The Dunedin Blue Jays (9-9) entered Sunday's contest against the Fort Myers Miracle (8-10) with one of the Florida State League's most fearsome offenses. While the Jays were leading the league in batting average, hits, and total bases and were second in doubles, RBIs, and on-base percentage, they ranked near the bottom of the league in home runs entering today's game.
That changed today as the Jays launched five home runs during their 7-1 victory over Fort Myers.
DH Max Pentecost got the homer barrage started early with a towering two-run shot into the trees beyond the leftfield fence at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. RF Andrew Guillotte led off the third inning with a solo shot to left and was quickly followed by a near-identical longball off the bat of C Danny Jansen. After a walk to 1B Juan Kelly, CF Lane Thomas lined the team's third home run of the inning off the scoreboard in left-centerfield. Kelly added a fifth home run for Dunedin in the eighth inning.
Rehabbing Toronto reliever J.P. Howell started on the mound for Dunedin, his second rehab appearance with the team. After the leadoff batter reached on an error in the first, Howell struck out three consecutive batters.
"Great," Howell said when asked how his arm felt after two outings with Dunedin. "When I went on the DL, I couldn't extend. I couldn't pull down. So I wanted to be able to do that, and I was able to. The results were good, and my velocity was a lot better than it was during the big league season.
RHP Jordan Romano, the scheduled starter for today's game, entered in the second inning in relief of Howell. In 4.1 innings, he allowed no runs on just three hits and struck out six to pick up his first win of the season and first in the Florida State League.
For the third straight game, Dunedin's offense finished with ten or more hits. Lane Thomas, 2B Deiferson Barreto, and Max Pentecost each had two hits. Hitting coach Corey Hart spoke after the game about the team's offensive approach that led to the five homers today and the team's continued success at the plate so far this season.
"We're just trying to be aggressive on the fastball. These guys have been getting themselves into a good position to hit it. Our goal is to not miss a good hitting fastball and we've been pretty good at it so far."
The Blue Jays will be off on Monday and will embark on a six-game road trip starting Tuesday against the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
"It was a very patient process," Howell said of his injury and rehabilitation. "It was an injury where early on it was bad but within three or four days it was recovered, so I had about five days to feel good on the DL. That isn't fun, when you're on the DL but ready to play. This is one of those situations where you have to take it in, be around these guys down here. They're in the jungle, and I love it. They're guys on the grind, and I think that's contagious for me to bring back to the ballclub."
Howell offered this advice to his minor league teammates.
"Just keep going. Don't get caught up in the days that are tough. Those days come and go. When you're in those moments, keep going and stick with your process. Your process is your best friend. You lean on that process and that routine you create as a ballplayer. It's carried me through a long career."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.