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Blue Jays unleash power to grab finale from Yanks

Bautista homers in fifth straight; Cabrera, Encarnacion add solo shots

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TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' power outage lasted a lot longer than anyone anticipated, but they finally restored order on the final day of the month. Toronto is known as a home run-hitting team, but lately that has hardly been the case. The club spent a large chunk of the season as the most powerful team in baseball, but until Sunday they ranked in August.

Evoking memories of earlier in the season, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion each homered, while Munenori Kawasaki drove in the go-ahead run during the Blue Jays' 4-3 victory over the Yankees at Rogers Centre.

"It's a good home run-hitting park, it's a good home run-hitting division," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That's kind of what we do -- still have to get your other hits -- but we've been missing that."

Toronto entered play on Sunday ranked last in the American League during August with 15 homers, 83 runs, a .293 on-base percentage and 308 total bases. The expectations were so much higher for a group that includes elite hitters like Jose Reyes, Cabrera, Bautista, Encarnacion and Adam Lind.

The lack of offense was the main reason the Blue Jays fell out of contention for the postseason during recent weeks. But on Sunday, those missing home runs returned and it was the main reason the club was able to overcome a 3-0 deficit to snatch a victory away from the Yankees.

In a lot of ways, it was just like old times for a team that once had a six-game lead in the AL East.

"It was great," Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ said. "I think a lot has kind of been made that our team hits home runs -- and that's kind of no secret, so it was nice that we came back with three to tie it up. Kawa got the huge hit, so that was really fun to see."

Toronto's offense was completely non-existent until Cabrera, Bautista and Encarnacion homered off right-hander Brandon McCarthy during a span of four at-bats. That spoiled what had been a flawless outing by McCarthy and allowed the Blue Jays to finish an otherwise disappointing month on a winning note.

Cabrera sparked the rally with two outs in the sixth with a solo shot to right field. It was Cabrera's 16th home run of the year, as his remarkable season continues. Cabrera entered play on Sunday ranked second in the AL in hits (168), fifth in times on base (213) and sixth in total bases (253).

Bautista immediately followed with a shot of his own. Toronto's veteran slugger has homered in five consecutive games for the first time in his career, and is one shy of the club record set by Jose Cruz Jr. from Sept. 29 - Oct. 5, 2001. Bautista is also one homer shy of reaching 30 for the first time since 2011, and needs five more to become the fifth player in club history with 200.

McCarthy escaped the sixth, but when he came back out for the seventh he encountered more trouble. Encarnacion led off with a home run into the second deck in left field. The homer came on a 3-2 pitch and was Encarnacion's 28th of the season. He has two home runs since returning from a strained right quad muscle on Aug. 15. The three homers by Toronto was the most the club hit since it had four on July 31 against Houston.

"Just two really good hitters," McCarthy said of Cabrera and Bautista. "When they get into it, you're in trouble. The one to Encarnacion, that was a terrible pitch."

The Blue Jays continued to rally in the seventh, as Dioner Navarro walked with nobody out. He was lifted for pinch-runner Steve Tolleson, who stole second and later came around to score on a two-out single by Kawasaki. The go-ahead knock came against right-hander Dellin Betances, but all four runs were charged to McCarthy -- who allowed five hits and two walks over six-plus innings.

Happ picked up the win for Toronto, after he pitched seven solid innings. Happ allowed nine hits, but didn't walk a batter and was able to escape multiple jams throughout the game. Brett Gardner was a major thorn in Happ's side, as he led off the game with a homer and came within a single of the cycle.

"They grind," Happ said of the Yankees. "I feel like every team -- especially this division -- does that. A day like today, McCarthy was throwing really well. I was trying to stay in there, keep us in the ballgame. We stayed on him, came back and that was huge."

Toronto will enjoy an off-day on Monday before opening a three-game series vs. Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The Blue Jays will then travel to Boston on Friday before returning home for games against the Cubs and Rays. Toronto finished August with a 9-17 record and scored three runs or fewer in 15 of those games.


Bautista homers in fifth straight game

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TORONTO -- Jose Bautista has moved within one of the Blue Jays' franchise record for most consecutive games with a home run.

Bautista homered during the sixth inning of Sunday afternoon's 4-3 victory over the Yankees. It marked the fifth straight game in which Bautista homered, and history is now within his sights.

Jose Cruz Jr. holds the all-time Toronto record with home runs in six consecutive games from Sept. 29 - Oct. 5, 2001. Bautista will have a chance to tie that on Tuesday night against the Rays.

"That's so hard to do what he's doing," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He is in a nice little groove. I think he is waiting his at-bats out for a pitch to hit.

"He's using that left-center-field gap pretty good -- that shows you he's on the ball, he's not spinning off it. That's where he runs into trouble. He's a good hitter. It's tough to hit [homers in five games] in a row, but he's a guy that can do that."

Six of Bautista's last eight hits have gone over the wall. He's one shy of hitting 30 home runs for the first time since 2011, and needs three more to become the fifth player in franchise history with 200 homers.


Morrow makes progress in rehab outing

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TORONTO -- Right-hander Brandon Morrow took another step forward in his rehab by tossing one scoreless inning for Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday night.

Morrow entered in the eighth inning of Buffalo's 3-0 win over Rochester. He threw 11 of his 14 pitches for strikes and didn't strike out or walk a batter.

The 30-year-old hit 97 miles per hour on a couple of occasions but went almost exclusively with his fastball. Morrow should be able to lean heavily on that pitch when he returns to the Majors, but will also need to refine his slider even in a bullpen role.

It's not immediately clear what the next step will be for Morrow. He'll likely receive the day off on Sunday, but could then appear in Buffalo's final game of the regular season on Monday afternoon vs. Syracuse.

The Blue Jays will then have to decide if he's ready to return to the big leagues as a September callup or whether Morrow will need more work on the side. When Morrow returns, it will be as a reliever -- because there isn't enough time remaining in the season to get him stretched out as a starter.

Morrow has been on the disabled list since he suffered a torn tendon sheath in his right index finger on May 4. He is 1-2 with a 5.93 ERA in six starts this season.

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Blue Jays acquire Mayberry from Phillies

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The Blue Jays acquired outfielder John Mayberry Jr. from the Phillies on Sunday in exchange for Minor League infielder Gustavo Pierre. Mayberry will join the club on Tuesday for the start of a three-game series against the Rays in St. Petersburg.

Mayberry, 30, has been on the disabled list since July 21 with inflammation in his left wrist, and with rosters expanding on Monday, he will be activated. He hit .213/.304/.418 in 63 games with the Phillies this season and is a lifetime .242/.304/.429 hitter over 500 Major League games, all with Philadelphia.

The right-handed-hitting Mayberry has a .272 average and .856 OPS lifetime against lefties, much better than his .224 mark and .659 career OPS against righties.

Pierre signed with the Blue Jays out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 and has played just eight games above Class A through six seasons. Still just 22, he has a career .660 OPS and has struck out on 26 percent of his at-bats while walking on only 4.3 percent.

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Jeter honored before series finale

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TORONTO -- The Blue Jays presented Derek Jeter with a vacation package to western Canada as a retirement gift prior to Sunday's series finale.

Jeter was handed the gift by Blue Jays players Mark Buehrle and Jose Bautista, and was also given a $10,000 check for his Turn 2 Foundation, established in 1996 to promote healthy lifestyles among youth.

