

OF: Steven Souza Jr., Washington Nationals
Souza may not have the same marquee value compared to others on this list -- he's one of only two players not on the Top 100 -- but it's impossible to look past the year he had before joining the Nationals. Souza started the year No. 14 on the Nationals' Top 20 and moved to fifth after hitting .345/.427/.577 over 100 Minor League games. His 1.004 OPS was sixth-best among all Minor League hitters, and he stole 28 bases to boot.

DH: Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
Gallo certainly belongs on this list, but he was blocked at his normal position by Bryant. The Rangers' top prospect finished just one homer behind Bryant, narrowly missing out on his second straight Minor League home run crown. More impressive than his power output -- though his Futures Game display will be remembered for a long time -- are the adjustments he made to earn a promotion to Double-A. His approach at the plate matured, and as a result he drew more walks and made more contact, giving him more chances to tap into his plus power.

RHP: Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates
The MLBPipeline.com Pitching Prospect of the Year, Glasnow shook off an early back issue to absolutely dominate the Florida State League. He finished the year with the lowest opponents' batting average among Minor Leaguers and the third lowest ERA. He struck out 11.4 batters per nine innings, which actually lowered his K/9 rate to 12.0 for his career. He also lowered his BB/9 rate by nearly a walk per nine from last season to this one.

LHP: Daniel Norris, Toronto Blue Jays
There were several quality lefty prospects to consider -- four received votes for Pitching Prospect of the Year, and five are among the top 30 overall prospects -- but Norris' season truly does stand out. The 2011 second-round pick began the year in the Florida State League and ended it in the big leagues, putting up eye-popping numbers along the way. The Blue Jays' No. 1 prospect finished fifth in the Minors with 163 strikeouts, held hitters to a .212 batting average and finished with a 2.53 ERA. His 11.8 K/9 rate was coupled with a 3.1 BB/9 mark.

RP: R.J. Alvarez, San Diego Padres
Alvarez began the year as the Angels' No. 7 prospect, but was dealt to the Padres in the Huston Street deal. He's not on the Padres Top 20 currently, but he's pitched as though he belongs. Between the two organizations, Alvarez posted a 1.25 ERA in 38 relief appearances, striking out 12.7 per nine while walking 2.7. Hitters managed just a .192 batting average against him in the Minors, and he's been just as stingy during his big league debut this September.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Happ stymies O's to cap strong second half

Veteran finishes with an 11-11 record after overcoming early adversity

Happ stymies O's to cap strong second half

TORONTO -- J.A. Happ's season may have started on a sour note, but it ended on a positive one on Saturday against the Orioles.

Happ pitched at least six innings for the seventh straight game, holding the Orioles to a pair of runs on four hits over 6 1/3 frames, as the Blue Jays topped Baltimore, 4-2, at Rogers Centre.

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In doing so, he closed out a season that began for him under tenuous circumstances -- one that gradually grew into a successful campaign for the veteran left-hander. Happ's second-half numbers stood in stark contrast to his performance prior to the All-Star break.

"Sometimes, it's tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Happ, who threw 158 innings for the season, the most he's managed since 2009.

"... You kind of have to keep having faith and keep working and it pays off. It felt good to walk off the mound today with the fans cheering."

Happ did what he's done repeatedly over his past dozen or so starts: deliver a solid six innings that gives his team the opportunity to win.

Despite Delmon Young's RBI single in the second and a solo shot to Adam Jones in the sixth, Happ mostly held Baltimore at bay to even his record at 11-11 for the season.

While he's been a dependable starter for the Blue Jays for most of the 2014 campaign, Happ's spot in Toronto's rotation was thrown into question back in Spring Training, before he went on the disabled list with a back injury. Upon his return, the southpaw had to bide his time in the bullpen.

"He didn't wanna do that. We didn't want him to have to do that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That's really not what he is."

Happ finally got his chance when Brandon Morrow went down with a torn tendon sheath in his right index finger that led to a long stay on the DL in early May. But isn't wasn't until the second half of the season that Happ really found his form.

Despite a losing record during the second half, Happ's numbers after the All-Star break were a marked improvement over his first-half stats, which included a 4.91 ERA and 33 walks over 17 games (13 starts).

He turned the corner in late July, recording respectable numbers -- despite posting a 4-6 mark over 13 second-half starts.

Happ's second-half ERA (3.56) was more than a full point lower than during the first half, as he walked half as many batters. His strikeout-to-walk ratio (69-18 vs. 64-33) was significantly better, as well.

"He was really good today," Gibbons said. "But he's been really good all year. I think he's really kicked it [up a notch] after the All-Star break and been very consistent. He's proven he's a pitcher that can go deep into games."

Happ, who turns 32 in October, enters the offseason with a one-year option on his contract worth $6.7 million for 2015. Asked whether the club would pick up that option, Gibbons directed questions to general manager Alex Anthopoulos. But in his own opinion, Gibbons said Happ has made a strong case for himself.

"I like everything about him," said Gibbons. "I think he's really come into his own. He's not a young kid, but you see a more consistent pitcher."

Happ, who had the lowest run-support average among Blue Jays starters this season (3.8 runs per game), got just enough from Toronto's offence on Saturday.

The Blue Jays took the lead in the third, as they chipped away at Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen with three straight hits that led to a pair of runs. Kevin Pillar had a one-out single before Steve Tolleson plated him with a double down the left-field line. Tolleson scored on Jose Reyes' double, as the Blue Jays took a 2-1 lead.

Toronto added another run in the fifth on a Baltimore error to grab a 3-1 advantage, then got some additional insurance after a crew-chief review in the seventh. Pillar attempted to score from third base on a fly ball by Reyes to Jones. But Baltimore's centre fielder made an almost perfect throw to the plate and home-plate umpire Jim Wolf called Pillar out after a head-first slide.

Gibbons came out of the dugout to ask the umpiring crew to take a closer look at the play. It wasn't a team challenge, because Gibbons felt there was a possible violation of Rule 7.13, which states the catcher must provide a clear basepath for the runner.

When umpires take a look at whether the catcher blocked the plate, they also are permitted to examine whether the original call on the field was correct. In this particular case, replays showed that Pillar avoided the tag from catcher Caleb Joseph for long enough to touch a piece of the plate with his left hand.

Following a review of 3 minutes and 17 seconds, the call on the field was overturned and Toronto was awarded an extra run. That gave the Blue Jays a 4-2 lead and allowed the seventh inning to continue. Jose Bautista then came to the plate and flied out to left field. But, by then, the damage had already been done.

