For the Leafs, success will keep the Auston Matthews clock from ticking

In just over 13 months, the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise will cross a threshold.
Earlier this week, at the season-ending media availabilities, Brendan Shanahan said on Matthews “We’d like to make him a Leaf forever.” And despite ever-present anxiety in the fanbase, it’s not hard to imagine a world where Shanahan’s wish comes true.
In fact, it’s probably the most likely outcome.

Brendan Shanahan wants to make Auston Matthews “a Leaf forever.” pic.twitter.com/4nnB5RSchK
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) May 17, 2022

July 1, 2023, is the first day that Auston Matthews will be eligible to sign an extension with the Leafs, and it is also the day that a full no-movement clause comes into effect on what will be the final season of his current contract.
A guarantee can be made right now that the narrative of Matthews’ ‘impending departure’ from the Leafs will begin on that day and continue to become unbearable until the moment arrives that an extension is signed, or Matthews becomes a free agent in July 2024. You could argue that the narrative began in February 2019, mere hours after Matthews’ current contract was signed.
It’s up to the Leafs now to prevent that narrative from ever getting a chance to spin up. And the way to do that is to validate Matthews’ belief in the team.

Auston Matthews says “we’re right there, we’re right there.”
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 15, 2022

Auston Matthews loves being a Leaf, this is well-documented. He’s one of the biggest stars in the game, playing on a team that gets more eyes on it than most other teams combined, and he relishes the spotlight. And as th …

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Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation

Fortnight on the Farm, Vol. 2

With just 25-30 games (depending mostly on rain) played in the 2022 minor-league season, it’s obviously still early to make more than the most tentative assumptions about any given player.

We know from past experience that any given player can have a very hot – or cold – a couple of weeks at any given time and these are magnified when they fall in the first month or so of the season. But sometimes you can pair up what you know from past performance or scouting reports to lend a certain context to early observations. Like last time, there’s no point in being exhaustive this early, I’ll just look at noted prospects, seeming breakouts, or rate trends that jump off the stat sheet.
Dunedin Blue Jays
The D-Jays are sporting several good-to-great early pitching lines. Both known names and some unexpected performances. Chief among those of course is hard-throwing lefty Ricky Tiedemann, drafted just last year, who may already be too good for this level. In 25 IP, he’s given up just 8 hits and struck out 39.  There’s also Dahain Santos, a smaller built RHP who’s been used in relief but in multi-inning stints which mark him as an eventual starter, which he’s earned with his 31K/8BB ratio in 16 IP.
You may also know the name R …

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Author: Tammy Rainey / Blue Jays Nation

ESPN’s Buster Olney believes the Blue Jays are an ideal destination for Josh Bell

Who cares if the calendar just turned May, we want rumours, and we want it now.

Total speculation at this point, but this would be a nice trade match later this season between a team rebuilding and a team trying to win (and desperately in need of more lineup balance): the Nats’ Josh Bell to the Blue Jays.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 5, 2022

Well, this is actually speculation, but Buster Olney believes that first baseman, Josh Bell, would make a perfect fit for the Blue Jays. That begs the question, would it?
According to Sporttrac, the 29-year-old Josh Bell will be a free agent at the end of the season, meaning that the Nationals have no control over where he goes. This cheapens his value when it comes to the trade deadline.
What about his bat though, is it worth it?
Bell is a switch hitter, and has a career slash line of .265/.352/.471 with 116 homers in 2858 plate appearances with a career wRC+ of 117. This season, he’s slashing .366/.464/.549 with three homers in 99 plate appearances.
Moreover, he has a career 11.9% BB% with a rather low K% of 18.5%. This season, his BB% is an astounding 14.1% with a K% of 12.1%.
Like Olney points out, the Jays do need balance in their lineup, and throughout his career, Bell has been better from the left side of the plate. As a lefty, he has a .274/.358/.487 slash line with 86 homers. He has a K% of 18.4% and a BB% of 12.8% from the left side of the plate. 
Compare this to him batting righty, and we can see his .239/.333/.424 slash line doesn’t compare. Furthermore, he has a K% of around 19% and a BB% of 12.6%, which is around the same.
If the Jays were to do this, they would be trading for a lef …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

The Blue Jays have signed Derek Holland to a minor-league deal

Just after the Blue Jays released Dexter Fowler, the team has inked another veteran to a minor-league deal.

