TORONTO — Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider has a simple recipe he hopes Toronto can stick to as it winds down Major League Baseball's regular season.
Schneider counted off the ingredients in his Rogers Centre office on Wednesday, the day before the Blue Jays embarked on a lengthy road trip. Good starting pitching, consistent offensive approach, clean defence, and staying healthy were his focal points.
"Maybe not in that order, per se," said Schneider with a laugh. "But I think those things are paramount if we want to continue to keep playing late in the season."
After taking Thursday off, the Blue Jays kick off their longest road trip of the season with an early Friday evening start in Pittsburgh against the Pirates (49-81). After three games at PNC Park, Toronto has a day-night doubleheader in Baltimore to start a four-game set against the Orioles.
A three-game series against the Texas Rangers in Arlington will complete the trip.
Schneider said that being proactive is the best way to physically prepare a team before a long trip. As an example, he had all-star slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr., as designated hitter in Wednesday night's 7-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs instead of his usual spot at first base.
"Also an understanding where it's 'alright guys, it's September, if you're tired, too bad,' everyone's tired," said Schneider. "You look at matchups, you're not going to just say 'hey, here's a recovery day for you because you're tired.' If they need it, yeah, sure, but it's basically foot on the gas and manage what we do before the games accordingly."
The Blue Jays are holding the third and final wild-card berth in the American League heading into play on Thursday. The road trip is crucial to Toronto's playoff chances, especially the stop in Baltimore as the Orioles trail by just two games in the wild-card race.
September also offers the Blue Jays a fresh start after a disappointing month. They earned a 13-14 record in August for their lowest monthly win percentage of the season.
"We're looking forward to the challenge," said Schneider. "This is why you play. This is what you play for, right? To play meaningful games in September and hopefully beyond.
"It's a great opportunity for that entire group."
Alek Manoah (12-7) gets the start for the Blue Jays on Friday in Pittsburgh. Johan Oviedo (2-1) will go for the Pirates. Schneider said that juggling his starting rotation — especially with Monday's doubleheader — will be one of the challenges of the trip.
"Working through it still," said Schneider on Wednesday. "We may adjust accordingly this weekend, even to see where we are in Baltimore.
"Working through that to see who lands where, whether it's on the weekend or whether it's Monday."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2022.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press