TORONTO — The Kansas City Royals think there's more to the Toronto Blue Jays' home field advantage than just loud sell-out crowds.
Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez said before Tuesday's Game 4 of the American League Championship Series that teammate Johnny Cueto believes the Blue Jays are using a plant in the centre-field stands of Rogers Centre to steal signs.
Cueto was chased from Kansas City's 11-8 loss in Toronto on Monday night after giving up six hits and eight runs in just two innings of work.
"He said, I think he said last night, they got a guy in centre field," said Volquez, who is scheduled to start on Wednesday in Game 5 of the ALCS. "You see how hard it is, he look to the centre field and he see somebody do this or do that, it's really hard to do that.
"But when the guy gets on second base, he said something about that, too, they were giving signs to the hitter."
Volquez seemed less than convinced that the Blue Jays were using someone in the outfield seats to read the catcher's signals to the pitcher. He repeatedly said he didn't know if Cueto's claims were true and pointed out that it's a pitcher's responsibility to make it difficult for his signs to be read.
"You've got to hide the ball and have better communication with the catcher giving you signs when you're pitching," said Volquez. "So there's nothing wrong with it. We just have to hide the ball and give multiple signs to hide it from them."
This is not the first time Toronto has been accused of stealing signs.
In August of 2011 a report from ESPN the Magazine had complaints from anonymous players on an unnamed team that the Blue Jays had a plant in the centre-field seats, to the right of a section tarped over for camera crews.
That article pointed to a verbal altercation between Toronto slugger Jose Bautista and an unnamed Chicago White Sox relief pitcher in April 2010 where the reliever yelled "We know what you're doing," referring to a man dressed in white in the stands and warning the Blue Jays that if they stole signs again he'd throw at their heads.
"This whole thing is stupid," said Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos at a news conference on Aug. 10, 2011. "It's unbelievable that we're even sitting here to talk about this.
"I just wish people would look at the common-sense component first and say, 'Is this really realistic?' Think about what would have to go into this kind of stuff."
Anthopoulos said at the time that if Toronto was actually stealing signs that everyone in Major League Baseball would know about.
On Tuesday afternoon, Volquez said that rumours about the Blue Jays persisted.
"That's what I hear," said Volquez. "Most of the teams that come here — we've got a lot of friends on different teams — they always say that, they give the signs or whatever it is.
"But I don't go crazy with it. I just want to pitch my own game."
The Blue Jays had a 53-28 record at Rogers Centre this season, but were 40-41 on the road. Toronto lost the first two games of the five-game American League Division series at home, but won the decisive Game 5 at Rogers Centre.
Kansas City won the first two games of the seven-game ALCS at home, then lost Game 3 in Toronto.
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press