COMMENTARY | What a difference three weeks makes.
On June 1, the Toronto Blue Jays were 10 games under .500 with a record of 23-33, and were 8.5 games back of a wild card spot in the American League. The team was looking for any way possible to produce more at the plate, and on the mound.
It felt as though 2013 was going to be a lost year for Toronto.
Fast forward to June 19: Toronto is on a seven-game winning streak, two games under .500 at 34-36, and find itself just 4.5 games back of one of the two wild-card spots. It seems as though the blue birds are finally starting to get things in order to make a serious second-half push to the playoffs.
Even better news for Jays fans is that the team's efforts will be getting a large boost very soon in the form of returning shortstop Jose Reyes.
Reyes has been out of the Toronto lineup since suffering a severe ankle sprain on April 12 when sliding into second base. He was the key piece acquired in the Jays' offseason trade with Miami in the offseason, but the injury-plagued shortstop hasn't been able to really have an impact on a team that has largely under-performed since opening day.
But with the team starting to make noise in the AL, Reyes' impending return could be just what it needs to really get Toronto over the 20-year hump into the postseason.
When he returns, Reyes will bring an excitement to the field because of his seemingly uncanny ability to get timely hits when they are needed most. The blue birds' run production will undoubtedly increase with Reyes back in the fold.
Reyes is a near .300 batter for his career in games that are tied or one-run affairs after the 7th inning. That ability to get on base late will certainly put the Blue Jays on the other end of close games more often than not.
On the defensive side of things, Reyes will replace Munenori Kawasaki in the starting lineup at short. Kawasaki, who has committed just four errors on 188 defensive chances while filling in for Reyes, will likely be sent back down to Triple-A Buffalo when Reyes does return.
Although Reyes has never been a Gold Glove-caliber fielder, he does has a knack for quick turns on double-play opportunities. He also has a large range of coverage, because of his speed, which allows him to make plays on balls into shallow left field as well as catch up to short bloopers when playing deep.
Off the field, Reyes will bring a calm demeanor that will ease tension during close games and tight moments. It's a nice contrast to help balance the intensity that constantly radiates off of Jose Bautista. There is just no denying the value that a returning All-Star will have on a team fighting to get into contention.
Reyes is currently on a rehab assignment in Dunedin, Florida with the Class-A Blue Jays. He went 2-3 in five innings of play in his first appearance on June 17; he went 1-5 on June 18 in game two.
He was originally pegged to be out until after the All-Star game which falls on July 16, but with his ahead of schedule improvement expect to see Reyes back in Toronto in the next 10-14 days.
Michael Straw is a sportswriter who lives in Buffalo, NY and has been covering baseball, primarily at the Triple-A level, for two years. He began covering the Blue Jays in the fall of 2012, and has been published in multiple Western New York publications.
For Blue Jays and other sports news, follow Michael on Twitter @MikeStrawQCS.
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