Ex-Jays lead Cardinals to World Series

Octavio Dotel is one of three former Blue Jays pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Photo courtesy Keith Allison/Creative Commons (Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Octavio Dotel (29))

With Major League Baseball’s 2011 World Series set to get underway Wednesday night in St. Louis, the Toronto Blue Jays will be on the outside looking in once again.

The same cannot be said for former Jays pitchers Mark Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel and Edwin Jackson, who will all be suiting up when the Cardinals square off against the Texas Rangers in baseball’s fall classic.

Involved in July’s three-team, 11-player trade that brought centre fielder Colby Rasmus to Toronto, the trio are looking comfortable in their new setting.

“The good thing is that Tony [La Russa] has trust in any player to go and get anybody out,” Rzepczynski said on MLB.com. “He has faith in anybody going to the mound, so I’m going to go out there and keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

A south-pawed bullpen pitcher who specializes in punching out left-handed hitters, Rzepczynski appeared in 43 games for the blue birds this season, striking out 33 batters and achieving a 2.97 earned run average. In 28 appearances for the Cardinals, he fanned 28 batsmen with a 3.97 ERA.

“I definitely have [Josh] Hamilton in my sights, and all of their other lefties too,” Rzepczynski said regarding the Rangers slugger. “I’m going to go in there and try to do what I did in the last series.”

In game seven of the NLCS, Rzepczynski picked up the win, throwing 2 1/3 strong innings out of the bullpen for St. Louis in their 12-6 series-clinching victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

As well, 37-year-old journeyman pitcher Dotel has received more of a chance to show how productive he can be with the Cardinals than he had with the Blue Jays this year.

In 36 appearances with Toronto, Dotel pitched 29 1/3 innings to pick up two wins, one loss and 30 strikeouts, never earning the full confidence of Jays manager John Farrell.

But while with the Cardinals, he pitched 24 2/3 innings, where he gathered three wins and 32 punch-outs in seven fewer opportunities.

Pitching in seven games during the playoffs in 2011, Dotel has picked up two wins for the Cards as a late-inning pitcher. His victories came at clutch times for St. Louis, taking down the Philadelphia Phillies’ Cliff Lee and Milwaukee’s Zach Grienke, two premier pitchers in the National League.

Performing well in pressure situations, Dotel has exhibited his value when allowed the possibility.

Meanwhile, Jackson was only a Blue Jay by technicality and was used by Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos as a trade-piece in the July blockbuster.

A starting pitcher in the bottom of the rotation, Jackson will team up with Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse to battle the red-hot Ranger bats.

“Obviously they’ve got talent from top to bottom, they’re dangerous,” said Carpenter, another former Blue Jay who left for St. Louis as a free agent in 2002. “The keys to getting them out are getting ahead in the count, keeping the ball down in the strike zone and off of the middle of the plate.”

Starting the playoffs on a high note by defeating Roy Oswalt and the Phillies 5-3 in the first round, Jackson missed out on a win in his second outing after only pitching 4 1/3 innings in a 12-3 beating of the Brewers.

In his last start Jackson was blasted for three homers and four runs against in just two innings, a poor outing despite the fact that St. Louis bounced back to win 12-6.

Not forgotten in all of this is Corey Patterson, another former Blue Jay who is now with the Cardinals organization.

During 89 games with Toronto this year, Patterson knocked in 33 RBI on a .252 batting average, being given a lot more opportunity to succeed as part of the developing young Blue Jays squad.

After the trade, the young outfielder played 44 games with the Cardinals, but only three RBIs and a lowly .157 batting average led to his reassignment to the minors and resulted in him missing out of playoff action.

As for the current Blue Jays, however, they are once again left in the dust as World Series spectators hoping to finally get a taste of the October baseball magic.