After Happ exited, relievers Aaron Sanchez and Casey Janssen managed to lock things down the rest of the way.

"He's always tough, he's a good pitcher," Baltimore right fielder Steve Pearce said of Happ. "He has been around for a while. He was mixing his pitches and located. He's a good pitcher and he has some good stuff."

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Blue Jays win crew-chief review

Blue Jays win crew-chief review

TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons won a crew-chief review in the seventh inning, as the Blue Jays were provided with a valuable insurance run during Saturday afternoon's game against the Orioles.

The play in question took place when Kevin Pillar attempted to score from third base on a fly ball to Adam Jones. Baltimore's center fielder made an almost perfect throw to the plate and home-plate umpire Jim Wolf called Pillar out after a head-first slide.

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Gibbons came out of the dugout to ask the umpiring crew to take a closer look at the play. It wasn't a team challenge, because Gibbons felt there was a possible violation of Rule 7.13, which states the catcher must provide a clear basepath for the runner.

When umpires take a look at whether the catcher blocked the plate, they also are permitted to examine whether the original call on the field was correct. In this particular case, replays showed that Pillar avoided the tag from catcher Caleb Joseph for long enough to touch a piece of the plate with his left hand.

Following a review of 3 minutes and 17 seconds, the call on the field was overturned and Toronto was awarded an extra run. That gave the Blue Jays a 4-2 lead and allowed the seventh inning to continue. Jose Bautista then came to the plate and flied out to left field. But, by then, the damage had already been done.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Pompey stars with incredible all-around performance

Blue Jays' No. 3 prospect triples twice, doubles and makes great diving catch

Pompey stars with incredible all-around performance

TORONTO -- Dalton Pompey stole the show in the Blue Jays' win over the Orioles on Friday, combining stellar defense with an outstanding night at the plate to bring his hometown crowd to its feet.

The rookie outfielder make an outstretched diving catch down the left-field line in the second inning and went on to go 3-for-4 with a pair of triples, a double and two RBIs to pace the Blue Jays as they topped the Orioles, 4-2. The triples were Pompey's first in the Majors, as was his third-inning two-bagger.

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Pompey, the team's No. 3 prospect, according to MLB.com, became the third Toronto rookie to record a pair of triples in a game and the first Blue Jays player to do so since Alex Rios in 2005.

All in all, it's been a big week for Pompey, who swatted his first career homer -- off Felix Hernandez, no less -- against the Mariners on Tuesday. The Mississauga, Ontario, native has been a bright spot for Blue Jays fans as the team plays out its regular-season schedule with no hope of making the postseason.

The 21-year-old switch-hitter said he's adjusted better than expected to the Major League level, thanks largely to his Blue Jays teammates.

"I think I've gotten a little more confident and comfortable being here," said Pompey. "Since I've been here, the guys have made it a nice environment. They really make me feel like one of the guys that's been here a long time."

Pompey flew through the Blue Jays' system this season, climbing to the big leagues all the way from Class A Advanced Dunedin, where he started the season.

In the last five days, he's shown he can get the job done on both sides of the ball. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Pompey, who will head to the Arizona Fall League once the season is done, is a special kid.

"He's very respectful, very intelligent. Carries himself like a pro, and you combine what he's doing on the field -- he's flew through the system this year at a young age," Gibbons said.

Part of what makes Pompey's story so appealing is the fact that he's a hometown guy, raised about 30 minutes from the Rogers Centre. He grew up watching the Blue Jays, and recalls once -- as a 17-year-old -- telling Vernon Wells that he'd be on Toronto's big league roster one day.

Now that he's arrived, he's trying to take it all in second by second.

"It's the stuff I've dreamed about before I went to sleep at night," Pompey said. "Getting called up here and having that moment where they appreciate the effort that I'm giving. I'll continue to try my best and keep working from there."

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hutchison ends on high note to open final series

Pompey stars at plate, on D with three extra-base hits, diving catch

Hutchison ends on high note to open final series

TORONTO -- When Drew Hutchison arrived at Spring Training earlier this year, the biggest question was whether he could pitch a full season. Eight months later, the answer is a definitive yes.

There were plenty of concerns about Hutchison back in February, because he was expected to be an integral part of the rotation yet was coming off a missed season following Tommy John surgery. In the end, none of that mattered as Hutchison closed the door on a successful season in a 4-2 victory over the Orioles on Friday night.

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Hutchison tossed five strong innings and struck out eight in his final start of the year, while Dalton Pompey had a pair of triples and a double to lead the Blue Jays to a win in the series opener.

"Obviously, the first goal you have every year is to stay healthy and make all of your starts," Hutchison said. "I was able to do that and frankly I know there was a lot of concern about it, so obviously that's a plus. I would say the best way to summarize it, is that it's a good start, it's a good base to build off and continue to be better pitcher and continue to be better."

Hutchison finishes the year with an 11-13 record and a 4.48 ERA over 184 2/3 innings. It wasn't perfect and there are certainly some areas for improvement, but overall the season can be considered a success. There was a shutout over Yu Darvish and the Rangers on May 16, and he came within one out of another complete game vs. the Orioles on Aug. 6.

Then there's the fact that Hutchison finished the season with 184 strikeouts, which was a team high and the most by a Blue Jays pitcher since Brandon Morrow had 203 in 2011. Perhaps most impressive is that despite throwing more innings than he had at any point before, Hutchison finished the year by allowing three runs or fewer in six of his final seven starts.

In the future, there will be hope for more consistency, but overall the Blue Jays really couldn't have asked more from a pitcher who entered the year with all of 11 big league starts under his belt.

"He ran the table," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "There were a couple spots in there where we moved him back a day, one where we gave him three extra days and he responded."

Toronto got almost all of its offensive production from Pompey. The rookie outfielder started his night in the second inning with a triple to the gap in right-center field, his first career three-bagger, and he later scored on an RBI bunt single by Munenori Kawasaki. In the third, Pompey came through again with an RBI double to right-center that scored Adam Lind.

Pompey was back at it again in the fifth with yet another triple. This time, it scored Edwin Encarnacion all the way from first base. Pompey became the first Blue Jays player to triple twice in the same game since Alex Rios did it on April 27, 2005. Pompey also became the third Blue Jays rookie to accomplish the feat after Alfredo Griffin did it in 1979 and Shannon Stewart did it in '97.

