4/20/2013 6:18 P.M. ET
Gibbons: Time for Blue Jays to play better
By Evan Peaslee / MLB.com
TORONTO -- Safe to say that for the Blue Jays, the season hasn't started the way that everyone hoped it would.
Toronto began the season 7-10 entering play on Saturday, emerging victorious in only one of its first five series, and had given up the first run in 12 of its 17 games, finding it consistently in an early hole.
"We're kind of just sputtering," manager John Gibbons said. "We haven't been able to get anything going."
All three phases of the game have yet to click at any one time, but the biggest issue, surprisingly, lays on offense.
Toronto re-tooled its offense in the offseason, adding the likes of Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera to a lineup that already included two-time home run champion Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, J.P. Arencibia, and Brett Lawrie.
However, 17 games into the season, the offense had struggled scoring runs, sitting 19th in the league before Saturday's contest, 27th in OBP, and the Blue Jays were hitting .180 with runners in scoring position.
"We've had some well-pitched outings and haven't gotten a whole lot of offense with it," Gibbons said. "Nothing has come together yet. I think it will, it's just a matter of time, but you know what, it's time to start playing some better baseball, there's no question about it."
The club however continues to struggle, with a 9-4 loss to the Yankees on Friday night exposing weaknesses in the Blue Jays' lineup, but the team is trying to stay mentally tough. Something that has become more difficult with the weight of the expectations Toronto had coming into the season.
Even hitting coach Chad Mottola admitted earlier this week the team was pressing a little to make up for the loss created by some injuries.
"I'm not worried about that," Gibbons said. "We still have a confident bunch, but I know they're all frustrated as we all are."
"It's early" has become the team's mantra of late, but the Blue Jays are a mentally tough club, something that stems from a meeting with Gibbons in Spring Training.
The Toronto manager reminded the club that the best teams, and the best players in the league, have a tough mentality, one that's not bothered by a slow start, a cold streak, or a tough loss. These things happen in baseball, and the teams that can move on from them have a better chance to succeed.
The talk from Gibbons still remains a nice reminder for a club that has seen its fair share of all those challenges to begin the season.
"Obviously we're not off to the best start, but again, no one's panicking, no one's worried," said Arencibia. "We know we've got to make adjustments and go out there and change this around, but there's a long season ahead."
Buehrle happy with outing despite no-decision
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays lost for the fourth time in their last five games on Saturday, but if there's a consolation prize, it would come in the form of Mark Buehrle.
Buehrle tossed his best outing of the year, and his second straight quality start after beginning the season with two subpar outings.
"I felt strong, and I made some quality pitches. The line doesn't dictate how I felt I threw today," said Buehrle. "J.P. and I are working well together, starting to feel each other out a little bit,"
The veteran left-hander went seven strong innings, giving up three earned runs on eight hits and a walk, and recording a season-high seven strikeouts.
The only real blemish on Saturday afternoon was a full-count changeup in the second inning that Vernon Wells drilled for a solo home run into the left-field bleachers.
"[It's] the one pitch I wanted back on the entire evening," Buehrle said. "It was 3-2. I'm trying to make a pitch not to walk him, but at the same time, making a quality pitch to make him put it in play."
Other than that, the 34-year-old avoided big hits, scattering the other seven he surrendered throughout the start.
His line would've looked better had it not been for a misplay by Brett Lawrie in the field that allowed two runners to score.
"Obviously I'm going to give up hits, I'm usually among the league leaders in hits allowed, but I made some key pitches with guys on base," Buehrle said. "I think I threw a better game than the results showed."
Extra batting practice pays off for Lawrie
TORONTO -- Brett Lawrie returned to the Blue Jays on Tuesday, but until Friday's game, he struggled offensively.
Lawrie's still trying to regain his rhythm and timing after missing almost seven weeks with a left oblique strain that caused him to miss most of Spring Training. As a result, the young third baseman has been taking extra batting practice with hitting coach Chad Mottola. On Friday, Lawrie broke an 0-for-10 skid to begin the season, grabbing back-to-back hits in his first two plate appearances.
"He needed that," said manager John Gibbons prior to Saturday's contest against the Yankees. "He got that little infield chopper there for his first … that's big. It gets him off the schneid there."
There wasn't anything special about Lawrie's first hit, a chopper to Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis, with Lawrie beating out the throw to first. His second hit, however, found it's way untouched into left field.
"He looked good from the beginning, he just wasn't getting any results," Gibbons said. "I think the big thing is he's just seeing pitches, seeing breaking balls better."
Lawrie's first two hits of the season were a welcome sign for the club's struggling offense, but it doesn't mean the 23-year-old has found his rhythm just yet.
Mottola cautioned earlier this week that it would likely take 10 days for Lawrie to start to get back the timing and rhythm he needs at the big league level to compete.
But you've got to start somewhere.
Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.