The vacation package -- created by the Blue Jays exclusively for Jeter -- was tabbed as "A Canadian Castle of the Rockies Experience" and is located in Banff National Park in the province of Alberta. It includes a three-night stay for Jeter and a guest at the Fairmont Banff Springs in a 1,500-square-foot royal suite, a helicopter tour of the Rockies, as well as a variety of private lessons.

"I will definitely use that one," Jeter said of the gift.

A montage of Jeter's career highlights was played on the video board, and the fans in attendance gave the Yankees' shortstop a standing ovation -- as they did every time he stepped to the plate throughout the course of the three-game series.

"The way the fans have treated me everywhere I have gone this year is something I never would have expected," Jeter said following New York's 4-3 loss. "It's definitely what I will take out of this last year when it's over with. I have gotten a lot of respect from the fans, and that's what you play the games for -- for the baseball fans. Even if they are not necessarily Yankee fans, they have treated me to long ovations. You appreciate that as a player."

Jeter went 1-for-5 in his final regular-season game in Toronto and finished the series with two hits in 14 at-bats.

"I just like the city," Jeter said, when asked what he will miss most about Toronto. "I have always enjoyed coming to this city. [Its] team has played us especially tough here. So baseball wise, I don't know if I'll miss it that much. I'll definitely miss this city, but I'll be back."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has witnessed a season-long sendoff for one of his star players before. It was just last year that closer Mariano Rivera retired after 19 seasons in the big leagues and was honored by visiting teams the same way Jeter has been. But Girardi hasn't gotten sick of it.

"It has been special," Girardi said of Jeter's farewell tour. "I think fans have shown him the utmost respect, being a visiting player in cities where he gets standing ovations numerous times in the ballpark. I think the fans have treated him well and are appreciative of the way he played the game."

Jeter finished Sunday's contest as the all-time leader in hits, runs scored and games played at Rogers Centre by a visiting player.

The Orioles, Rays and Red Sox are the remaining road teams the Yankees still have games against.


Dickey out to stymie Rays in series opener

Dickey, Hellickson set to square off in series opener

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The Blue Jays and Rays begin a three-game series on Tuesday at Tropicana Field with each team trying to turn in a strong final month of the season to finish above .500.

Toronto has to be glad to be be out of the month of August. The Blue Jays finished the month with a 9-17 record and scored three runs or fewer in 15 of those games. Before winning the past two games against the Yankees, the Blue Jays had lost 11 of their past 15 games.

Tampa Bay is trying to finish with a winning record for the seventh consecutive season, and this season would be one of its more improbable runs. The Rays are aiming to become the first team in Major League history to finish above .500 after being at least 18 games under earlier in the year (24-42 through June 10).

The Blue Jays will send right-hander R.A. Dickey to the mound. He allowed three runs in the first inning of his last start against the Red Sox before settling down. He did not allow another run over six innings, but did not factor into the decision.

Blue Jays: Bautista homers in fifth straight

Jose Bautista has moved within one of the Blue Jays' franchise record for most consecutive games with a home run.

Bautista homered during the sixth inning of Sunday afternoon's 4-3 victory over the Yankees. It marked the fifth straight game in which Bautista homered, and history is now within his sights.

Jose Cruz Jr. holds the all-time Toronto record with home runs in six consecutive games from Sept. 29 - Oct. 5, 2001. Bautista will have a chance to tie that in the opener with the Rays.

Worth noting
• Brandon Morrow threw a scoreless eighth inning for Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday, hitting 97 miles per hour on a couple occasions.

• The Rays have thrown a club record 18 shutouts this season.

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Sanchez's hot hand nets save for Blue Jays

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TORONTO -- The Blue Jays might have a mini-competition at the back end of their bullpen after rookie right-hander Aaron Sanchez picked up the first save of his career during Saturday afternoon's 2-0 victory over the Yankees.

Sanchez pitched a clean eighth and was then brought back for the ninth. That spot is normally reserved for veteran closer Casey Janssen, but in this case, manager John Gibbons decided to stick with the hot hand.

That meant Janssen was relegated to the role of observer while Sanchez retired all three batters he faced in the ninth to preserve the win.

"We're trying to maximize who he is," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Sanchez, the Blue Jays' No. 2 prospect and the 38th-best prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. "We don't want to throw him necessarily on back-to-back days, unless we're forced to. So if he goes out there and has one inning under his belt and it's easy, we're going to ride him."

Gibbons said after Saturday's game that he informed Janssen of the club's plan for Sanchez earlier this month in Seattle. Despite that claim, it would appear as though Janssen was caught off guard by Toronto's decision on Saturday afternoon.

Janssen started warming up under the assumption that the ninth inning would be his, but the call to the bullpen was never made. Instead, Sanchez made his way back out to record his first save while facing the team against which he recorded his first win, on July 27.

Janssen struggled after the All-Star break, perhaps in part because he lost 10 pounds after coming down with a severe case of food poisoning. He has two blown saves in his past three opportunities, dating back to the start of the month, but he looked a lot stronger during his last outing, on Tuesday.

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Buehrle motivated to reach 200 innings

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TORONTO -- Mark Buehrle's streak of 13 consecutive seasons with at least 200 innings is in danger of coming to an end unless he has a strong final month of the season.

Buehrle has five starts remaining and is 33 innings shy of 200. That works out to an average of just under seven innings per start, which is something Buehrle hasn't done since the beginning of July.

It would appear to be an uphill battle for the veteran left-hander to hit his annual milestone, but he certainly hasn't given up hope quite yet.

"That's the goal I set every year," Buehrle said. "Obviously, in my mind, I know it's going to come to an end sometime, whether it's the result of a bad year or retirement.

"It's one of those things that I still, in my mind, want to get to, and if I don't ... when I get home for the offseason it will be disappointing. I have to fight through these last five starts to try to get there."

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is among those hoping Buehrle will keep his streak alive. Prior to Saturday afternoon's game against the Yankees, Gibbons looked at the schedule and raised the possibility of Buehrle finishing the year in the bullpen.

Buehrle's final start will likely come against the Mariners on either Sept. 24 or 25. It's possible the Blue Jays could then use Buehrle out of the bullpen in the season finale on Sept. 28 if he needs another couple of innings to reach 200.

"It's important for us, too; we'd love to see him get that," Gibbons said of the 200-inning plateau. "He had that stretch, two or three starts in a row, where he didn't make five [innings]. But he feels good; he says he kind of caught a second wind. His arm feels good."

Buehrle is 11-9 with a 3.50 ERA in 27 starts this season. He has one win in his past 15 starts, while posting a 4.83 ERA over that span.


Hutchison the star as Blue Jays one-hit Yanks

Bautista's homer in fourth straight game only offense Toronto needs

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TORONTO -- Drew Hutchison has been insisting for weeks that he's not tired, but instead of repeating the same things over and over, the Blue Jays starter is letting his pitching do the talking.

Not that long ago, there were some questions about whether Hutchison would be able to finish the season in the rotation. He surpassed his career high in innings pitched long ago and fatigue has been a concern, but there have been no signs of that lately.