"It's been a dream come true for me, coming from where I started," said Pompey, who began the year at Class A Advanced Dunedin. "[My Minor League coaches], I wouldn't be [here] without those guys and everyone else who helped me along the way."

Encarnacion, Lind and Kawasaki also enjoyed multihit nights at the plate. Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman was charged with all four of the runs on 11 hits in his final tune-up before getting the call in Game 1 of the upcoming American League Division Series.

"[Tillman's] fine," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He gave up some balls to Pompey. I made the mistake saying in Baltimore that I like the way this kid looks. He's a Canadian kid, right? He's a good-looking athlete and he's had a really good year at a lot of places.

"But it was more than that. We had a couple bunts we didn't defend very well."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Bullpen can't follow up solid Norris in loss to Seattle

Lefty works 3 1/3 innings in first MLB start before 'pen allows three HRs

Bullpen can't follow up solid Norris in loss to Seattle

TORONTO -- Daniel Norris hasn't been at the top of his game since being called up earlier this month, but it's the overall experience rather than the final results that should pay dividends down the road.

Toronto's top prospect made his Major League starting debut on Thursday afternoon at Rogers Centre, and while the mid-90s fastball wasn't there, he was able to survive. That's how his first month in the big leagues has gone, but there's little doubt that experiences like a 7-5 loss to Seattle will provide a greater comfort level next season.

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Norris heavily relied on his offspeed arsenal vs. Seattle and it was good enough to get through 3 1/3 innings. The same couldn't necessarily be said about the Blue Jays' bullpen, which proceeded to surrender three homers in the losing effort.

"It's obvious that my stuff isn't there," Norris admitted after the game. "It's tough to try to pitch without your stuff, but sometimes that's the competitor that has to come out and I think that's what I tried to do today -- go out and compete without your big guns."

Norris' stuff might not be there, but it's safe to say he'll be forgiven following a year in which he established himself as the club's top prospect. He began the season at Class A Advanced Dunedin, flew through the system and posted a combined 2.53 ERA across three levels.

The performance was enough to earn a promotion to the big leagues at the beginning of September. He spent the first three weeks of his Major League career working out of the bullpen and then received the spot start on Thursday after right-hander Marcus Stroman was handed a five-game suspension for throwing in the head area of Baltimore's Caleb Joseph.

Norris' fastball, since his debut, has been in the low-90s, compared to the mid-90s velocity that most of the scouts had come to love over the past couple of years. A change in his routine this September could be one cause and fatigue could be another, but nobody around the club seems concerned. This is all about building for the future.

"I think at the end of the day it's the same game," said Norris, who has allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings. "It's the game of baseball, you go out there and you get people out, no matter if there's 50,000 people or not. It has been an unbelievable experience. Although I've been frustrated with the way I've thrown, it's something I'll never forget just because of where I am."

Toronto manager John Gibbons said before the game that Norris would be limited to approximately 50-60 pitches because he hadn't started since August, but the lefty made the most of his opportunity. Norris retired the first eight batters he faced and eventually departed with a pair of runners on and one out in the fourth.

The former second-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft battled through the early stages of his outing before a bunt single and a walk in the fourth. He finished with one strikeout, throwing 29 of his 59 pitches for strikes in his final outing of the year.

Toronto's bullpen experienced a lot of difficulty after Norris left the game. Mariners outfielder Logan Morrison hit a three-run homer off Todd Redmond in the fourth and later added a solo shot off Aaron Loup in the sixth. Right-hander Dustin McGowan also had some trouble out of the 'pen as he surrendered a solo homer to catcher Mike Zunino.

"The first one I was looking for something up and over the plate, and was able to put the barrel on it and it got out," Morrison said. "The second one, I don't have any idea how I hit that guy. [Loup's] filthy. I blacked out. I don't know what happened. I got the barrel to a two-seamer in and was able to get it up enough to get out. So that was cool."

The Blue Jays had a couple of rallies but weren't able to overcome the bullpen's rough afternoon. Anthony Gose and Adam Lind had a pair of RBI singles, while rookie Dalton Pompey walked twice and scored a run out of the leadoff spot. Kevin Pillar added a solo home run -- his second of the year -- in the bottom of the ninth, but Mariners closer Fernando Rodney hung on for the save.

Despite not coming away with the finale win, the Blue Jays lived up to their role as spoiler in the final week of the season. Seattle entered the four-game series in the thick of the postseason race but was dealt a serious blow after the Blue Jays took the first three games by a combined score of 25-6.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Blue Jays TV announcers receive new five-year deals

Martinez, Tabler have been calling games together on Sportsnet since 2010

Blue Jays TV announcers receive new five-year deals

TORONTO -- Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler have signed five-year contracts to remain in their roles as television broadcasters for the Blue Jays.

Sportsnet, which owns the rights to all of Toronto's regular-season games, announced the deals on Thursday afternoon. Martinez will continue his play-by-play responsibilities, while Tabler will remain in his role as a color analyst.

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Martinez and Tabler are former Blue Jays who have been calling games together on Sportsnet since 2010. Tabler started his broadcasting career in 2001, while Martinez's experience dates back to the late 1980s and includes a couple of different stints with the Blue Jays.

"When I started broadcasting in Toronto in 1987 I never would have anticipated I would be here as long as I have, but when I was brought back as the play-by-play analyst in 2010 it was a tremendous feeling to return," Martinez said in a statement.

"At that time, I stepped into the unknown as the play-by-play guy but now, looking ahead to the next five years I couldn't be happier. When I look at the team we work with -- the team we have in the truck, the team in the booth and working alongside Pat Tabler -- it has been nothing but a joy."

Tabler was a member of Toronto's 1992 World Series team. He was an All-Star in 1987, had a career average of .282 and received particular notoriety for his .489 average with the bases loaded.

"It's a pleasure to bring the fans Blue Jays baseball," Tabler said. "I am happy to be coming back. I played on great teams as a player and now we have a great team here. It's awesome to come to work every single day and hang around these guys. We have the best jobs in the world, because we get to watch baseball, be around the team, and we get to talk baseball for three hours every night. You can't beat that."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Blue Jays present annual organizational awards

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays handed out their annual awards on Thursday afternoon and recognized the efforts of Nate Murrie, Matt Anderson, Richard "Stubby" Clapp and Taylor Cole.

