If you're a Major League Baseball player with a need for career rejuvenation, the Toronto Blue Jays may be the team to join.
Edwin Encarnacion is slugging his way to MLB fame with the Blue Jays in a fashion similar to how Jose Bautista in 2010 suddenly became one of the game's most feared sluggers.
This year, Encarnacion is following a similar script.
With a fairly decent career behind him with the Cincinnati Reds, Encarnacion never had a season home-run total exceeding 25. So far in 2012, he is among the American League leaders in four-base clouts and is on pace to surpass 50 — Bautista country.
Is it something in the Toronto water?
Whatever the reason, Blue Jays' fans are enjoying the turnaround by the Jays' designated hitter.
Toronto is extremely competitive in the AL East, a few games over .500 in late May, and involved in a terrific division battle involving all five teams.
Pre-season previews of the Jays rarely even mentioned Encarnacion. Pundits raved about the team's pitching, led by Ricky Romero, and the offence led by Bautista and Canadian Brett Lawrie, who was entering his first full season.
Suddenly, enter Edgar. Boom! Crash! Wham!
John Lott of the National Post said Encarnacion made two swing changes of consequence since last year. He keeps both hands on the bat during his follow through instead of letting go with his right hand. And, wrote Lott, he has tried to eliminate the high leg kick he once used to set up his swing.
Encarnacion hit 38 homers in the two seasons prior to 2012. The Jays say they thought he had enough pop in his bat to be a 25- to 30-homer guy. Even they were shortchanging their expectations.
The 29-year-old Dominican may cool down as the season goes on, but the same things were said about Bautista during his breakout year. At the end of May, Encarnacion was tied for second in AL homers with 17 and was second in runs-batted-in with 43.
Surprises are always part of professional sports teams. The Jays have had the bad (Adam Lind, who slumped so badly this year the Jays released the veteran first baseman) and they've definitely had the good (Bautista two years ago and now Encarnacion). For the Jays, it just may all add up to an exceptionally nice surprise this October.
• R.J Currie of sportsdeke.com: "The NY Post reports Rex Ryan has lost 90 pounds. But enough about his ego."
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, on all the MLB injuries this year: "Carl Crawford ... Jacoby Ellsbury ... Roy Halladay ... Chipper Jones ... Matt Kemp ... Evan Longoria ... Mariano Rivera ... Troy Tulowitzki ... Jered Weaver ... So who will trot out the most impressive All-Star lineup come July 10 - AL, NL or DL?"
• Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Three things I'd rather watch on TV other than the Dolphins on Hard Knocks: (1) WNBA draft (2) PBS documentary on Al Gore (3) The Pirates-Brewers replay.
• Comedy writer Jerry Perisho: "Former Major League pitcher Mike Boddicker testified he saw Roger Clemens being injected in the buttocks with vitamins And that, my friends, is the reason Clemens never got scurvy while pitching in the big leagues."
• Comedy writer Jim Barach: "Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter in New York Mets history. Apparently he was able to do it by imagining he was pitching against the Mets."
• Another one from Currie: "Pau Gasol reportedly wants out of L.A. to join Chicago. Not the only Spaniard to want to run with the bulls."
• Currie again: "Dominik Hasek, 47, reportedly wants back into the NHL. When (MLB pitcher) Jamie Moyer heard about it, he said 'Give the kid a chance.'"
• Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "If you are a person who whines, 'C'mon, refs, let the players decide the game,' next time you are the victim of a crime, don't call the cops. Work it out with the criminal."
• Jeff's Rule, from Ostler's column: "No TV announcer may use the phrase 'New York football Giants.' By now all of us are pretty clear that the New York baseball Giants moved to San Francisco."
• At TheOnion.com: "Quaint English village bulldozed to make room for quaint English Olympic village."
• Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, on Barry Bonds' desire to work for the Giants in some capacity: "Baseball executives said Bonds will be welcomed back with open arms, just as soon as the commissioner can find jobs for the 1919 Chicago Black Sox."
• Norman Chad of the Washington Post: "Do you know how tough the Belmont is? To go a mile-and-a-half when you've never done it before? That's like asking me to go a year-and-a-half into a marriage."
• Another one from Dickson, on this year's NBA lottery: "As usual, Kim Kardashian got first pick."
• Blogger Chad Picasner, after the Padres wore camouflage uniforms in a recent game: "With an 18-37 record, this seemed appropriate."
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