MINNEAPOLIS -- It's been a reunion weekend of sorts for the Blue Jays as they're facing a couple of ex-teammates in their four-game series against the Twins. But don't be surprised if even the most die-hard of Toronto fans have a hard time remembering the contributions of these former Blue Jays.
Outfielder Darin Mastroianni and pitcher P.J. Walters each appeared in one game for Toronto last year, and each are making their Twins debut this weekend against the Jays.
Mastroianni was Toronto's 16th-round pick in the 2007 Draft and worked his way up through the Blue Jays' system before finally getting the call-up to the big club Aug. 24. But his stay in Toronto wasn't long. In fact, he only got the call because recently-acquired Kelly Johnson had to return to Arizona to pick up his passport, leaving the Blue Jays shorthanded for a home game against the Royals.
In his only game as a Blue Jay, Mastroianni played center field and batted ninth and went 0-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt in a 4-3 win over Kansas City. He promptly returned to the minors and was designated for assignment after the season, allowing the Twins to claim him off waivers in February. They recalled him earlier this week, just in time to face his former team.
"It is pretty ironic. ... I know most of the guys over there," Mastroianni said. "Fortunately, I got a lot of that out in Spring Training -- the one game I did get to start was against them, so I got all that, 'Oh hey, it's good to see you guys' stuff out of the way. Now it's just a matter of playing and going out there and trying to help the team."
And help them he has. On Friday night, Mastroianni had two hits and drove in the Twins' final three runs in a 7-6 Minnesota victory.
Walters arrived in Toronto as part of the trade that brought Colby Rasmus from St. Louis last July 27. He pitched just once for the Blue Jays, throwing a scoreless inning of relief in a win over Baltimore on July 28 -- before ending the season in Triple-A, where he went 1-3 with an 8.38 ERA in Las Vegas.
The Blue Jays granted him free agency at the end of the season and he signed with the Twins in December. He went 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA in six starts at Triple-A Rochester before being recalled to face his ex-team when the Twins sent Francisco Liriano to the bullpen earlier this week.
Like Bautista, Encarnacion thrives vs. Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- Much has been written about right fielder Jose Bautista's success at Minnesota's Target Field (nine home runs in nine games), but there's another Blue Jays slugger who's dented his own share of seats in the Twins' new ballpark.
Edwin Encarnacion blasted his 11th home run of the season Friday night and nobody who's followed the Twins the last few years could have been surprised. A career .320 hitter with eight home runs and 21 RBIs in 20 games against Minnesota, Encarnacion now has six home runs in nine games at Target Field.
In the ninth inning on Friday, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire showed Encarnacion the ultimate sign of respect when he elected to pitch to Bautista, who had already homered twice in the game, with the tying run on third and two outs, rather than walk him and pitch to the next guy.
That's because the next guy was Encarnacion, and Gardenhire had already seen him do enough damage against the Twins, including a five-homer series here at the end of the 2010 season.
"We've watched him play over the years, and he's had those [times] where you don't really know if he's going to do exactly what they expected. But he's gotten better every year we've seen him," Gardenhire said of Encarnacion. "He really gets the bat head on the ball more and more. Last year, we thought: 'Wow, he's really figured it out." And this year it looks like he's really confident at the plate."
Coupled with Bautista, that gives Toronto a one-two punch to give the Twins nightmares for years to come.
"That's two really good hitters you're talking about. They're strong and know how to hit the ball in the seats," Gardenhire said. "They make it happen. We try different things on them, so we hope to keep it in the ballpark."
Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.