Steady Eddy keeps producing

In May it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Toronto would part ways with Edwin Encarnacion at the end of the season. Heck, it was a question mark whether he would even make it through the year as many fans called for the 28-year-old to be traded or designated for assignment.

The demands from the fan base weren’t exactly without merit, either. Encarnacion hit just .257 with 0 home runs and six RBIs during the month of April. Things didn’t get much better in May as he posted one homer and four RBIs with an even worse .236 batting average.

The numbers improved slightly during June but it wasn’t until July that the designated hitter really began to turn things around. What a difference two months can make. Since July 7, Encarnacion leads the Majors with an on-base percentage of .473. He also ranks second in the AL in OPS (1.088), third in slugging (.613), tied for third with 12 doubles and fourth in average (.371) over that same span.

Encarnacion entered play Friday night having reached base in 17 consecutive games. He is batting .375 with four doubles and four home runs during that series of games.

That type of production is making it extremely likely that Encarnacion will have his club option picked up at the end of the year. The Dominican native appears set for Type-B free agent status at the end of the season, so it’s still possible Toronto could decline the option and hope to get a compensatory draft pick, but I doubt the club will go that route.

If Encarnacion keeps swinging the bat the way he has for the past month and a half his option for $3.5 would be too hard to resist. To be honest with you, I never thought I’d be writing that sentence this year.

Here are some leftover quotes from manager John Farrell about Encarnacion’s progress and a slew of other things. You can also find some extra quotes from Luis Perez who will make his first career start on Sunday.

John Farrell

On what’s changed with Encarnacion…

“He has been much more disciplined through the strike zone. He has not chased pitches out of the zone, he has not chased pitchers’ pitches. He has been confident working the count deep and if he takes a strike, he doesn’t allow that to affect him to become a little bit more anxious at the plate.

“He has almost 2-1 walks to strikeouts, where the first half of the year, I think he had 34 strikeouts with only nine walks. It has been a complete reversal and it shows the patience and discipline.

On what has made Encarnacion comfortable…

“I think more importantly, the fact that he has come into the clubhouse knowing he’s going to be in the lineup every day. And over the past month plus, he’s been in that five hole and I think he’s grown in confidence knowing there has been added responsibility given to him in that spot in the order and he has earned it. He is a threat in the middle of our lineup.

“He’s giving the at-bats right now, and throughout this entire stretch, that we would like to see throughout our entire lineup. That’s not afraid to take a walk, not afraid to work pitch counts, and just be relentless at the plate.”

“Even talking to the staff members that have been here longer than just this year … This clicks in about mid-year. What we’ve got to do is look closer at it, what can we do to make this approach right out of chute. I think as he matures as a hitter, and gets a little bit older, he understands what his needs are and where his limitations lie. But you can’t deny the fact that he is a major threat in the middle of our lineup.”

On the Blue Jays homering in 12 consecutive games…

“Home runs are going to happen. When we try to hit home runs that’s when we get in trouble. Home runs are going to happen when you get into good counts and you put good swings on a ball and if not take your walk and pass it onto the next guy.

“That’s the type of offense that has to be constructed to win this division.”

On Adeiny Hechavarria’s hot start in Triple-A Las Vegas (.517 average in seven games)…

“In talking with Tony LaCava and Alex (Anthopoulous) … he might not have performed his way to Double-A last year but when the move came something clicks inside of him and there’s a spark. But he’s doing a great job, he has solidified some things defensively throughout the course of this year, particularly with his throwing and his arm slot. He has settled into a consistent slot that’s allowed for more accuracy and more consistensy with his throws and that’s something he was searching for in Spring Training.

“This is as a good a shortstop as you’ll find in baseball, and defensively at any level, including the big leagues. He is a special talent.”

On Hechavarria needing to be more patient at the plate (just 25 walks in 111 games at Double-A)…

That’s an approach we continually preach and are working daily to bring that to life and make that more of our culture to our offensive approach. To have the understanding, and the where-with-all, that if you don’t get your pitch it’s okay to get deeper into the count. If the guy throws a strike that doesn’t mean you can’t hit with one or two strikes on you. That takes time, that takes consistensy but what he’s doing in a very short span in Las Vegas has been outstanding.”

On Nestor Molina (1 ER and 17 Ks in 11IP at Double-A)…

“The strikeouts compared to the walks is phenomenal. You’re looking at probably a 10 or 11 strikeout to walk ratio which is really unheard of. But a guy that continues to grow and that’s what player development is all about. You find guys and they start to mature, they grow, and he has never had an inability to throw strikes. ”

On Luis Perez’s pitch limit for Sunday…

“He went 61 pitches the other night so we’ll probably bump that up some. We’re not going to go in with a hard number on it but we know there are limitations as well. More importantly, what he has shown is consistent strike throwing. Even the other night when he got behind in the count, he got his way back into some counts, and as he got through into the second time through the order, he started to use his changeup more effectively.

On using the final six weeks as an audition for certain players on the roster…

“We are, but at the same time, we’re not making that the priority. I think it’s important for us to win as many games as we can and finish as high in the standings as we can. But we’re also looking at guys, knowing a year from now, or in Spring Training they’re going to be that much further along in their development, that much higher up on the depth chart.

“Exposure and experience at this time of the year can go a long way in making them a known commodity when we come out of Spring Training next year.”

Luis Perez

On making his first career start in the Majors…

“I feel prepared because when I was in the Minor Leagues — even though it’s a little bit different — I faced the lineup 2-3 times. I’m going to use all of my pitches, fastball, changeup, slider, and I can throw all those pitches at any time. Depending on who’s hitting and how they’re taking my approach that’s how I’m going to attack but I’m always going to stay with this approach of pitching.”

On whether he was surprised to get the call…

“I was just a little bit surprised knowing that I’ve been doing a good job coming out of the bullpen and throwing in the Minor Leagues but I was always prepared in the back of my mind, always felt like the chance might come one day so I was prepared for that.”

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