Upton, Tellez homers lift jays past Pirates 6-4 to end pre-season play

Upton, Tellez homers as Jays top Pirates 6-4

MONTREAL — Rowdy Tellez left a solid impression on the Toronto Blue Jays and the 52,202 fans at Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

The burly first base prospect hit a long home run as the Blue Jays ended their pre-season schedule with a 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. After the game, Tellez got handshakes and hugs from teammates in the clubhouse as he prepared to leave for triple-A Buffalo, where he is to start the season.

Manager John Gibbons said it is a matter of time before he’s threatening outfield fences in Toronto.

“Rowdy’s going to come fast, he’s the closest to the big leagues for us,” said Gibbons. “I think first base will be his position for a lot of years in Toronto when he finally breaks in.

“He’s got tremendous power, but more than that he’s a good hitter. For a big guy, he’s a good base runner. He’s really turned into a nice first baseman. I thought he was really good in spring training. The sky’s the limit but you’ve still got to go out there and do it.”

The solo home run by Tellez in the seventh inning closed out the scoring in the two-game set, which opened Friday night with a 1-1 tie before 43,180 spectators.

“It was pretty cool,” said 22-year-old Tellez. “”To do it in front of 50,000 people was a great feeling, a great experience.”

Now it’s up to Tellez to show that he is indeed the rightful heir to the first base job that, until he left as a free agent, was owned by Edwin Encarnacion.

“I just want to go out and do the best I can, leave everything on the field, and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “It’s out of my control.”

The Blue Jays are to announce their final cuts on Sunday.

The Jays scored one in the second and narrowly missed a much bigger inning. With the bases loaded, Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a long ball to right that drifted just foul before being called out on strikes. Melvin Upton Jr. finally brought in Troy Tulowitzki on a fielder’s choice, but then was caught stealing to end the threat.

It was the same in the third. After first baseman Kendrys Morales doubled home Kevin Pillar, the Jays loaded the bases but left-hander Dan Runzler came on in relief of starter Chad Kuhl and got Steve Pearce to pop up to first to end the inning.

Jays starter Francisco Liriano was lifted with two out in the fourth in favour of Mike Bolsinger. He was greeted with Josh Bell’s base hit to right to score Andrew McCutchen, but then ended it by striking out Phil Gosselin.

Upton took reliever Tyler Glasnow over the wall, scoring Saltalamacchia, in the fourth.

Bolsinger’s woes continued in the fifth as Pittsburgh tied it 4-4. Elias Diaz and Cole Tucker hit back-to-back doubles and Adam Frazier followed with a run-scoring single. A pair of wild pitches brought in Tucker. Canadian Eric Wood singled in Frazier before lefty Tim Mayza took over on the mound and retired three Pirates in a row.

Bolsinger’s line was 1/3 inning pitched, five hits and three earned runs.

Darwin Barney singled in Jake Elmore in the sixth and Tellez added a long solo homer in the seventh.

It is the fourth year in a row that the Jays have ended their pre-season with a pair of games in Montreal, where fans hope to show Major League Baseball they deserve to get a team back to replace the departed Expos. This year’s total attendance of 95,382 was the lowest yet, but only slightly from the first two years. Last year’s games exceptionally drew 105,922. 

“It was a great weekend,” said catcher Russell Martin, who DH’d. “The crowd showed up.

“Honouring Tim Raines was awesome. The team came out of it healthy and I managed to get a base hit in my last at-bat. Things seem like they’re on the right track now.”

On Monday, Toronto opens the regular season in Baltimore while the Pirates are in Boston.

Eight Quebecers who played in the major leagues were honoured in a pre-game ceremony, including Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne, Claude Raymond, Denis Boucher, Derek Aucoin, Philippe Aumont, Steve Green, Eric Cyr and Raymond Daviault. They were joined on the field Martin, who grew up in Montreal, and Friday night’s honouree, former Expo Raines.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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