Purcey's on-the-job lesson continues
Rookie allows three runs over six frames, but win streak ends
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are hoping that left-handed starter David Purcey can play a large role in the future of their starting rotation. This is why the team recently decided to give the former first-round pick an extended look at the Major League level.
At the moment, Toronto (59-57) is looking for progress out of the rookie starter, and on Friday, despite taking the loss in the Indians' 5-2 victory over the Jays, Purcey undoubtedly took a step in the right direction.
"He's getting there," said Toronto manager Cito Gaston following the loss.
"We have got to try to be patient with him and hope he learns something every time he goes out there."
Making just the fifth Major League start of his career and the third since being recalled from Triple-A on July 24, Purcey (1-3) gave his best performance thus far. The left-hander worked his way in and out of jams on Friday, but he was really only harmed in the fourth inning, when he surrendered all three of his runs.
Purcey allowed two walks and six hits over six innings. The most encouraging aspect of his start, though, was his career-high eight strikeouts.
The 26-year-old's fastball was what impressed Gaston the most.
"He's got a pretty good fastball," Gaston said. "He's throwing that fastball by people, and it's 90-92 mph, so he must be hiding it pretty good, too. I think he's getting better."
Purcey surrendered all of his runs in the fourth inning, when he allowed Cleveland (50-64) to string together three doubles and a single.
After retiring the first batter in the fourth, Purcey then surrendered a double to catcher Kelly Shoppach. One out later, Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo laced back-to-back two-baggers into the left- and right-center-field gaps, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead. Franklin Gutierrez added a third run when he singled on a line drive to center field, driving in Choo. Gutierrez came within inches of a double himself, but he was nailed at second base by Jays center fielder Alex Rios.
In the fifth inning, Purcey got into trouble again by walking Cleveland's No. 8 and 9 hitters to begin the frame. However, the left-hander was able to bear down this time and escape the jam unharmed, inducing a flyout from Grady Sizemore and striking out Jamey Carroll to end the threat.
Gaston hoped that the young starter was able to learn from pitching in and out of threats.
"When you're up here, you don't survive doing that," he said. "But if you learn from it, you will survive and try not to let that happen to you too many times."
For his part, Purcey has taken note of a few things.
"I'm just learning that it doesn't matter how hard you throw, you just have to put it in the right spot," he said. "I like relying on my fastball, but the offspeed pitches help me out a lot. As long as I can locate those over the plate, I seem to be doing pretty well.
"[I'm] kind of learning that the fastball is a good pitch to have, but you also have to have some other stuff to be able to mix over as well."
The southpaw also indicated that he is becoming more acclimated to life in the big leagues, and has been soaking up what he can from the veteran pitchers on Toronto's staff.
"I'm getting a little more comfortable and realizing how I have to pitch up here and how the hitters are," he said. "Watching a lot of the older guys -- watching the way they pitch and what works for them. I'm just trying to get my feet wet."
Despite Purcey's solid outing, the Jays' bats could not muster enough runs to support him. The end result was a loss that snapped the team's four-game winning streak.
Matt Stairs laced an RBI double to right field in the fourth inning to put Toronto on the board. But for the Jays, not much else came in the way of offense.
Following Stairs' single in the fourth, Scott Rolen was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Indians starter Anthony Reyes (3-1) immediately ended the threat by getting John McDonald to fly out to center field.
Toronto had also squandered a prime scoring opportunity in the second inning, when Stairs came to the plate with one out and runners on first and third. The designated hitter grounded the first pitch he saw to the left side of the infield, starting an inning-ending double play.
The Jays finished the night batting 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base.
"As far as getting some key hits, we weren't able to do that tonight," said Gaston. "We're going to have nights like that, and today ... we just [need to] suck this one up, move on to tomorrow and see what happens then."
David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.