Munenori Kawasaki has taken Toronto by storm while filling in at shortstop for Jose Reyes, and the Blue Jays are going to be faced with a tough decision on who to remove from the roster when Reyes is ready to return from a sprained ankle. During last night's game with the Orioles, Kawasaki hit a game-tying home run in the seventh inning, the first of his career. The Rogers Centre crowd went absolutely ballistic as Kawasaki bowed to his teammates on the bench to celebrate his homer.
The crowd continued to cheer, and Mark Buehrle pushed Kawasaki out of the dugout for a curtain call. It was one of the most unique curtain calls I've seen, as Kawasaki bowed to the crowd several times while they cheered their lungs out. In the ninth inning, Kawasaki came up with the winning run on second and one out, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation while chanting and cheering during his entire eight pitch at bat, which ended with a groundout (though a productive groundout, as it moved both runners up a base for Rajai Davis to clean up a batter later).
Kawasaki's emergence is one of my favorite stories in baseball this year. This guy is a 32-year old Japanese player who was below replacement level in 61 games with the Mariners last season. It sounds weird to say this, but he's one of the more compelling players on this Toronto team, and it'll be more than a little depressing if he gets demoted to AAA when Reyes is ready to return. The decision for now is essentially Kawasaki or veteran Mark DeRosa, with the contract of Maicier Izturis taking a demotion for him out of the cards. Emilio Bonifacio, who has struggled immensely this season, is another option, but he's out of options. The Jays could also drop a player from their eight man bullpen, something that will probably end up happening sooner rather than later with Brett Lawrie's return on the horizon as well.