The recipients were honored for their work in amateur scouting, professional scouting, player development and community service. The awards are handed out at the end of each season and come on the heel's of the Minor League Most Valuable Player Webster Awards that were announced on Wednesday.

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Murrie was selected for the Al Lamacchia Award, which is given annually to the amateur scout that "exemplifies the work ethic and perseverance best demonstrated by the longtime Blue Jays executive for whom the award is named." Murrie has served as an area scout for five years and during his tenure has signed Daniel Norris, Clint Hollon and Lane Thomas.

Anderson is the pro scout of the year after spending the 2014 season covering three Major League organizations. Cole picked up the community service award for his work in Dunedin, Fla. The 25-year-old right-hander participated in the annual "Bookin' it to the Ballpark" reading program and the summer "Kickball Tour," which is a health and wellness initiative.

Clapp, a former infielder with Baseball Canada, received the Bobby Mattick Award for excellence in player development. He has spent the past two seasons as the hitting coach in Class A Advanced Dunedin and played a key role in developing players such as current Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey and Minor Leaguers Dwight Smith Jr., Jon Berti, Andy Burns and Derrick Chung.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Buehrle hits 200 IP for 14th straight year in win

Lefty exits three outs shy of shutout; Goins' bloop drives in lone run

Buehrle hits 200 IP for 14th straight year in win

TORONTO -- Mark Buehrle has been Mr. Reliable throughout his Major League career, and even though he gets older with each passing season, it hasn't made the slightest impact on his overall performance.

It seems like year after year Buehrle defies the odds by continuing at his remarkable pace. There have been better pitchers over the past two decades but nobody has been as consistent, and the veteran lefty proved it yet again during Wednesday night's 1-0 victory over the Mariners.

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Buehrle tossed eight scoreless innings to become the seventh pitcher since 1901 to record at least 200 innings in 14 consecutive seasons. Just as fitting, the milestone was reached in a game that took under two hours to play.

"You look at some numbers back in the day, 200 innings was a terrible year, those guys were going 400-500 innings," Buehrle said. "I don't know what's changed from then till now, but it seems like each year it's getting harder and harder to get to 200 innings for me. I like to think of myself as a throwback guy just because I like to go out there and have fun, but the game has definitely changed."

The game might have changed, but the company Buehrle now finds himself in would be impressive regardless of the era. He joined a prestigious group that includes Warren Spahn (17 seasons of 200 innings), Don Sutton (15), Gaylord Perry (15), Phil Niekro (14), Christy Mathewson (14) and Greg Maddux (14).

The 35-year-old Buehrle is the first pitcher in Major League history to record at least 200 innings with 61 or fewer walks in 14 straight years. He surpassed Cy Young, who accomplished the feat from 1897-1909. In addition to the innings milestone, Buehrle has won at least 10 games and made 30 starts in 14 straight years, which is the most since Perry had 15 from 1966-80.

The streaks are a testament to the success Buehrle's enjoyed at the big league level but also to his ability to stay healthy. Buehrle made his 461st consecutive start without a stint on the disabled list. That's the longest streak in the Majors and reminiscent of an era when pitchers were pushed to their limits year after year.

"You wish there were more of him, I'll put it that way," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "When you coach and manage on teams, I've been here and different places, he's at the top of my list for not only baseball players but individuals. We all have our issues and things like that, but he does everything right. He's a throwback type of guy. He understands the game, he deals with the game, he just does everything right."

Buehrle's milestone outing looked like so many starts he's had throughout his career. The Major League leader in pace cruised throughout the night in a game that took one hour and 59 minutes to complete. His only minor hiccups on a 10-strikeout night came in the third on a double by Corey Hart and in the fourth on a leadoff infield single by Dustin Ackley.

The native of Missouri received a standing ovation when he officially hit the 200-innings plateau after the sixth and again in the ninth when he was lifted after a leadoff single. He's done this 200-inning thing plenty times before, but this one feels a little more special because for a long time there was some doubt about whether it would even happen.

"I think it's going to mean more at the end of the season, knowing I accomplished it again," Buehrle said. "I think when I had two or three starts in a row I had three innings, four innings, mixed a six-inning game in there, I kind of, I don't want to say gave up, I said, 'Hey it's not going to happen.' I did the math and said I have eight starts, I need so many innings, I didn't like my chances. It means a lot because I put this goal on myself in Spring Training."

Toronto almost wasn't able to capitalize on Buehrle's strong outing. The Blue Jays were unable to get anything going off rookie right-hander Taijuan Walker, who matched Buehrle pitch for pitch for much of the night. Walker faced two batters over the minimum through seven innings, and it wasn't until the eighth that Toronto finally managed to piece together a mini rally.

Infielder Munenori Kawasaki got things started with a one-out walk. He remained at first base until one out later when Ryan Goins hit a high blooper to center. Kawasaki was running on the play and the ball dropped between center fielder Austin Jackson and second baseman Robinson Cano. Kawasaki scored all the way from first base and gave the Blue Jays the only run of the night.

Buehrle was in search of his first complete game since July 25, 2013, but left after a single by Chris Taylor led off the ninth. Rookie reliever Aaron Sanchez entered, picked off pinch-runner James Jones and then retired the side to record the third save of his career.

"He had it going," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said of Buehrle. "He's a veteran guy that knows what he's doing. He's got great touch and feel. He had the cutter going in, good changeup, breaking ball, mixed it all. That was vintage Buehrle."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Blue Jays name MVPs in Minor League system

Pillar claims top prize for Triple-A club; Berti wins Double-A award

Blue Jays name MVPs in Minor League system

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays handed out their annual R. Howard Webster Awards on Wednesday afternoon to honor the most valuable players at each level of the club's Minor League system.

Current Toronto outfielder Kevin Pillar picked up the top award for Triple-A Buffalo after his impressive year for the Bisons. He was joined by infielder Jon Berti (Double-A New Hampshire), outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. (Class A Advanced Dunedin) and third baseman Mitch Nay (Class A Lansing).

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Other winners included shortstop Franklin Barreto (short-season Vancouver), shortstop Richard Urena (Rookie Advanced Bluefield), C/1B Juan Kelly (Gulf Coast League Blue Jays) and first baseman Enmanuel Moreta (Dominican Summer League).

