With David Cooper, Moises Sierra, Adeiny Hechavarria and Anthony Gose – all rookies – pressed into service because of injuries, there is little doubt the Toronto Blue Jays have their sights set on next season.
And with Brett Lawrie going on the 15-day disabled list Thursday, the Blue Jays will add another new body to the 25-man roster in time for Friday's start of their weekend series in Toronto against the New York Yankees.
The popular third baseman has been sidelined since Aug. 3 with a ribcage injury. Although the American League team says Lawrie is close to returning to action, the injury is still restricting his swing.
The decision to put Lawrie on the disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 4, came prior to Toronto's game in Tampa against the Rays. The Rays completed a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays with a 7-1 victory, concluding a miserable 10-game road trip in which Toronto managed just two wins.
Toronto entered the game 61/2 games back of the second wild card playoff spot in the American League. The Blue Jays' record is now 53-58, and while making the playoffs with 51 games remaining is not out of the question, Toronto would need to fashion a monumental run with a creaky roster over the final seven weeks of the season.
Lawrie joins a casualty list that numbers 12, including slugger Jose Bautista, Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia.
It's unknown when Bautista will return from a wrist injury, although the right fielder is scheduled to resume his rehabilitation program on Monday after a magnetic resonance imaging test indicated the injury is healing.
Lind's bad back remains an issue, and Arencibia, the No. 1 catcher, isn't expected back in the lineup until September after he broke a bone in his hand.
About the only positive the Blue Jays can point to these days is their attendance figures at home. Through 51 home games this season, the Blue Jays are averaging 27,442 fans. That's an increase of 4,776 a game compared to the same number of home gates last season, the fifth highest jump among Major League Baseball teams in 2012.
The Miami Marlins, playing in their new stadium, lead the majors in that category with a per-game average increase of 10,564. The Detroit Tigers rank second (7,246) followed by the Washington Nationals (6,728) and the Texas Rangers (6,588).
Things can only get better with the Yankees coming to town, as crowds in excess of 35,000 fans are anticipated for all three games.
"An increase of about 5,000 per game, I'll take that," Stephen Brooks, the club's senior vice-president of business operations, said.
In Toronto's last four home dates – against Oakland on July 26 and three games against Detroit from July 27 to 29 – average attendance spiked at 37,963.
With the first-place Yankees now set to entertain, the Blue Jays are looking at the likelihood of seven consecutive games with crowds in excess of 30,000. That is a feat they haven't accomplished since 2008, when they enjoyed a nine-game run with crowds of 30,000 or more that began in early August.
That season Toronto averaged 29,626 fans for their home games, their highest total in 10 seasons.
The Toronto Blue Jays begin a three-game series against the New York Yankees on Friday at Rogers Centre.
Aug. 10 – Toronto LHP Ricky Romero (8-8, 5.47 earned-run average) vs. New York RHP Freddy Garcia (5-5, 5.00)
Aug. 11 – Toronto LHP Aaron Laffey (3-2, 4.39) vs. New York RHP Ivan Nova (10-6, 4.81)
Aug. 12 – Toronto LHP J.A. Happ (0-1, 6.35) vs. New York RHP Phil Hughes (11-9, 4.10).
Need to know
The Blue Jays slink home after a disheartening 10-game road trip, hoping to pick up the pieces against the Yankees, who have displayed some warts of late but still continue to lead the American League East. Ricky Romero will get things going Friday, hoping to build on a positive outing in his last start against the Oakland Athletics. Toronto fans will finally get to see recently acquired pitcher J.A. Happ up close and personal in Sunday's start.