Blue Jays bats can't back solid Laffey

Blue Jays bats can't back solid Laffey

Blue Jays bats can't back solid Laffey
DETROIT -- Blue Jays starter Aaron Laffey might have been pitching to save his spot in the rotation, but it was hard to tell based on his reaction after the game.

The left-hander has faced increased scrutiny over the past week with the imminent return of injured starter Brandon Morrow. A current member of the starting five will have to go, and while most signs have pointed to Laffey, it doesn't appear to have fazed him.

Laffey made a strong case to keep his job by tossing six strong innings, but the continued lack of offensive production by the Blue Jays led to a 3-2 loss against the Tigers on Wednesday night at Comerica Park.

"It's never entered my mind at all," said Laffey, who allowed three runs -- two earned -- on five hits. "The only time it has been brought up is when you guys say it to me. There's too much for me to worry about, I worry about what I have to do to get better.

"If I let any outside distractions or hearsay come into my mind, or pay any attention to it, I just dismiss it right away and get back to what I have to do to perform, compete and keep the team in the ballgame."

For Laffey, the art of pitching is as much about the mental side of the game as it is about physical tools. The 27-year-old doesn't possess a devastating offspeed pitch and his fastball only tops out in the high 80s, but none of that matters to him. Instead, it's about perfecting the mechanics of his delivery to get the most out of his abilities.

Following his past couple of starts, Laffey noticed a flaw in his approach. The native of Maryland wasn't content with the angle and flow of his delivery, so he spent a lot of time visualizing each pitch.

Even without picking up a ball, he stood in front of a mirror and went through his delivery. Then Laffey would do it with his eyes closed so he would know exactly how it felt when the mechanics were just right.

"You don't have to be on a mound, you don't even have to have a ball," Laffey said. "Just doing a lot of dry drills, a lot of dry work in the mirror and doing a lot of dry work with my eyes closed as well. Just really feeling my body and feeling where everything is supposed to be, supposed to go.

"With your eyes closed it's a lot harder to balance and it's a lot harder to do things, so just kind of staying on top of it. You don't need to have a baseball to get better as a pitcher, with your mechanics and those kind of things."

Laffey had the sinker working just fine in Detroit as he cruised through the early stages of the game. He faced the minimum through three innings and didn't allow a hit until Omar Infante delivered a one-out triple in the fourth. Infante would eventually come around to score on a wild pitch in the dirt to give the Tigers an early 1-0 lead.

The sixth-year pitcher then surrendered another run in the fifth on an RBI single by Jeff Baker. The final blow against Laffey occurred in the sixth when Austin Jackson reached base on an error by Adeiny Hechavarria and later scored from second on a single to left by Prince Fielder.

"I thought Aaron pitched very well tonight," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "We started one of those innings with an error that led to one run, bang-bang play at the plate on a couple of hops with Jackson scoring, tough play for Jeff [Mathis] to hold onto, and unfortunately we're looking at 3-2 [on the] wrong side of the scoreboard."

The only runs for Toronto came on an Edwin Encarnacion RBI single in the sixth and a Hechavarria sacrifice fly in the seventh that scored Yorvit Torrealba, who singled to lead off the frame. Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez surrendered both runs -- one earned -- on five hits and two walks while striking out six.

"Today I just tried to keep the ball on the hitter's bat," Sanchez said. "I just tried to keep the ball on the right spot, tried to make the good pitch in the right moment and just throw my pitch. Me and [catcher Alex] Avila talked before the game about everything. That's my third time I faced Toronto this year, and that's why I threw a good game today."

It marked the sixth consecutive game the Blue Jays have been held to three runs or less, and the 18th time it happened in their past 23. Over that same span, the Blue Jays have averaged just 2.78 runs per game, which ranks last in all of baseball.

The lack of overall production has forced the hand of Farrell to be more creative with his offense. That led to 45-year-old Omar Vizquel attempting to steal second base with two outs in the top of the ninth inning.

Farrell in all likelihood wouldn't have made the same decision with a full arsenal of players at his disposal, but with a lineup that has been riddled by injuries he decided to make the bold move. It didn't work out, as Vizquel was tossed out by Avila, but there were no regrets in the Blue Jays' clubhouse.

"Trying to manufacture a run," Farrell said. "[Tigers closer Jose] Valverde's a guy that relatively has slow release times. We feel like even with our medium-speed runners we're going to force him to make a perfect throw. He did. Just the way we're struggling to score runs, trying to create something and make something happen.

"Unfortunately, after Omar's base hit, he's gunned down by a perfect throw by Avila. You tip your cap."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for 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.