Pillar, who was promoted to the big leagues at the beginning of September, was an International League postseason All-Star and the Bisons' Stan Barron MVP. He appeared in 100 games this season and ranked in the top five of most of the league's major offensive categories. He led the IL in doubles (39), was third in batting average (.323), fourth in extra-base hits (52) and fifth in slugging percentage (.509).

Berti is set to participate in the upcoming Arizona Fall League. This is his second consecutive Webster Award after he was named the MVP for Class A Dunedin in 2013. He finished second in the Eastern League with 146 hits and 40 stolen bases while batting .270.

Smith led Dunedin in batting average (.284), on-base percentage (.363), home runs (12), RBIs (60), stolen bases (15) and doubles (28). Nay led the Lugnuts with a .285 batting average, 34 doubles, 59 RBIs and 135 hits, which ranked second in Toronto's organization.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Report: Gibbons will return as Blue Jays manager

Report: Gibbons will return as Blue Jays manager

TORONTO -- John Gibbons will return as manager of the Blue Jays in 2015, according to a report from CBS Sports.

The news would seem to line up with recent rumblings from the club and other reports that suggested Toronto is not considering making a change in the dugout.

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Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos likely won't officially address the situation until his news conference at the end of the regular season, but there hasn't been any indication that a move is imminent.

"He's under contract," Anthopoulos said last week. "He's always under contract, pretty much. I don't think there's anything to take care of, and I think he has done a good job."

Gibbons has a rather unique contract. He's already signed through the 2015 season, and if he is still employed on Jan. 1, then another year gets tacked onto his deal. That type of rollover agreement applies every year he is with the club, and it's an attempt for the Blue Jays to allow Gibbons to avoid entering a season with "lame-duck status."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Mariners on top in two of three reviewed plays

Hart's third-inning 2B confirmed; Seattle wins challenge in eighth, loses one in ninth

Mariners on top in two of three reviewed plays

TORONTO -- Three replay reviews yielded mixed results for the Blue Jays and Mariners on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.

A review in the third inning confirmed that Corey Hart's shot down the right-field line was indeed a fair ball; Dalton Pompey was ruled out in the eighth after a replay overturned a safe call on Kendrys Morales' tag on a bunt; and an out call on a pickoff of James Jones in the ninth was confirmed. The Blue Jays won, 1-0.

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With no outs, Mariners designated hitter Hart sent an offering from Mark Buehrle high into right field that bounced just fair and into the stands for a ground-rule double, prompting Blue Jays manager John Gibbons to issue a manager's challenge.

After a review of one minute, 25 seconds, the call on the field was confirmed, and Hart stayed at second base. He was stranded though, as Buehrle went on to retire Mike Zunino, Chris Taylor and Austin Jackson in order to escape the threat.

Then in the bottom of the eighth of a scoreless game, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon successfully challenged a call that had originally awarded Pompey a bunt single to lead off the inning.

Pompey squared around and laid a bunt down the first-base line, but he pushed the ball to Morales, who was charging in from first base. Morales fielded it and dove toward Pompey as he raced down the line and swerved to avoid the tag before diving headfirst into first base. First-base umpire Doug Eddings called Pompey safe, prompting McClendon to challenge the call.

In the top of the ninth, with the potential tying run on first, Blue Jays reliever Aaron Sanchez made a slick pickoff move to get pinch-runner Jones at first, who replaced Taylor with no outs.

Jones narrowly got back to the bag a few moments earlier on a pickoff attempt but wasn't so lucky the second time around and was called out by Eddings. McClendon came out to challenge, but it was clear from the review that Jones was indeed out.

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Pompey kick-starts rally with first career homer

Pompey kick-starts rally with first career homer

TORONTO -- Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey reached another milestone in his very young career by homering for the first time during Tuesday's 10-2 victory over the Mariners.

Pompey sent a 3-1 offering from American League Cy Young Award candidate Felix Hernandez into the second deck in right field. The no-doubt shot came as part of a seven-run inning that saw 13 batters come to the plate.

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The 21-year-old Pompey became the ninth Canadian-born player to homer for the Blue Jays. Brett Lawrie, Matt Stairs, Corey Koskie, Dave McKay, Rob Ducey, Paul Hodgson, Adam Loewen and Simon Pond are the others on that list.

"As soon as I hit it, I pretty much knew I got it," Pompey said. "I don't hit too many home runs but when I hit that one, it just took off and I was just watching. I was kind of in shock for a moment -- who was pitching, ball I hit -- I played with that guy on video games, and to think I just hit a home run off him was pretty crazy."

Pompey didn't receive a lot of attention heading into the year but has since established himself as one of the club's top prospects. He was promoted to the Majors on Sept. 2, and his season will continue later this year in the Arizona Fall League.

When the Blue Jays initially promoted Pompey, he wasn't expected to receive a lot of playing time, but that has since changed. The native of Mississauga has started five consecutive games for the Blue Jays. He picked up his first hit on Friday and scored his first run on Monday.

"That's what the night should be about," Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey said after his club's win. "Pompey hit his first home run off probably the AL Cy Young Award winner, two-time award winner. He's probably going to win the Cy Young, he should, he's incredible.

"For a guy like that to do it in front of family, that's a cool thing. That's what baseball offers, cool stories like that, and hopefully the night will be about that."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Blue Jays' playoff hopes end despite rout of Mariners

Seven-run fifth backs strong Dickey, but Royals' win eliminates Toronto

Blue Jays' playoff hopes end despite rout of Mariners

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays hit their way to another win over the Mariners on Tuesday at Rogers Centre, but the victory was bittersweet.

Toronto was able to solve the American League's most dominant pitcher in a 10-2 victory, but the Royals' win over the Indians officially put the Blue Jays' playoffs hopes to rest for another year.

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The Blue Jays erupted for a seven-run fifth to drive Seattle ace Felix Hernandez from the game, making it through 13 batters in the frame to deliver a repeat offensive outburst from the night before for a combined 24 runs in the opening two games of the series.

Manager John Gibbons said his team doesn't necessarily relish the opportunity to play spoiler to the Mariners -- who are in the thick of the AL Wild Card hunt -- but at this point in the season, it's a little extra bit of motivation.

"I think everyone is disappointed with where we're at. But you come out and try to win a game," Gibbons said. "Facing the guys we did, you know it's not going to be an easy task. These are rare things, especially doing it back-to-back days against those guys. You just enjoy that. You try to win, you enjoy it if somebody else has got a shot at it and you're at the end. You get a little enjoyment out of it. It's not what drives you, but it never hurts."