Hutchison enjoyed another quality start as he tossed seven stellar innings, while Jose Bautista homered for a fourth consecutive game in the Blue Jays' 2-0 victory over the Yankees on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Led by Hutchison, Toronto pitching held New York to one hit on the day, with Aaron Sanchez retiring all six batters he faced from the start of the eighth inning.

"We've seen him good a number of times," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It's almost like he caught a second wind since that game in Chicago. He gave up six in the first and then finished seven strong. There was that last outing here and that one today. We've seen him very good a lot of times, but it's tough to get any better than he was today."

Hutchison's workload and health had to be closely monitored this year after he missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. It was impossible to predict how Hutchison would perform as his innings total reached a new high, but instead of tailing off, he appears to be getting stronger.

The native of Lakeland, Fla., has allowed one run over his past 19 innings, dating back to the second inning of an outing in Chicago on Aug. 17. He has tossed back-to-back quality starts for the first time this season, and he arguably looked as good on Saturday afternoon as he has all year.

The only hint of trouble for Hutchison came in the fourth inning, when he allowed a double to Mark Teixeira and hit a pair of batters. Hutchison was able to escape that jam by getting a weak two-out fly ball off the bat of left fielder Martin Prado, and he continued on through the seventh.

"I feel really good; I probably feel the best I have all year," Hutchison said. "I've been able to get into a good rhythm within my delivery, stay within my delivery, and I think that's shown.

"Obviously, every time I go out there, I expect to go deep into the game and be successful. I thought I showed that today. I was able to have good command. My fastball was really good, and everything comes off the fastball for me."

Sanchez, a rookie right-hander, earned the first save of his career in relief of Hutchison, helping the Blue Jays win for the second time in their past three games.

Bautista provided the Blue Jays with all the offense they would need in the first inning. With two outs and a runner on, Bautista sent an 0-2 offering from right-hander Michael Pineda over the wall in left for his 28th home run of the season. Toronto's veteran slugger continues to be red hot at the plate following an 0-for-17 skid.

Pineda didn't allow another run, working six strong innings but taking the loss nonetheless. Despite the win, Toronto's offensive woes continued, as the club has scored three runs or fewer in 15 of its 25 games this month, the main reason behind the Blue Jays' subpar 8-17 record in August.

"He's a pretty good hitter," Pineda said of Bautista. "I tried to make a good pitch to him, a good slider down in the dirt. Instead, it was right in the middle."

The Blue Jays will wrap up their series against New York on Sunday afternoon. Toronto will then enjoy an off-day before heading out on a six-game road trip against Tampa Bay and Boston.

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Play at home in Toronto gets pair of reviews

Ellsbury out after call overturned, then replay confirms Rule 7.13 wasn't violated

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TORONTO -- John Gibbons saved the Blue Jays a run with his challenge during the ninth inning of Friday night's 6-3 loss to the Yankees at Rogers Centre.

The incident occurred with nobody out and a runner on third base. Derek Jeter hit a slow chopper to third and infielder Danny Valencia attempted to get Jacoby Ellsbury, who had reached third on a triple, at the plate.

Valencia's throw to home was a little high, but catcher Dioner Navarro was able to get the tag down. Home-plate umpire Mike Everitt didn't think the tag was applied in time and ruled Ellsbury safe at the plate.

Gibbons challenged the call, and the ruling on the field was overturned. That prompted Yankees manager Joe Girardi to formally request the umpires to review whether Navarro had been blocking the plate.

Crew chief Bill Miller agreed, and they went back to the replay for a second time. Following another review, it was confirmed that Navarro was not in violation of 7.13, which states the catcher must provide a clear lane for the runner.

Girardi disagreed with that assessment, as he felt Navarro's foot was blocking Ellsbury's path to the plate. Girardi said after the game that Major League Baseball is trying to protect catchers, but by doing so there is still some lingering confusion about what the rule entails.

"It has been one of my points of contention of this rule -- when a guy is running basically down the baseline, a straight line, if the guy's foot is on the line, that's blocking the plate," Girardi said. "Everything is here to protect the players and catchers, and I'm all for it. But in that situation, he has no place to slide.

"You are asking him to deviate from his path and maybe slide with his hand. If he gets his hand stepped on, that could be the rest of the year."

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Game gets away from Buehrle in seventh

Lefty starts strong before career-long issues vs. NY resurface

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TORONTO -- Even when Mark Buehrle pitches well against the Yankees he can't seem to catch a break.

Toronto's veteran left-hander has enjoyed a lot of success throughout his 15-year career, but none of it has come against New York. For whatever reason, the Yankees have been his Achilles' heel for far longer than he would care to remember.

Buehrle was effective through six innings on Friday night, but then his outing fell apart as his losing streak vs. New York was extended to 11 games with the Blue Jays' 6-3 loss at Rogers Centre.

"Six innings, shutout, cruising right along, and then bad things happen," Buehrle said. "Bad luck. I've had some games when I've pitched good against them. I've had some bad games where I couldn't get anybody out. It just seems like everything can't go together. Offensively, defensively, pitching -- just one of these teams I can't seem to figure out."

Buehrle's issues with the Yankees have been well-documented for several years, but now they've started to approach historic lows. Buehrle hasn't defeated the Yankees since he allowed two unearned runs during a start on April 10, 2004.

The ensuing 16 starts without a win is the second longest of any pitcher vs. the Yankees during the past 100 years. The only starter with a longer skid is Slim Harriss, who went 19 starts without a win from 1920-25.

Buehrle's 1-13 career record against the Yankees also has some historical context. His .071 winning percentage is the second-worst all time vs. New York (minimum 19 starts), with only Red Ruffing having a worse percentage at .059 (1-16).

"You know it coming into the game, but I don't go out there thinking about it," Buehrle said. "I guess, if anything, they've owned me my whole career, I'm due for a win.

"I don't go out there every time I face the Yankees and say, 'Man, we don't have a chance to win tonight.' I go out there trying to go deep into games and hope for the best. Obviously it hasn't happened against these guys."

Despite the track record, Buehrle cruised through the early stages of Friday night's game. The veteran lefty retired the first eight hitters and faced two batters over the minimum through five innings. It was vintage Buehrle as he worked quickly and effectively, but all that changed when he came back to start the seventh.

Buehrle's issues began with a leadoff double by Brian McCann. Two batters later, Brett Gardner hit a double over the head of Jose Bautista in right field. One runner came around to score and a second was added when second baseman Steve Tolleson forced the issue with an ill-advised throw to third that was well off the mark.

A few pitches later, Buehrle was chased from the game after a single by Ichiro Suzuki. He allowed four runs on seven hits and one walk. Gardner scored when catcher Dioner Navarro attempted to pick off Suzuki at first, and Jacoby Ellsbury added a two-run homer off Aaron Loup.

"He's not easy to score on, he's had a successful career for a reason," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said of Buehrle. "We didn't get anything going with the exception of that one inning.

"It's not like we're all running to the bat racks because Buehrle is pitching. He's got great stuff and he's a competitor. I'm sure he wants the ball when we face him. I think that's just a fluke thing."

Bautista gave the Blue Jays an early 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the fourth inning. Bautista has homered in three consecutive games and has moved beyond a slump earlier this month which saw him go through an 0-for-17 skid. He is three home runs shy of reaching 30 for the first time since 2011.