This time it’s left-handed pitcher Derek Holland that’ll be joining the Blue Jays, according to himself on Twitter (he confirmed later in the thread it’s a minor-league deal)…

#NewProfilePic pic.twitter.com/py3yhpqpc1
— Derek Holland (@Dutch_Oven45) May 4, 2022

Holland is mostly known for his time pitching for the Texas Rangers, as he made his debut with them in 2009 and logged 985 innings between then and 2016. He pitched against the Blue Jays in the playoffs once, getting lit up in Game 4 of the 2015 ALDS, though he’s probably most remembered for pretending to wipe his ass with a Blue Jays rally towel.
At this stage of his career, Holland is hanging on as a reliever. Last season, he tossed 49 2/3 innings over 39 appearances for the Detroit Tigers, posting a 5.07 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 20 walks. He joined the Boston Red Sox on a minor-league deal, pitched 11 1/3 innings for their Triple-A team, and was released on Tuesday.
It makes sense that the Blue Jays are adding a veteran lefty to the mix. Tim Mayza has been the team’s only consistent left-handed weapon out of the ‘pen this season, as Ryan Borucki has been on the Injured List twice, Tayler Saucedo and Andrew Vasquez have struggled, and Anthony Kay has a 16.20 ERA in Triple-A.
Depth is never a bad thing to have!
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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

William Nylander fought through food poisoning to play in Maple Leafs’ playoffs opener

It turns out, William Nylander wasn’t just battling the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday.
The Toronto Maple Leafs forward was embroiled in combat with his body after a suspected case of food poisoning the day of the game.
”I was puking that day, but whatever,” Nylander said. “I think it was sushi for lunch, I haven’t gone to that restaurant in a long time and it might have been where I got it.”
It didn’t show in the players’ performance in a 5-0 win against the Lightning to take Game 1 of their first round playoffs series. He had expected-goals rate of 63 per cent on Monday, according to NaturalStatTrick.com, and had an excellent breakaway chance in the first period that nearly converted.

Tavares sends Nylander in on a breakaway pic.twitter.com/c0J69hiezk
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 3, 2022

Despite feeling ill, the thought of sitting out of his club’s playoffs opener never crossed the 26-year-old’s mind.
“I mean, it’s Game 1, you’ve got to be ready,” Nylander said. “It is what it is and I thought we battled as a team.”
Nylander did not participate in practice on Tuesday as he allowed his body to recover.
”He ran out of gas a bit in the second half of the game,” Keefe said of Nylander. “That’s part of the reason why he didn’t practice with us, just making sure he could get some food and fluids stuff into him which he wasn’t able to do yesterday…That’s the playoffs.”
Nylander will continue his third-line role against the Lightning in Game 2 on Wednesday, alongside David Kampf and Pierre Engvall, who also missed practice on Tuesday.
The Swede scored 34 goals and 36 assists …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Leafs’ Kyle Clifford to have a hearing for Game 1 Boarding call (Simmonds fined)

It’s just not the playoffs without the Department of Player Safety getting involved. Kyle Clifford made sure they had a chance to get involved in the Leafs series early.

Toronto’s Kyle Clifford will have a hearing today for Boarding Tampa Bay’s Ross Colton.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) May 3, 2022

Here is the hit in question…

Kyle Clifford has received a major and game misconduct for boarding on his hit on Ross Colton. #LeafsForever | #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/HS4FKaQYjh
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 2, 2022

As mentioned in the Sportsnet tweet, Kyle Clifford had the in-game book thrown at him already with being assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct. The lack of Clifford didn’t really slow the Leafs down, and killing off his five minute penalty seemed to be the spark that energized the Leafs as well. That said, it was a pretty dirty hit and the fact that he’s got a call today isn’t really surprising.
The Department of Player Safety will likely consider some of the time served given that it was a game misconduct in the first period. The DoPS also tends to be slightly more lenient in the playoffs, and Colton was able to stay in the game, so who knows what he’ll get. With the Leafs it never seems to just be a fine.
Clifford missing a game opens the door for Jason Spezza to come back into the lineup, something that many Leafs fans wanted in the first place. With the potential for some escalation in the hitting clean or otherwise, the Leafs might end up missing Clifford though. Although it’s not like they had him for much of Game 1 either.
Additionally, Wayne Simmonds picked up a fine for his part in the scrum with the Lightning…

Toronto’s Wayne Simmonds has been fined $2,250, the maximum allowable under the CBA, for Unsportsmanlike Conduct during last night’s game against Tampa Bay.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) May 3, 2022

If the Simmonds fine (along with the Maroon and …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Berrios battles, Springer hits dingers and Charlie gets chucked as Blue Jays beat Astros 2-1

Two Springer dingers were just enough offence for the Blue Jays Saturday afternoon.

