The rumours, whether based in fact or the figment of one’s imagination, will invariably ramp up once this weekend’s amateur draft is officially in the books.

The chatter will then pick up speed following the all-star break and only intensify right up to deadline day at the end of the month.

In terms of auditions or leaving an impression, Yusei Kikuchi made quite the case for himself and by extension provided the Blue Jays with a potential option once the suitors inevitably emerge, if they haven’t already.

His stellar outing seemed doomed amid a dormant offence until Ernie Clement delivered a fateful three-run home run in the seventh inning.

Ernie Clement #28 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates with Daulton Varsho #25 after hitting a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 09, 2024 in San Francisco, California.
Ernie Clement #28 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates with Daulton Varsho #25 after hitting a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 09, 2024 in San Francisco, California.Photo by Lachlan Cunningham /Getty Images North America

Then came the ninth inning when it all unravelled for the Blue Jays, who ended up losing 4-3 to the Giants in a stunning setback.

It was shameful the way the Jays wasted such an outing by Kikuchi, but Toronto’s starters are fully aware of the team’s struggles at the plate.

Keep in mind Danny Jansen had as many walks (3) as the Jays had hits in the series opener of a three-game set.

A pending free agent who has shown an ability to be used out of the bullpen, Kikuchi looms as key piece for any contender serious of making a deep post-season run.

The Jays aren’t one of those teams, which his why Kikuchi’s time in a Blue Jays uniform is ticking fast.

Tuesday night at Oracle Park against the host San Francisco Giants, Kikuchi struck out five batters in the opening two innings, each swinging, to set the tone.

In the third, he added to his K total, but Kikuchi also gave up a home run, one of the bugaboos for the hard-throwing left-hander.

Pitcher Yusei Kikuchi #16 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on after leaving the game in the bottom of the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 09, 2024 in San Francisco, California.
Pitcher Yusei Kikuchi #16 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on after leaving the game in the bottom of the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 09, 2024 in San Francisco, California.Photo by Lachlan Cunningham /Getty Images North America

In his previous 18 starts, Kikuchi had yielded 13 homers, including nine long balls in his past eight starts.

Kikuchi gave up two solo homers to the Giants.

What he’s capable of fetching in any trade scenario will be determined in the ensuing weeks.

When he left the game with one out in the eight inning after tossing his 100th pitch on the night, Kikuchi reached a career milestone by recording 13 strikeouts.

Almost as impressive was Kikuchi did not allow a single walk.

Trevor Richards was asked to save the game when he started the ninth inning.

He gave up a one-out single, recorded the second out on a fly ball to centre field and then issued a walk on a full count to put the tying run at second.

A single hit up the middle tied the game.

Then came the dagger in the form of a wild pitch.

There have heart-breaking losses this season, but this one may have taken the cake given Kikuchi’s stellar pitching.

Pitcher Trevor Richards #33 of the Toronto Blue Jays leaves the field after giving up a run on a wild pitch to end the game in the bottom of the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 09, 2024 in San Francisco, California.
Pitcher Trevor Richards #33 of the Toronto Blue Jays leaves the field after giving up a run on a wild pitch to end the game in the bottom of the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 09, 2024 in San Francisco, California.Photo by Lachlan Cunningham /Getty Images North America

GARCIA ON THE MEND

Yimi Garcia hasn’t been seen on a big-league mound since June 16 when he left with two outs in the ninth inning against visiting Cleveland when he gave up four hits, including a home run, and two runs.

It was later revealed Garcia had suffered right elbow soreness, prompting the Jays to place the right-hander reliever on the 15-day injured list.

By all accounts, he’ll soon be back with the Jays.

For how long remains the big question as Garcia, a pending free agent, looms as a potential trade chip as the July 30 trade deadline approaches.

For the record, Garcia’s rehab outing in Triple-A was scheduled to resume Tuesday, but it was pushed back to Wednesday when he experienced a stiff neck.

Either way, it’s expected Garcia will rejoin the Blue Jays at some point prior to the all-star break.

After that, it’s anyone’s guess whether Garcia, 33, will continue to serve as the Jays’ closer or with another club in the back end of its bullpen.

Garcia has been Toronto’s best arm out of the pen and among the team’s top players this season.

WELCOME MATT

No better time to present Matt Chapman with his gold glove than Tuesday as the former Blue Jays third baseman met his former team for the first time as a member of the Giants.

Jays manager John Schneider did the honors of presenting Chapman with his career-fourth gold glove.

Chapman arrived in Toronto following a trade two years ago with the Oakland A’s and left via free agency this past off-season.

Chapman has no peer when it comes to his glove, but his hitting is wildly inconsistent, though he has swung it well for San Fran in his return to the Bay Area.

Fans of the Blue Jays will easily recall Chapman’s explosive start to the 2023 season when he was named AL player of the month in April when he crushed the ball.

His offence gradually fell to the point where Chapman was an easily out.

A healthy Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been more than adequate when it comes to hitting, but no one will confuse IKF with Chapman when it comes to flashing the leather.

Clement started at third base Tuesday.

Chapman entered the three-game series against the Blue Jays batting .244 with 82 hits, 12 HRs, 42 RBI and 88 strikeouts.

He batted cleanup in Tuesday night’s lineup for the Giants.

Chapman struck out in the eighth inning when he swung through a Nate Pearson offering, stranding runners in scoring position.

HORWITZ SORT OF SITS

Speaking of lineups, the Jays’ look was conspicuous by the absence of Spencer Horwitz.

Matchups is the prevailing theme with most clubs and with lefty Blake Snell, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner on the mound, the Jays went with a right-handed centric lineup.

The only lefty bat in the order facing Blake was Daulton Varsho, who drove in the winning run in Sunday’s 10-inning win in Seattle.

In the same game, Horwitz recorded three hits.

In 79 at-bats this season, Horwitz has 26 hits.

Horwitz came into the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning, runner on first base and one out with side-winding right-hander Ryan Walker on the mound.

Horwitz worked the count full and then drilled a ball into the gap in left for a double.

Kevin Kiermaier entered the game as a pinch runner for Horwitz.

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