Toronto put together another rally in the seventh, as Kevin Pillar hit an RBI double and Melky Cabrera added a sacrifice fly. Edwin Encarnacion came up later in the inning with the tying run on first base, but he flew out to right, and that was as close as the Blue Jays would get.

The Blue Jays have lost 11 of their past 15 games. Toronto's seven victories this month are the fewest in the Major Leagues, and their .292 winning percentage in August is the lowest in franchise history.

"We just have to swing our way out of it," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We're better hitters than we've been producing as a whole right now, no question about that. Just have to keep battling every day. I don't have any other answer for you, nobody does. Just keep grinding away. What else are you going to do?"


Morrow likely headed to 'pen when he returns

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TORONTO -- Right-hander Brandon Morrow is expected to continue his rehab assignment with Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday.

Morrow pitched a scoreless inning for Class A Advanced Dunedin on Wednesday before getting word of the promotion. He struck out one and didn't allow a hit in his first official appearance since injuring his right index finger on May 2.

There hasn't been any talk of Morrow rejoining the starting rotation upon his return, and it would appear as though his work will be limited to the bullpen.

"He pitched out of the 'pen in Seattle," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "You look at his stuff, that might be the ideal role for him. He's had so many [injuries], he gets banged up each year, maybe that's the route to go. Who knows?

"He has overpowering stuff, good fastball, great slider. Maybe maximize him that way."

Morrow could be entering his final month in a Blue Jays uniform. Toronto has a $10 million option on his contract next season, but it would appear unlikely that will get picked up.

The Blue Jays could explore bringing back Morrow for less money, but he would also be free to talk with other teams. The biggest selling point might be whether another team is open to the idea of offering him a starting role, because that's something Toronto doesn't appear willing to do.

Morrow has yet to pitch a full season since joining the rotation in 2010. During the past four years he's had a strained oblique, strained right forearm, back spasms and the finger issue. That has raised some questions about his overall durability and whether he might be best served pitching in shorter stints.

"You would hope he could start for you," Gibbons said. "But the last couple of years he has been banged up here. Maybe his body just can't hold up that way."


Rasmus back in lineup after brief illness

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TORONTO -- Colby Rasmus made his return to the Blue Jays' lineup on Friday night after missing two games because of flu-like symptoms.

Rasmus was a late scratch for Tuesday's game against Boston after catching a bout of the flu. He took a few days to recover but was cleared in time for the series opener vs. the Yankees.

Toronto opted to ease Rasmus back into the lineup by giving him the start at designated hitter. Rookie Kevin Pillar made his third consecutive start in center field.

"He's feeling better," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Friday afternoon. "Give him a little bit of a breather and still get him some at-bats."

Pillar is in the process of auditioning for a spot on next year's team. There is plenty of uncertainty with Toronto's outfielders next season, as Rasmus and Melky Cabrera are about to hit free agency, and that could open a spot for Pillar.

The most likely future role for Pillar is as a fourth outfielder, but in order to gain any long-term stability, he'll have to improve his patience at the plate. That's been an issue in the past, but it's something Gibbons says has seen some improvement in since Pillar's last stint in the Minors.

"I like the way he looks," Gibbons said. "It looks like he made some adjustments with his hands. I've said to these guys before, 'It's tough breaking into the big leagues.' When he's been here before, it's been kind of sporadic play, basically going with a platoon-type thing that makes it that much tougher, but he has earned his right for that opportunity to be here."


Stroman's varied approach spicing things up

Toronto rookie's six-pitch repertoire has confounded opposing batters

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TORONTO -- Marcus Stroman has asserted himself as the Blue Jays' best starter since he made his rotation debut back in late May, wowing teammates, opposing hitters, pitchers and managers with a six-pitch repertoire that has propelled him to prominence in his rookie season.

Following a forgettable five-outing stint in the bullpen, the 23-year-old was briefly optioned to Triple-A Buffalo, but Stroman returned to the Majors with a bang three weeks later. It's hard to believe that just a few months ago, dissenters were questioning the viability of a big league starter with a 5-foot-9 frame.

Apart from the hype that comes with being the No. 1 prospect in a big league organization, it wasn't until Stroman's first career start on May 31 that the baseball world knew he had arrived. After allowing just one run in six frames in a 12-2 win over the Royals, he was asked about his mix of pitches -- including his slider, which it seemed like he used to fan several hitters.

Stroman had to correct reporters: It wasn't actually a slider.

"That's my curveball," he said.

It's that deception -- and the unpredictability of what he will throw next -- that has helped Stroman become a force.

Stroman's decision to expand his mix to six pitches is the product of an insatiable curiosity. He always has a baseball in his hands, and whether he's sitting in the clubhouse, observing from the dugout or just watching television, he's constantly playing around with new grips. Stroman had been working on his changeup since Spring Training, but instead of squarely focusing on the offspeed pitch, he added a two-seam fastball for good measure.

It's art meets science for the native of Medford, N.Y., who spends as much time experimenting as he does visualizing how he might put his own stamp on a traditional sinker or changeup. Stroman has picked the minds of guys like Pedro Martinez, Mark Buehrle and Felix Hernandez, and he has applied those insights to make his own repertoire better.

"Pitching is unique to everyone," said Stroman, who is 7-5 with a 3.28 ERA in 16 starts. "Their hold is different; their delivery is different. I'm not going to go out there and do what someone else does. But I'll see how he does it, tweak it and make it my own.

"It's an art form in that way. It's fun. I'll play around, find grips and go out and throw them, and see how they move."

One thing that's evident when Stroman digs into the topic of pitching is the sheer excitement with which he discusses the topic. Recalling what it was like to introduce a two-seam fastball into his arsenal in mid-July, he lights like up a Christmas tree.

"I have a sinker now, and it's good," Stroman said, proudly. "It's a good pitch, and I get excited when I throw it. I get excited on the mound. It's a pitch I started throwing like a month ago, and I'm already using it in games and having success with it.

"Pitching excites me. ... When you get in a game, and [you've been] working on [pitches] and talking to people about them, and then you execute, it's kind of a 'wow' moment."

For a peek inside Stroman's head, we asked him to break his stuff down for us pitch by pitch, with Brooks Baseball supplying usage and velocity figures.

Curveball: 15.47 percent usage, average of 83.13 mph

Stroman curveball

Some refer to Stroman's curveball as a "slurve" because of its 2-to-7 o'clock break. He said he likes to try to bounce the hook in on lefties, though he's comfortable throwing it to both sides of the plate. Stroman's lowered arm slot dictates that he looks for more horizontal movement than a traditional 12-to-6 curve. The speed of his curveballs varies between 80-85 mph.

"It's been a huge pitch for me, but I've gotten away from it a bit lately," Stroman said. "It's more 'slurvey.' It's a pretty safe pitch for me to get off the barrel, and I have pretty good control of it to both sides."

Cutter: 18.37 percent usage, average of 91.49 mph

Stroman cutter

Sometimes, less is more, as is the case for Stroman's cut fastball, which he throws from about the waist up and tries to turn late, but just a little bit. It's that last-second cut that throws off hitters.

"Usually [I throw it] to get [inside] on lefties," Stroman said. "I feel like it gives lefties trouble, because [it breaks] pretty late. It looks like a heater all the way, and it's a small, all-lateral movement. It can really jam lefties. I'll throw it to righties to get off the barrel, or if the sinker isn't working that day. Or it could be for a double-play ball that I'll go to it occasionally. It's an early-count pitch."

