7/2/2014 8:00 P.M. ET
Blue Jays sign first-rounders Hoffman, Pentecost
By Jamie Ross / MLB.com
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have signed their two first-round picks from the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.
The club has agreed to terms with ninth overall pick Jeff Hoffman and 11th overall pick Max Pentecost, it was announced Wednesday.
Hoffman, a 21-year-old right-hander, was 3-3 with a 2.94 ERA with East Carolina this season. Tommy John surgery cut his season short, and he will miss all of 2014 while recovering. Hoffman had the procedure May 14.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Hoffman will head to the team's complex in Florida to continue his rehab, which will take approximately 14 months.
"We don't let anybody come back ... we really keep it to a minimum of 12 months with any Tommy John, and I don't see that changing," Anthopoulos said. "We came up with that when we had [B.J] Ryan here. I think he came back at 10 or 11 months and he ended up having a setback after, and so we decided to adjust it and delay things a little bit."
Hoffman was at one point considered to be a potential top-three pick, but his stock fell after he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, allowing the Blue Jays to take him in the No. 9 spot.
Pentecost, also 21, led Kennesaw State to the NCAA Super Regionals, and he ranked No. 1 in the country in hits (113) and No. 2 in batting average (.422). The Georgia native's standout performance earned him the Johnny Bench Award as the top catcher in college baseball. Past winners include Buster Posey and Kurt Suzuki. Once his paperwork is complete, he'll head to the club's Class A affiliate in Vancouver.
"Max, he's down in Florida [to] work out, take batting practice. He actually has to get his passport, and then we'll send him to Vancouver," said Anthopoulos. "He hasn't played in a while, so we need to just get him a little bit back into game shape. So hopefully, maybe late next week to the Canadians."
Pentecost also took Cape Cod Summer League Most Valuable Player honours in 2013, batting .336 with six home runs in 38 games. Both players signed for their full slot value. The Blue Jays have now signed 27 players from this year's Draft.
Encarnacion cameos in left, boosts All-Star stock
TORONTO -- Jose Bautista said following Tuesday's game against the Brewers that manager John Gibbons might have to "get creative" in order to get Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion into the lineup at the same time as Bautista occupies the designated hitter's role while he recovers from a strained left hamstring.
On Wednesday, Gibbons exercised his creative juices, penciling Encarnacion into left field for the Blue Jays' series finale against the Brewers, which Toronto took, 7-4, thanks to a walk-off homer from Encarnacion.
Melky Cabrera, the team's everyday left fielder, was moved to right field. Encarnacion last patrolled the outfield in 2012, playing three games and recording three putouts. He didn't see any balls hits his way on Wednesday.
"I asked [Encarnacion] if he could do it, and he said, 'Oh yeah, I've done it before,'" said Gibbons. "Eddy's words were, 'Whatever makes the team better.' That doesn't surprise me coming from him."
The left-handed-hitting Lind, who had a rare day off against a right-hander as Marco Estrada took the hill for the Brewers on Tuesday, was at first base and batting cleanup Wednesday against righty Wily Peralta. He went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
Bautista, meanwhile, hit another solo shot as the Blue Jays earned a two-game sweep over the Brewers Wednesday.
Encarnacion, who is hitting .397 over his last 17 games, finds himself looking for a second All-Star Game selection as fan balloting for the American League comes to the close this week.
Encarnacion, who was a 2013 All-Star for the Blue Jays, is ranked fourth among AL designated hitters with 1,590,498 votes, as of Monday's balloting update.
He trails Victor Martinez of the Tigers (third, 1,822,927), the Red Sox's David Ortiz (second, 1,948,211) and the Orioles' Nelson Cruz (first, 2,944,267).
Several other Blue Jays remain in contention for the AL squad, including Jose Bautista, who is leading all AL players with 4,460,245 votes. Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes is third among AL outfielders with 1,941,553 votes and holds a slight lead over Blue Jays left fielder Melky Cabrera (1,929,506).
Third baseman Brett Lawrie (fifth, 865,684) and shortstop Jose Reyes (fourth, 1,008,063) are also Toronto All-Star possibilities.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15.
Anthopoulos to be 'open-minded' at Deadline
TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said no one is untouchable when it comes to trade talks, which are expected to generate more and more fanfare as the All-Star break and the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.
Speaking to reporters prior to the Blue Jays' 7-4 win over the Brewers on Wednesday, Anthopoulos said he'd take an "open-minded" approach if given the opportunity to land All-Star talent.
"With respect to a certain player, it's easy to say, 'Yeah, we wouldn't.' But for the right player, I think you'd have to talk about anybody," said Anthopoulos. "Unless we know we have the best player at a given spot, you can always. I think you're better off to be as open-minded as you can.
"And even though some players with the asking price, and what you would want, and how reluctant you would be to move them, make themselves basically untouchable at that point, I think ultimately you'll just tell clubs, 'Look, we're really reluctant. It would be really hard to move [this player]."
Prevailing opinion from fans, media and analysts alike this season has suggested the American League East-leading Blue Jays are in need of improvement in their starting rotation and at second base.
Prior to fracturing his right index finger, third baseman Brett Lawrie had been logging plenty of innings at second base in the absence of an everyday player at that position. But despite his versatility, Anthopoulos said the club still considers Lawrie a lock at third.
"Brett's our third baseman," Anthopoulos said. "He's got the positional flexibility to play all over the place. Same way that in Interleague, sometimes [Edwin] Encarnacion will play third, things like that. Brett's a third baseman, but we needed him to fill in at times this year to help the team win, and he's been great."
So where are the Blue Jays looking to upgrade? Without getting into specifics, Anthopoulos said the club is prepared to improve at any and every position.
"The rotation has done a good job for us, but if there's someone that's clearly an upgrade, we'd do that as well," Anthopoulos said.
"The bullpen could get better, certainly," Anthopoulos said.
"If we can get better, we'd do that," Anthopoulos said. "I know I just basically ran through the entire team, but that's really it. We're not looking at any spots and saying we're not open to something if a player can make us better."
There was also some optimism that Triple-A hurler No. 1 prospect Aaron Sanchez could contribute down the stretch, either as a starter or in a relief role.
Sanchez had been experiencing some control problems this season, but has recently changed his arm slot, which is helping him find the strike zone, said Anthopoulos.
"To me, if he can do it again, I'm convinced that they got him right on track and he'll be ready if we have a need," Anthopoulos said.
With a little less than a month before the Deadline, there's still a lot that can change, and Anthopoulos doesn't believe there are many "true sellers" at this point. And beyond that, finding the right trade partner can be as tough as finding a needle in a haystack, he said.
"There's a certain market and a price point in July, and it's about alternatives. You don't have free agency to turn to," Anthopoulos said. "The only area to improve is by trade, but again, there may be a limited demand, because not every team is in it, not every team is going to take on contracts, not every team has the assets."
Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.