Both the solo-homers were leadoff in the first inning and the third and saw George continue to pile on against his former team. Since the Jays signed him as a free agent ahead of last season, he’s faced the Astros four times ripping five hits, three home runs and three RBI.
It continues a strong run from Springer, too. In his last seven outings, he’s slashing .370/.452/.741 recording 10 hits, three home runs and five RBI. It would be nice if the rest of the rosters bats heat up the same way here, too. In saying that, scoring is down to start the year so it’s not just Toronto who’s underperforming.

George Springer – Toronto Blue Jays (5) pic.twitter.com/6ZFL0lR0qo
— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) April 30, 2022

George Springer – Toronto Blue Jays (6) pic.twitter.com/xBEJEo1pMK
— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) April 30, 2022

It was a far from a pretty game in another outing where the Jays’ bats were cold. They wound up with six hits managing to leave 16 batters on base.
The good part? Jose Berrios battled for the club. He allowed seven hits on the day, just one earned run, walked two and struck out five. He got the Jays out of numerous pinches all afternoon long through his 5.2 IP and there’s not much more you can ask from him.
The Astros pitching was a bit all over the place and come the bottom of the fifth, things all came to a head. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was up to bat and got hit with the strike three call — a fair one, at that. But Vladdy didn’t like it, and slammed his bat to the ground in frustration.
Like the good manager he is, Charlie Montoyo popped out of the dugout coming to the aid of his slugger.

Charlie Montoyo has been ejected from the game after arguing with the home plate umpire. #NextLevel pic.twitter.com/Y1cEi34Hx3
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 30, 2022

Charlie got right up in the grill of home plate ump Nic Lentz, and let him have it. He covered his mouth so no lip readings, but you could tell the frustration was real. T …

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Author: Zach Laing / Blue Jays Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 71: Another series win against the Red Sox, praise for The Big Man, and more!

The Blue Jays just continue to win games!

They won the first game of the series thanks to a Bo Bichette grand slam, an epic comeback highlighted by a George Springer Dinger highlighted the second game, and then, after getting spanked in the third game, Alek Manoah came out and tossed seven scoreless en route to a 1-0 victory.
The bats might not be rolling just yet but the pitching certainly is!
We talked on this episode of BJN Radio about the excellence of The Big Man, Alek Manoah, and how he’s exceeded anybody’s wildest expectations early in his career. We also talked about Gausman’s insane start to his season, as he still hasn’t walked a guy through his first four outings.
We also talked about the struggling offence, if there’s any reason to panic, and how the ball seems to be different this year than in previous years. Finally, we looked ahead to another series with the Houston Astros this weekend, in which we avoid the possibility of a third Justin Verlander no-hitter in Toronto.
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Ryan Borucki is back on the Injured List with a blister

Just a week-and-a-half after being activated, Ryan Borucki is right back on the 10-day Injured List.

Borucki was sidelined at the start of the season because of a hamstring injury suffered during spring training, but this time it’s a blister that’ll be keeping him out of games.
This is really unfortunate timing because Borucki put together a really solid pair of outings and appeared to be rounding into form as a key member of the Blue Jays bullpen. Borucki came into Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Houston Astros and struck out Michael Brantley in a key spot and he tossed a scoreless ninth inning in Tuesday night’s comeback win over the Boston Red Sox.
Injuries have been a problem for Borucki for years now. After a breakout showing in 2018 as a starting pitcher, he missed most of 2019 due to injury, and he was limited to just 16 2/3 innings and 23 2/3 innings in 2020 and 2021 respectively just as it appeared as though he was developing into a quality relief pitcher.
Coming up in Borucki’s absence will be another lefty in Andrew Vasquez, who impressed during spring training while on a minor-league contract. Vasquez tossed 3 2/3 innings in Grapefruit League play and struck out five batters. So far in six-and-a-third innin …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

3 most exciting parts of surprising 2021-22 Raptors season

3 most exciting parts of surprising 2021-22 Raptors season

Scottie Barnes and the Toronto Raptors are just a few quarters away from ending their season in a fairly unimpressive fashion, as the Philadelphia 76ers are completely dominating them early in their playoff series. The mood around Toronto is glum despite their success early. The Raptors managed to rebound from their poor season in Tampa […]
3 most exciting parts of surprising 2021-22 Raptors season – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