Changeup: 6.77 percent usage, average of 86.05 mph

Stroman changeup

After taking some pointers from Hernandez during a recent road trip to Seattle, Stroman continues to work on the pitch that he set out to refine in Spring Training. His grip stands somewhere between a circle change and a split-finger fastball. Stroman acknowledges it's a work in progress, but that doesn't prevent him from letting it loose during game action.

"I'm always playing with changeup grips," Stroman said. "It's a pitch I really want to get to be one of my better ones. It's usually effective, because of the speed difference and arm action."

Four-seam fastball: 42.02 percent usage, average of 94.47 mph

Stroman fastball

Old faithful. For Stroman, there's nothing quite like a well-placed fastball. When it's effective, his heater can be deadly, as he keeps hitters off balance with his other five pitches.

"That's the 'here it is, hit it,'" Stroman said. "That's what you go to when you need strikes. Usually you've probably got the best command of it."

Two-seam fastball: 11.66 percent usage, 93.45-mph average speed

Stroman sinker

As mentioned before, this relatively new member to the Stroman pitch family was conceived in the clubhouse in an "a-ha" moment not long before his start against the Rangers on July 19, in which he threw seven shutout innings. He used it to considerable success against the Tigers in a brilliant nine-inning no-decision on Aug. 9, during which he induced 16 ground balls. It figured heavily again in Stroman's win over Boston on Wednesday, when the Red Sox hit 17 grounders.

"It has really good action on it," Stroman said. "It was awesome to get off the barrel, front dooring it to lefties, where they're taking it, thinking it's coming in. That's been a huge pitch for me, as well."

Slider: 7.07 percent use, average of 87.90 mph

Stroman slider

Stroman uses his slider less than his curveball and cutter, but with the same success. He's just a little more picky with it.

"Sometimes I'll go with the slider over the curveball if I'm facing a predominantly righty lineup, or depending on lefty-righty splits," Stroman said.


Valencia comes off bench, delivers clutch homer

Stroman silences critics by allowing one earned run over 7 2/3 frames

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TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' lineup is typically known for hitting a lot of home runs, but that weapon has been missing for most of August. On Wednesday night, it finally returned.

Toronto posted its second multihomer game of the month. The long ball is the bread and butter of the Blue Jays' approach, and for the first time in quite awhile, it allowed them to relax.

Danny Valencia hit the go-ahead three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning while Jose Bautista added one earlier in the Blue Jays' 5-2 victory over the Red Sox in front of 30,285 fans at Rogers Centre.

"We haven't had that. It gives us a little bit of breathing room," said manager John Gibbons, whose club is 5 1/2 games back of the Tigers for the second American League Wild Card. "The pitcher doesn't have to be quite as perfect. ... It changes our whole philosophy. You can run some contact plays, you can be a little more aggressive. It makes quite a bit of difference."

When general manager Alex Anthopoulos constructed this version of the Blue Jays, the expectation all along was that a lot of offense would come from home runs. That's one reason why it was so surprising to see Toronto enter play on Wednesday night with fewer homers this month than any team in the Major Leagues.

The Blue Jays also scored fewer runs than any team in baseball during August. Everyone appeared to be pressing at the plate, and that was the case for much of Wednesday's game as well. Boston's right-hander Joe Kelly was borderline dominant through six innings, and it wasn't until he departed in the seventh that Toronto had an opportunity to turn things around.

The first two batters of the inning reached base and Valencia came in to pinch-hit for third baseman Juan Francisco. Boston manager John Farrell made a countermove by going to right-hander Junichi Tazawa, but it immediately backfired.

Valencia sent a 2-0 fastball over the wall in left field for his third home run of the season and first in a Blue Jays uniform.

In seven career innings pitched at Rogers Centre, Tazawa has allowed eight runs on 12 hits. For his career against the Blue Jays, he's 1-3 in 20 appearances, over which he's worked 19 1/3 innings and given up 16 runs on 29 hits for a career 7.45 ERA.

"I looked at the video and the pitch to Valencia leaped back quite a bit and went inside," Tazawa said through an interpreter. "I missed my location."

Bautista provided the other spark on offense in the first inning when he recorded his 26th home run of the season. The solo shot was Bautista's second in as many games as he continues to heat up following an 0-for-17 skid at the plate. He is now four home runs shy of hitting the 30-homer plateau for the first time since 2011.

Right-hander Marcus Stroman recovered from a pair of rough outings to get back into the win column with another solid start. He carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning and faced one batter over the minimum through five. Stroman's only blemish came in the sixth, when he loaded the bases and allowed an RBI single to David Ortiz to go along with a wild pitch for Boston's two runs.

The strong outing should go a long way in helping to silence any of the critics who thought Stroman, who was the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, might be running out of gas. The hard-throwing righty has thrown a career-high 134 1/3 innings between the Blue Jays and Triple-A Buffalo, but there weren't any signs of fatigue against Boston.

"He's a strong kid," Gibbons said. "He's coming out of college, he's still a youngster, but he has some innings in the Minor Leagues, too. It crosses your mind when he has a couple of outings when he struggles. Is he tired out a little bit, running out of gas? Who knows where it goes from here, but he's put together pretty good. Strong guy, low center of gravity. I don't think that will be a problem with him."

In Stroman's previous two starts, he allowed 11 runs over 5 2/3 innings. A lot of his issues were related with command with fastballs staying up in the zone and secondary pitches not having a lot of downward movement. After his Wednesday's win, Stroman said he didn't really make any adjustments between outings but got back to what he normally does.

"Just sometimes you're going to be up," Stroman said. "That's the biggest thing for me is to constantly try to fight to stay down in the zone. Sometimes I'm just up and I had a stretch there when I was up in the zone. I'm happy to be back down and locating my heater down."

Despite Wednesday's result, Toronto still has just one series win in its past eight. The Blue Jays have been outscored 123-75 in 23 games this month en route to a 7-16 record. The win did allow the Blue Jays (67-66) to avoid dropping below .500 for the first time since May 14, when they were 20-21.

"Obviously we've been struggling and every win's important," Valencia said. "To come out on top today, salvage the series, go into the off-day, recoup and then come into play this weekend should be good for us."

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Struggling Santos designated for assignment

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TORONTO -- Sergio Santos' season took yet another unfortunate turn on Wednesday afternoon when he was designated for assignment for the second time this year.

Santos was once considered the closer of the future in Toronto, but he has since fallen on tough times. Santos struggled through two injury-plagued seasons before seeing his performance on the mound fall apart amidst sporadic use.

The hard throwing righty is now eligible to be claimed by any other team, but if he clears waivers, there's still a chance Santos would remain in the organization.

"He threw some strikes, but they weren't good strikes," manager John Gibbons said. "At the start of the season, he was pretty good for us. Last September, he was really good. But other than that, he's had a tough go. Relievers have tough lives. We needed a guy and he has been scuffling."

Even if Santos clears waivers, he's likely thrown his last pitch for the Blue Jays. There's a $6 million club option on his contract for next season that is all but guaranteed of being bought out at the end of the year for $750,000.