After the Blue Jays notched one run in the first, it looked as though Hernandez had settled in, as he retired 11 straight batters through the fourth inning.

But the wheels fell off in the fifth as the Blue Jays took it to the Mariners, drawing three walks and five hits off Hernandez before he was yanked in favour of Dominic Leone, who hit the first batter he faced before Josh Thole cashed one in to push the lead to 8-2, all but sealing it for Toronto.

The highlight of the inning came from the bat of Dalton Pompey, who hit his first career homer to the second deck to start the rally. With the home run, Pompey became the ninth Canadian-born player to hit a dinger as a Blue Jay.

Hernandez, the front-runner to lock down the AL Cy Young Award this season, was at a loss when asked about his uncharacteristically bad performance. He said he let his team down.

"Geez, I don't know," he said. "My fastball wasn't there, my changeup was OK. I made a couple mistakes.

"Real disappointed. As an ace, I let my team down. That was my fault."

Outside of that big fifth inning, there wasn't a whole lot to see from either side. Seattle was able to put up a pair of runs off R.A. Dickey on three hits in the third, but otherwise the 39-year-old was able to contain the Mariners' offense with the knuckleball.

With another big night from the Blue Jays' bats, it could've been easy to miss an unheralded outing from Dickey, who threw his sixth straight quality start and team-leading 22nd of the season.

Dickey retired the first six batters he faced to start the game, and after his third-inning stumble, went on to record his fifth win in his last seven starts.

All said, Dickey (14-12) went seven innings and allowed two earned runs on five hits with six strikeouts.

Dickey said that though he's disappointed that the Blue Jays won't be making a trip to the postseason, he doesn't expect his squad to ease up in any of its final five games of the season.

"There's always the pressure to play for something," Dickey said. "I've said that from Day 1. If you can make it about that game, regardless of the situation ... you can be a professional about it."

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Goal of first playoff berth since '93 comes up short

Goal of first playoff berth since '93 comes up short

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' shot at the postseason -- which once looked so promising -- officially came to an end on Tuesday night.

Toronto defeated the Mariners, 10-2, at Rogers Centre but was eliminated from the race when Kansas City cruised to a victory over the Indians. The writing had been on the wall for well over a week, but it wasn't until Game No. 157 that the dream actually died.

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The Blue Jays will now have plenty of time to reflect on where things went wrong in 2014. The club that once had a six-game lead in the American League East -- and held onto an AL Wild Card spot until early August -- didn't finish as expected and was forced into the role of spoiler down the stretch.

"I think it was a disappointment," starter R.A. Dickey said when asked to reflect on the year. "Having not gotten to the postseason, again, with a team that I felt was very capable. Of course, we're all disappointed and we should be. Everybody in here should be disappointed.

"You have to learn, you have to grow, you have to look for opportunities to see how you can improve and get better, otherwise the season is lost. So I think now you're seeing some guys that are being evaluated and can hopefully help us next year. Because if you don't do that, if you don't take opportunities to do that, then not only is it a disappointing season, it's a failure."

Toronto is now dangerously close to taking over as the franchise with the longest postseason drought in the Major Leagues. Kansas City hasn't qualified for the postseason since 1985, but that could be about to end as the Royals' victory on Tuesday combined with Seattle's loss meant they have a three-game lead for the second Wild Card spot.

The Blue Jays haven't made the postseason since they won the World Series in 1993. For several months it looked like this would be the season that skid would come to an end, but instead it has been extended to 21 years and counting. There was meaningful baseball in September, but not for as long as the club initially expected.

The vast majority of Toronto's problems came in August, when the club went 9-17 and won only two series. That cost it the second Wild Card spot, and despite a push in early September, it proved to be too much to overcome.

There were some issues with the lineup, problems on defense and ill-timed blowups with the bullpen. Still, considering the Blue Jays held onto first place for longer than any time since 1993, this season, more than any other, will be remembered as the one that got away.

"A lot of good times, a lot of tough times," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "In the end, the teams that get there earn it, the best teams go. The ones that aren't, don't go. That's just the way it is when you play that many games."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Blue Jays extend contract with Class A Lansing

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays and the Lansing Lugnuts officially announced a two-year extension of their player-development contract on Tuesday afternoon.

Lansing has been the home of Toronto's low Class A affiliation since 2005. The new agreement means the two sides will continue working together through the 2016 season.

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"This is terrific news for the city of Lansing," Lansing Lugnuts co-owner Tom Dickson said in a statement. "The Toronto Blue Jays consistently provide high-character, high-ceiling baseball players. After watching the rapid ascent of Daniel Norris, Dalton Pompey and Kendall Graveman from the Lugnuts to the Blue Jays in just one year, we are excited to see who follows in their footsteps."

The Lugnuts, who will celebrate 20 years in Lansing next season, previously won Midwest League titles in 1997 and 2003. The club has featured 49 Midwest League All-Stars, more than 700 victories, five playoff berths and 27 Major Leaguers.

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Blue Jays Academy names T12 All-Star team

Senior lands MVP honors for second annual Tournament 12

Blue Jays Academy names T12 All-Star team

After last week's second annual Tournament 12 presented by New Era, which ended with Quebec-Blue coming out on top, the Blue Jays Baseball Academy named an All-Star team.

The most notable name on the roster is Eric Senior from Ontario-Black, who was also named Tournament MVP. Senior batted .529 for the tournament and played very well defensively. Tournament commissioner Roberto Alomar was extremely impressed with Senior's all-around play.

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"He seemed to be on base all the time, and he played really well out in right field," Alomar said. "He's got a chance to be a really good player."

Four members of Ontario-Green were named to the All-Star team, including Tristan Pompey, brother of Blue Jays center fielder Dalton Pompey. Tristan batted .357, scored five runs and stole five bases.

"Tristan played hard for the four days, put the ball in play consistently and ran the bases really well," said Ontario-Green coach Adam Stern.

Joining Pompey from the Ontario-Green team are catcher Tony Hrynkiw, who led the tournament with a .571 batting average, and pitchers Nick Virdo and Michael Brettell, who combined to throw 16 scoreless innings.

Tournament 12 champions Quebec-Blue had three players named to the squad, including the tournament's Top Pitcher, Mathieu Denault-Gauthier, who went 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and struck out seven over 10 innings.

"He attacked the hitters and got a lot of ground balls. He won two very big games for us," said Quebec-Blue coach Denis Boucher.