Right-hander Chad Jenkins was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo to take Santos' spot on the 25-man roster. Jenkins has worked exclusively as a reliever for Toronto this year and has a 2.56 ERA in 21 appearances.

Santos, 31, is 7-12 with a 3.89 ERA in the Major Leagues. The right-hander posted 30 saves in 2011 with the White Sox and was acquired by the Blue Jays in a trade for Nestor Molina the following offseason. Santos has pitched in just 61 games for Toronto over three seasons.

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Morrow tosses scoreless frame in rehab outing

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TORONTO -- Right-hander Brandon Morrow began his rehab assignment with Class A Dunedin on Wednesday night by tossing one scoreless inning.

Morrow entered out of the bullpen and retired all three batters he faced. He struck out one and got two other batters to fly out in Dunedin's 8-2 loss to Daytona.

Toronto has yet to announce a timetable for Morrow's return, but he's expected back at some point in September. He hasn't pitched for the Blue Jays since he tore a tendon sheath in his right index finger on May 2 in Pittsburgh.

Morrow has spent his entire career in a Blue Jays uniform as a starter, but when he returns, it will be as a reliever. There isn't enough time remaining in the season for Morrow to build up enough stamina to start.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Rasmus remains sidelined by flu-like symptoms

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TORONTO -- Colby Rasmus was held out of the Blue Jays' lineup on Wednesday night for the second consecutive game because of flu-like symptoms.

Rasmus was a late scratch on Tuesday night, but he was never really expected to play the following day. Fourth outfielder Kevin Pillar took Rasmus' spot in center field for the series finale vs. Boston.

"Sick enough that he can't play," manager John Gibbons said. "It hit him yesterday before the game and today he's feeling worse."

Rasmus is batting .223 with 16 homers and 37 RBIs in 93 games this season. He's eligible for free agency at the end of the year and isn't expected to return to Toronto.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Janssen, Santos roughed up in extra innings

Bats erase two deficits, but seven-run 11th too much to overcome

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TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' performance this month has been tough enough, but the seemingly endless streak of heartbreaking losses has become even more difficult for those inside the clubhouse to take.

Toronto played extra innings for a fourth consecutive game on Tuesday night, and once again, it came out on the losing end. Each result has been different, but the atmosphere has been relatively the same with a constant theme of disappointment.

The frustrations continued to mount as the offence once again couldn't come up with the timely hit and the pitching staff fell apart in the 11th inning after Casey Janssen and Sergio Santos combined to allow seven runs in the 11-7 loss to the Red Sox at Rogers Centre.

"We've lost some tough ones, games we could have won every one of them, but we haven't done it," said manager John Gibbons, whose team has lost all but one of those extra-innings games. "If you're going to get to the top, you have to win those games, because that's what elite teams do."

This marks the first time since Sept. 16-20, 1991, that the Blue Jays have participated in four consecutive extra-innings games. The odd streak dates back even a little further than that as all but one of Toronto's last seven home games have gone to extras.

The Blue Jays are 4-6 in those games this season, but it's the recent three losses that have stung the most. The three loom large in an overall disappointing month that has seen the club go 6-16 (.273), which is the lowest winning percentage for August in franchise history.

A lot of the issues can be tied to an offence that has struggled to score runs. Toronto managed to score more than three on Tuesday for the just the ninth time in August, but in reality, there should have been a lot more offence early on. Through the first eight innings, the Blue Jays went 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position, which would make almost any game impossible to win.

"I don't necessarily think the approach is bad, we just didn't get the results," Gibbons said. "I still believe normally, when most pitchers get in jams, they go soft with guys in scoring position. Not all of them, but a lot of them, that's kind of what they do.

"If you're in hook mode, they're going to get you, and we rolled over some balls. If you shoot some balls the other way, it might get a different result, but there are people out in the baseball world that don't think RBIs are important. Well [1-for-17 with runners in scoring positions] ... those are RBIs."

The lack of early runs meant the Blue Jays entered the top of the 11th inning locked into a 4-4 tie. Janssen pitched a clean 10th, but he was forced to come back for a second inning because Santos the only fresh reliever still available in the bullpen.

The Blue Jays were hoping to steal an additional three outs, but the plan didn't work out as Janssen began the 11th by allowing a leadoff single to Mookie Betts. Boston then loaded the bases on a pair of back-to-back sacrifice bunts that involved a pair of costly defensive miscues on the Blue Jays' end.

The first came when Janssen fielded a bunt by Christian Vazquez and tried to get the lead runner at second base. Janssen's throw was late, and while the original call by umpire Eric Cooper was out, it was later overturned via expanded replay. Janssen followed that up by committing an error on the very next play as a slow grounder got away from him.

With the bases loaded and nobody out, Dustin Pedroia delivered the decisive blow with a two-run single up the middle. That chased Janssen from the game, but it did little to stop Boston's momentum. Santos entered and Mike Napoli became the 17th player in the history of Rogers Centre to homer into the fifth deck, and Allen Craig followed one batter later with a two-run shot.

Boston's inning didn't come to an end until infielder Steve Tolleson took the mound and recorded the final two outs. It was that kind of night for the Blue Jays.

"I felt great in the first inning," said Janssen, who has a 7.98 ERA since the All-Star break. "I felt like I got a lot of life back on my ball. I started pounding the zone, I was really happy with the first one. The second one, the guy hit a base hit to right field and then the two bunts. You know what? It was a lot worse than it should have been and just get ready to go tomorrow."


Bautista snaps slump by going deep

Slugger joins Delgado, Carter with 25 homers in five consecutive seasons

Bautista snaps slump by going deep play video for Bautista snaps slump by going deep

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays suffered another heartbreaking loss on Tuesday night, but if there was one positive they hope to take away from the game, it's that Jose Bautista might be starting to break out of his slump.

Bautista entered play on Tuesday mired in an 0-for-14 skid at the plate. The hitless streak was extended to 17 before Bautista sent a 2-2 offering from Alex Wilson over the wall in left-center field for a solo home run in the seventh inning of the Blue Jays' 11-7 loss to the Red Sox.

That put an end to the unfortunate streak and also allowed Bautista to become the third player in franchise history to have at least 25 home runs in five consecutive seasons. Carlos Delgado (1996-2004) and Joe Carter (1991-96) were the others.

"Even yesterday, he hit two balls on the money, one to center field," manager John Gibbons. "It's just a matter of time. Everybody goes through those, even your top hitters. But we need him, we need him to heat up."

Despite the recent slump, Bautista has reached base in 113 of his 125 starts this year and 29 of his last 32 games. He is hitting .281 with 25 homers and 78 RBIs.

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Overturned call at second pivotal in Sox's rally

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TORONTO -- For the second straight night, Mookie Betts was thrown out at second base. But just like Monday, the Red Sox's top prospect had the call overturned following a video review.

With the scored tied in the top of the 11th and Betts on first, Christian Vazquez laid down a bunt that bounced toward Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen, who attempted to get the lead runner at second for the force out. Betts narrowly slid in ahead of the throw, but he was ruled out by second-base umpire Eric Cooper, prompting Red Sox manager John Farrell to challenge the call.

Following a review lasting one minute and 16 seconds, the call was overturned.

"Mookie gets a good read, a good job and his speed carries him the rest of the way," Farrell said. "In the time he's been back, he's been doing things inside games he might not have done the first time he was here."

The play proved crucial, as Brock Holt bunted and reached on Janssen's error to load the bases on the next play, which ended up having a ripple effect.

"It was a good bunt, it was well placed, tried to be aggressive, tried to see what I could do once I got it and I just didn't get it," said Janssen. "Obviously that led to the bases loaded and nobody out."

Dustin Pedroia swatted a go-ahead, two-run single and then Mike Napoli blasted a three-run homer. Allen Craig capped the seven-run rally with a two-run blast as the Red Sox won, 11-7.

Even before two innings were in the books, there were two plays reviewed during Tuesday night's game at Rogers Centre.

Will Middlebrooks laced a double to centre field in the first inning, and Napoli scored easily from second. Craig attempted to score all the way from first base, but the relay throw home from second baseman Munenori Kawasaki beat Craig to end the inning.

There appeared to be a question about whether or not catcher Josh Thole had blocked the plate as Craig slid in. Farrell left the dugout to speak to home-plate umpire Hal Gibson, and after a quick meeting, the umpires initiated a crew chief review.

After a 29-second review, the original call was confirmed and the inning was over, but not before the Red Sox had given themselves a 3-0 lead. In the top of the second, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons used his challenge on a close play at first base. Betts walked and then almost got picked off first by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Dickey's throw was low and into the runner, which allowed Edwin Encarnacion to make the tag at first. First-base umpire Chris Guccione called Betts safe on the play, and after Gibbons challenged, the call on the field stood.

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Pompey among Blue Jays prospects set for AFL

Pompey among Blue Jays prospects set for AFL play video for Pompey among Blue Jays prospects set for AFL

TORONTO -- Dalton Pompey will headline the list of Blue Jays prospects participating in this year's Arizona Fall League.

Pompey spent most of this season with Double-A New Hampshire, where he hit .295 with a .378 on-base percentage and eight stolen bases in 13 attempts. The native of Mississauga, Ontario, recently was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo, where he's scheduled to finish the season.

The 21-year-old is Toronto's No. 3 prospect according to MLB.com and earlier this year he was named to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Target Field in Minnesota.

"We welcome the Class of 2014 and the arrival of the Arizona Fall League's 23rd season," AFL director Steve Cobb said. "It's an exciting array of top Draft choices and Minor League All-Stars who have excelled in the early stages of their professional careers. We continue to take great pride in the role the Fall League serves in Major League Baseball's player development process.

"Approximately 60 percent of our players will reach the Major Leagues. We want fans to know top young professional talent still will be playing baseball in October and November in Arizona."

Each organization is required to send six players to the AFL. Last year, Toronto used the AFL to provide some additional innings to pitchers Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman to get them ready for this season.

Double-A New Hampshire infielder Jon Berti and Class A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays left fielder Dwight Smith Jr. will also will represent the Blue Jays in the AFL. Toronto has yet to make a formal announcement on the other players who will be on the Mesa Solar Sox's roster.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Tolleson racks up second scoreless relief outing

Tolleson racks up second scoreless relief outing play video for Tolleson racks up second scoreless relief outing

TORONTO -- Blue Jays infielder Steve Tolleson is starting to get the hang of this whole pitching thing.

Tolleson made his second pitching appearance of the season during Tuesday night's 11-7 loss to Boston and retired both of the batters he faced.

Whenever a position player takes the mound, it always means things haven't gone well for his team. In this particular case, Tolleson at least attempted to enjoy the moment when he was called upon in the 11th inning of a blowout loss.

"I tried to have a little more fun with it this time," Tolleson said. "The last time, I was just kind of a deer in headlights without really knowing what to do. This time I just tried to embrace it, enjoy it for what I could, go out there and try to move the game along a little bit."

Tolleson's first career appearance as a pitcher came on May 14, and he retired one batter and allowed one hit during a 15-4 loss to Cleveland. This time, he pitched after Casey Janssen and Sergio Santos combined to allow seven earned runs in the 11th.

Tolleson first struck out Will Middlebrooks on six pitches. Tolleson followed that up by getting Mookie Betts to fly out to left and end the inning. Tolleson still has yet to allow a run and has a full inning of work under his belt.

"That's his second time this year," manager John Gibbons said. "We're not proud of that, but he's made two appearances."


Reimold designated for assignment

Reimold designated for assignment play video for Reimold designated for assignment

TORONTO -- Nolan Reimold, who was claimed off waivers from the Orioles in early July but never really settled into a comfortable role with the Blue Jays, was designated for assignment Tuesday afternoon.

Reimold landed on the disabled list after four games and received sporadic playing time upon his return.

The 30-year-old likely will be claimed on waivers, but if that doesn't happen, there's still an outside chance he could remain in the organization and report to Triple-A Buffalo.

"He wasn't getting a whole lot of steady work," said manager John Gibbons, whose team promoted outfielder Kevin Pillar from Buffalo in a corresponding move. "It's tough in that role and he never really got it going."

The move comes as somewhat of a surprise considering Reimold is eligible for arbitration at the end of the season and would have been under team control. There seemed to be a possibility that he could return next season as a fourth outfielder while also providing insurance in case Melky Cabrera left as a free agent.

That will no longer be the case and the move likely has less to do with the addition of Pillar than it does clearing a spot on the 40-man roster. Teams are allowed to expand their rosters on Monday, and there's an expectation that a prospect like left-hander Daniel Norris could be among the callups.

Pillar also would have been one of those promoted, but he arrives a few days earlier than anticipated. He had a brief conversation with Gibbons on Tuesday afternoon as they cleared the air about Pillar's previous demotion. He was sent to the Minors on June 25 after he took issue with being lifted for a pinch-hitter and became visibly frustrated in the dugout.

"We moved on from it, said it was water under the bridge," Pillar said. "We didn't really much about expectations, but I'm sure the expectation is to play when he tells me to, defensive replacement, pinch-run, just go out there and help the team win."

Pillar was a late addition to Tuesday's starting lineup, as Colby Rasmus was a late scratch because of flu-like symptoms. Rasmus was originally listed in the lineup and expected to play center field while hitting sixth in the order. That plan changed approximately one hour prior to first pitch.


Following rally, Blue Jays fall in extra innings

Encarnacion hits game-tying double, but Sanchez takes first career loss

Following rally, Blue Jays fall in extra innings play video for Following rally, Blue Jays fall in extra innings

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays spent the first four months of the season as viable contenders for a spot in the postseason, but little by little, all of that hard work has been undone -- and the lack of offense has been the main reason why.

Toronto's lineup has been the least productive of any team in baseball this month. The home runs have all but dried up, and even on a night when some breaks finally start going the Blue Jays' way, it doesn't seem to be enough.

The Blue Jays rallied from three runs down in the bottom of the ninth inning on Monday night only to see the game slip away moments later in a 4-3 loss to the Red Sox. Aaron Sanchez was stuck with the loss, but once again, most of the blame falls on a lineup that can't seem to figure things out.

"We've run into some good pitching, but we're a team that should still score runs and we haven't been doing that," manager John Gibbons said. "It's hard to hit a baseball, it's arguably one of the toughest things to do in all of sports, so it's not easy. ... We just have to keep battling. Really, that's all you can do."