The other two Quebec-Blue members are outfielder JF Garon, who batted .400 with six walks and four stolen bases, and Jason Tarapasky, who pitched a complete-game shutout in the semifinals vs. Ontario-Green.

The Futures-Navy will also be represented by three players, outfielders Issac Deveaux and Cooper Davis as well as shortstop Adam Hall. Hall led the tournament with eight RBIs, while Deveaux and Davis dazzled scouts with their combination of speed, power and defense.

"I think you got a glimpse of three young ballplayers that will be a big part of the future in Canadian baseball in the coming years" said Futures-Navy coach Stubby Clapp.

The rest of the infield will be made up by Trevor Lofstrom of BC-Orange, who batted .467 with seven RBIs, second baseman Blake Gallagher of Atlantic-Grey, who batted .375 with three runs scored, and Alberta-Red's Nolan Rattai, who batted .286 with a home run and five RBIs.

In the DH spot will be Junior National Team standout Josh Naylor, who batted .357 for Ontario-Black. He also collected four RBIs and stole four bases despite missing the first game because a hurricane stranded all flights out of Mexico following the World Championship Qualifier.

Rounding out the roster are infielder Brett Esau from Prairies-Purple, who batted .286 with three RBIs and five walks, as well as pitcher Ethan Skuija from BC-Orange, who earned a win and had an ERA of 1.00 with 13 strikeouts.

The Coach of the Tournament honors went to Boucher of Quebec-Blue. After a blowout loss in the first game to Prairies Purple, 10-1, Boucher led Quebec to an undefeated record the rest of the way.

"I'm really happy with all of the players who were selected for the tournament and I am happy to give recognition the 17 players who were selected as Tournament 12 All-Stars" Alomar said.

TJ Burton is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Gibbons to reward Norris with first big league start

Gibbons to reward Norris with first big league start

TORONTO -- Left-hander Daniel Norris will make the first start of his Major League career in Thursday afternoon's series finale vs. the Mariners.

Norris will fill the spot of right-hander Marcus Stroman, who is currently serving a five-game suspension for throwing near the head area of Baltimore's Caleb Joseph.

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The 21-year-old Norris will be limited to two or three innings, but the outing is still a reward for a fine season that saw the native of Tennessee establish himself as one of the club's top prospects.

"He's a young kid that had a good year in the Minor Leagues," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We really like him, get him the feel of a start and let him prepare that way."

Norris began the year at Class A Dunedin, but he eventually received promotions to Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo. He posted a 2.53 ERA in 26 games between the three levels, and along the way earned a spot at the 2014 Futures Game during Major League Baseball's All-Star break.

Toronto used Norris out of the bullpen four times since he was called up on Sept. 2, but he hasn't started since late August. That means his endurance isn't what it was earlier in the year, so the club will take a cautious approach and limit him to a few innings. Todd Redmond, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman will be available to pitch in long relief.

Stroman won't make another start this season and instead will move to the bullpen when his suspension comes to an end on Friday. Right-hander Drew Hutchison will start on normal rest Friday night against Baltimore and will be followed by left-hander J.A. Happ and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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On life support, Blue Jays come alive

Bautista's huge night with bat, glove and arm crush playoff-seeking M's

On life support, Blue Jays come alive

TORONTO -- The hit parade started early and didn't stop on Monday night as the Blue Jays pounded the ball to all fields in a 14-4 shellacking of the Mariners at Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays put up four in the first, five in the third and five more along the way to take the series opener while throwing a wrench in the spokes of the Mariners' chase of an American League Wild Card berth. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, staved off their likely elimination from playoff contention, at least for one more night and remain six games back in the AL Wild Card race with six games to go.

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"It always feels good to smile," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "You try to do that every night, but it's not that easy. We had a real good approach at the plate ... had some big hits. We haven't had a laugh in a good while, I can't remember the last time. "

Toronto drove starter James Paxton from the game after 2 2/3 innings, over which the offense registered nine runs on seven hits, putting the game out of reach early.

Paxton, a Lander, B.C., native, endured what was his worst outing of the season, walking six of the 21 batters he faced on the night. Four of those free passes came around to score.

The Toronto offense, meanwhile, was able to put up more runs over six innings than it mustered through its first five games on its recent seven-game road trip.

Jose Bautista reached base in each of his four plate appearances on the night, and went deep with a solo shot in the fifth to tie Joe Carter for third place on the Blue Jays all-time home run list with 203. Bautista delivered at the plate and in the field, laying out to make a nice diving catch to rob Austin Jackson of a base hit in the second before he threw out Logan Morrison trying to stretch a single into a double in the fourth. Dalton Pompey got in on the defensive action as well, stretching way out in deep centre field to take away extra bases from Dustin Ackley in the fifth.

Gibbons said he expects nothing less from his group, despite the bleak outlook in the playoff race.

"These guys are paid to play pro ball, you don't take time off. I don't think where we're at dictates the effort you give, or at least it shouldn't," he said. "I mean, it's happened before, but I don't see that with this group."

Kevin Pillar hit his first homer of the season, a shot off Lucas Luetge in the bottom of the sixth. The two-run blast also scored Pompey, the last Blue Jays' starter who hadn't scored in the game up to that point.

That was more than enough run support for lefty J.A. Happ, who improved to 10-11 on the season, snapping a three-game losing streak in the process.

Despite allowing the game's leadoff hitter -- Jackson -- to score on Robinson Cano's double in a shaky first inning, Happ settled in to record his second win in his last 11 starts.

He gave up a homer and a double in the sixth, but was otherwise unchallenged, going seven innings while allowing two runs on two hits with five strikeouts.

Happ said he felt good, and when he stumbled, the defense was there to pick him up.

"We made some great plays, definitely took away three hits that I would've given up. It was fun to watch," Happ said.

With the loss -- their third straight -- the Mariners fall two games back of the Royals for the second American League Wild Card spot.

"What are you going to say, that these are the biggest games of the year? They know what's at stake," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon.

"These type of losses, they're bummers, because you're out of it right from the start."

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Blue Jays handily beat Mariners in game, edge them in reviews, 2-1

Blue Jays handily beat Mariners in game, edge them in reviews, 2-1

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays and Mariners saw mixed results after three reviews in the first, second and eighth innings of their series opener on Monday at Rogers Centre, a game won by the home team, 14-4.