Toronto ranks last in the Major Leagues with 65 runs in August, and instead of the numbers getting better, they've actually gotten worse. Prior to Monday night, Toronto scored one run or less in three of its past five games and nine times overall during the month.

For quite a long stretch vs. Boston, it appeared as though that skid would continue. The Blue Jays put one runner in scoring position and managed a total of two hits through eight innings against right-hander Clay Buchholz until they put together a rally in the ninth.

Buchholz loaded the bases and Red Sox closer Koji Uehara later surrendered a game-tying double off the wall to Edwin Encarnacion. The Blue Jays were inches away from a walk-off victory, but instead the game went to extras and Toronto was headed for its third loss in four games.

"Maybe we need to get in the weight room or something, I don't know," Gibbons said.

Sanchez didn't have any margin for error when he entered in the top of the 10th inning with the game tied at 3. Boston's Brock Holt almost single-handedly forced the issue by reaching base with one out and then stealing second and third.

The deciding blow came when Yoenis Cespedes hit a sharp liner past the outstretched glove of a diving Munenori Kawasaki. The go-ahead hit came on a 1-2 curveball that was supposed to be in the dirt but instead hung up in the zone.

"It had bite, but in that count, in that situation, that ball needs to be in the dirt," Sanchez said after his first loss in the big leagues.

The end result is another blow to the Blue Jays' rapidly fading chances of reaching the postseason. In 21 August games, Toronto has scored three runs or less 13 times, which has led to a woeful 6-15 record. Seattle and Detroit have pulled away in the American League Wild Card standings while New York and Cleveland jumped ahead of Toronto.

On Monday, the lack of run support meant left-hander J.A. Happ was stuck with the no-decision despite a relatively strong outing. His only mistakes came in the fifth inning, when he allowed a solo homer to Mookie Betts and a two-run shot to Dustin Pedroia.

Happ continued on through the sixth inning. He allowed five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts and saw his record remain at .500. Happ has tossed at least six innings in three of his last four outings, but he has one win since the All-Star break mostly because his team has scored three runs or less in five of those eight outings.

"It's definitely tough to take," Happ said. "I felt better than that. They put some good swings on a couple of balls but other than that I felt like I was executing pretty well."


MLB denies protest by Rays over replay challenge

MLB denies protest by Rays over replay challenge play video for MLB denies protest by Rays over replay challenge

Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Rays' protest regarding last Saturday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays has been formally denied. Toronto won that game, 5-4, in 10 innings on Saturday, but the Rays formally protested the game regarding a call made earlier.

Tampa Bay's Will Myers reached base on a single in the fourth inning on Saturday, and he was called safe by first-base umpire Bill Welke on a pickoff throw. After that throw, Toronto manager John Gibbons asked for a challenge right as the batter -- Yunel Escobar -- had stepped into the batter's box.

Myers was called out on the replay review, and Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon protested the game because he believed that the umpires should not have allowed the challenge at that point.

"It's over," Maddon said. "We have gone through the process. They've ruled upon it. Now it's time to move on."

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Review in 10th inning plays role in Red Sox's victory

Farrell wins challenge on Betts' steal; Gibbons' challenge unsuccessful

Review in 10th inning plays role in Red Sox's victory play video for Review in 10th inning plays role in Red Sox's victory

TORONTO -- A crew chief review confirmed that Brock Holt had safely stolen second base in the top of the 10th inning of the Red Sox's 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Holt ended up scoring the winning run after he stole third and crossed home on an RBI single from Yoenis Cespedes, helping the Red Sox snap an eight-game losing streak.

"The replay on the scoreboard kind of gave you the sense that it's not going to be conclusive," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Turns out the call stood."

Holt broke for second as Dustin Pedroia struck out, and Holt barely beat a one-hop throw from catcher Dioner Navarro as he slid in under the tag from Munenori Kawasaki.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has already spent his manager's challenge earlier in the contest, but he came out of the dugout to ask the umpire for a chew chief review of second-base umpire Chris Guccione's safe call. After 55 seconds, the call was confirmed.

Holt said he was confident that he got in under the tag.

"I was pretty sure," he said. "I slide in, hit the base and then he tagged my chest. I was pretty confident I was safe."

Earlier in the contest, Mookie Betts was ruled safe after a one-minute, nine-second review revealed that he was under the tag when he swiped second base in the seventh inning.

With Christian Vazquez at the plate and Red Sox leading, 3-0, Betts broke for second on the first pitch of the at-bat. Betts appeared to beat the throw from Navarro, sliding in under the tag from Kawasaki.

Betts was ruled out by Guccione, prompting Farrell to challenge the call, which was overturned after a short review.

Betts, the Red Sox's No. 1 prospect according to MLB.com, was stranded at second base as Vazquez and Holt flied out to end the inning. Betts has stolen four bases in 20 games this season.

Gibbons used his challenge in the bottom of the ninth inning after Kawasaki hit a slow grounder to third base. Boston's Will Middlebrooks made a diving play and then came up with a strong throw to first to retire Kawasaki.

Gibbons wasn't sure if the correct call had been made by first-base umpire Hal Gibson, so he stepped out of the dugout and immediately motioned for a review. Following a brief 43-second delay, the call on the field was confirmed and Kawasaki was called out.

{"event":["prospect" ] ,"content":["replay" ] }

Bautista adamant he didn't deserve to be ejected

Bautista adamant he didn't deserve to be ejected play video for Bautista adamant he didn't deserve to be ejected

TORONTO -- Jose Bautista remains adamant that he did nothing to deserve being ejected during the sixth inning of Sunday afternoon's 2-1 loss to the Rays by home-plate umpire Bill Welke.

Bautista was tossed for taking issue with a strike-three call during the sixth inning. The ejection proved costly, as Toronto lost Bautista's presence in the lineup and Nolan Reimold, who replaced the slugger, made an error that led to Tampa Bay's winning run.

If anybody assumed Bautista would have some regret about how the situation went down, though, think again. Bautista remained unrepentant in front of reporters Monday afternoon and insisted that while there was some visible frustration with the call, nothing was said that would justify getting removed from the game.

"I didn't know there was a gag order in baseball. If that rule was put out, I haven't gotten the memo yet," Bautista told a large group of reporters.

"[Welke] did warn me, but by the time I turned around to hear what he had to say, I was ejected. That's what I believe happened, I said something, he said something, I started to turn around, he said something else. ... I didn't know if he was done talking or not. I turned around to look at him to see what he was saying, and just by turning around I was gone."

Manager John Gibbons wasn't very forgiving to his star player after Sunday's loss. He insisted Bautista should "say your piece, get the [heck] out of there" instead of lingering around to have a prolonged conversation with the umpire.

Gibbons also added that Bautista is a "marked man in this game," which refers to previous well-documented arguments Toronto's franchise player had with umpires over the past several years. With a team that is still competing for a spot in the postseason, Gibbons believes the Blue Jays "need [Bautista] on the field."

That's about as publicly outspoken as Gibbons gets about one of his players. Bautista saw the comments later Sunday night, but he didn't take issue with them and there doesn't appear to be a major beef between the two men. It's just a disagreement on how the events from Sunday unfolded.

"I read his quotes and I understand his frustrations. I had the same frustrations," Bautista said. "I didn't want to get ejected, but it happened. Again, I don't think what I did warranted an ejection. That's the only thing that I can say."

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