Danny Valencia was ruled safe at third after Toronto manager John Gibbons challenged an out call in the bottom of the first inning.

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With the bases loaded, Valencia cracked a fastball from Seattle starter James Paxton to the wall in left-center field, scoring three. He rounded second in an attempt to stretch it into a triple, and beat the relay with a feet-first slide, though he was initially called out by third-base umpire Doug Eddings, prompting Gibbons to make the challenge. After a 2-minute, 32-second review, the call on the field was overturned and Valencia was ruled safe with a triple.

An inning later, Gibbons came out of the dugout to question another call when Jose Bautista was thrown out at home after attempting to score from second on a Dioner Navarro single to right field.

The throw from Chris Denorfia beat Bautista, but there was some question whether catcher Jesus Sucre blocked Bautista's path to the plate when he slid into home. After a 1-minute, 45-second crew chief review, the call on the field was upheld and Bautista ruled out.

And finally in the eighth, the Blue Jays' Steve Tolleson ripped a grounder up the middle off of reliever Joe Beimel that looked destined for the outfield. But Seattle shortstop Chris Taylor made a diving stab and fired to first, where Tolleson was ruled out by umpire Jim Joyce. Gibbons again emerged from the dugout to challenge the call and, after a review, it was overturned and Tolleson ruled safe.

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Blue Jays stifled by Tanaka, fall to Yankees

Bats manage one run off NY ace; Hutchison struggles with pitch count

Blue Jays stifled by Tanaka, fall to Yankees

NEW YORK -- The Blue Jays were not sure how the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka would respond in his first start since being diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in early July. They did not know if they should expect the pitcher who was dominant in the first half, including a 2-0 record with 18 strikeouts and a 2.08 ERA against the Blue Jays, or a lesser version.

But Tanaka was solid in his return and Toronto turned in another lackluster offensive performance during Sunday's 5-2 defeat at Yankee Stadium.

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"He knows how to pitch," Jose Reyes said. "It's been a little while for him, but he knows what he's doing on the mound. He knows when he needs to use his pitches. ... He looked very good today."

The Blue Jays were familiar with uncertainty when facing Tanaka; they were the team he made his first career Major League start against on April 4. He surrendered three runs (two earned) in seven innings that day while striking out eight for his first career victory. On Sunday, he held the Blue Jays to one run on five hits in 5 1/3 innings and struck out four to pick up another win.

Tanaka was on a pitch count of around 70-75 pitches, but the Blue Jays did not make him work much in the early going. The Blue Jays forced him into just one three-ball count, and he did not walk a batter.

"He looked like the same guy I saw earlier this season," Jose Bautista said.

This Blue Jays' lineup Sunday was not the same, and much less threatening, compared to that first start. Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie are out for the season, Colby Rasmus has not been productive and watched the game from the bench and Adam Lind did not start for the second consecutive game because of back troubles.

Without Lind especially, the Blue Jays are increasingly reliant on the top four hitters in their order for production. Their Nos. 5-9 hitters on Sunday were made up of mostly inexperienced players still trying to get comfortable at the plate. Those hitters went a combined 1-for-17, with one walk and six strikeouts.

"We've had a lot of chances to break things open," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "You're relying on two-out hits out of our big guys and we didn't always get those. That's kind of what we're leaning on right now."

Meanwhile, the Yankees forced Drew Hutchison to throw a lot of pitches early and chased him in the fifth inning, after Derek Jeter singled on Hutchison's 94th pitch. Two of the five hits Hutchison surrendered were solo home runs by Brian McCann in the first and Brett Gardner in the fifth.

"Just a little bit off, got into a lot of deep counts," Hutchison said. "My fastball command was a little off, which led to those deep counts, and I made a couple of mistakes."

Hutchison's short outing snapped a streak of 26 straight games of Blue Jays starters lasting at least six innings, the longest in the Majors since 2003.

Jeter doubled in the seventh inning to drive in Gardner and then scored on McCann's second homer of the day. Jeter recorded four multihit games during this four-game series, going 8-for-17 with three runs, two doubles, a home run and three RBIs.

"He steps up and does something good when you need it," Gibbons said. "Hasn't been the kind of year that he wanted, but in fairness to him, what do you expect? Still a pretty good year. He makes things happen for them when they need something to happen, and the game's going to miss him."

The loss capped a nightmare road trip for the Blue Jays, who started it clinging to life in the race for the second American League Wild Card spot. After going 1-6 against Baltimore and New York, those hopes have all but faded now, as the Blue Jays sit 6 1/2 games behind the Royals.

"Obviously, it's real disappointing," Hutchison said.

Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Stroman drops appeal, begins serving five-game suspension

Righty reaches out to Joseph to resolve issues after throwing over O's catcher's head

Stroman drops appeal, begins serving five-game suspension

NEW YORK -- Marcus Stroman has dropped his appeal and began serving a five-game suspension on Sunday.

Major League Baseball originally suspended Stroman for six games for his role in an incident Monday night, when he threw a pitch over the head of Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph. Stroman said the Players Association and the league reached an agreement to reduce the punishment without a hearing.

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"I didn't want it to be lingering around the entire offseason," he said. "Just get it out of the way this year and move on."

Stroman has stood by his original statement that the pitch simply got away from him and he would never throw at someone's head on purpose. Earlier in that game, however, Jose Reyes felt that Joseph stepped on his hand while Reyes slid into home plate. Stroman said he reached out to Joseph via phone recently to resolve any outstanding issues.

"I'd never intentionally throw at anyone. I respect the game. I respect the players way too much to ever do anything like that," Stroman said on Wednesday. "Family, friends, teammates know the type of individual I am. But it's tough, it's tough to go about it."

Stroman started for the Blue Jays on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, where he struck out seven and allowed just two runs in six innings to snap the club's six-game losing streak.

Serving the suspension now will give Stroman the opportunity to make another start before the end of the season during the series against the Orioles. He has been impressive during his rookie campaign, posting a record of 11-6 with a 3.77 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 126 2/3 innings.

Stroman will have to miss what would have been his next scheduled start, on Thursday against the Mariners, which will almost certainly turn into a bullpen day with Todd Redmond as the likely starter. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said earlier this week that Redmond would be in line to start the game if Stroman had to serve his punishment because Redmond could give them the most innings.

Stroman said he was not sure if or when he would start again this season, but he would be next eligible to pitch on Friday in the opener against the Orioles at Rogers Centre.

Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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