Notes: Jays cautious about Burnett

Notes: Jays cautious about Burnett

ATLANTA -- Aside from two starts in April, A.J. Burnett has been practically invisible. Sure, he's been in Toronto's clubhouse, in the trainer's room and on the field plenty of times, but Burnett hasn't spent much time on the mound.

That's one reason why his comeback from the 60-day disabled list on Thursday -- a little more than a month away from the July 31 trade deadline -- sort of felt like the Blue Jays went out and acquired a new pitcher to help bolster the staff, according to some of his teammates.

"It's kind of like we're making a trade before everybody makes trades, just because we've been treading water without him," Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "We've been playing pretty good -- it's just a matter of if you go out and get a No. 2 starter, you're doing really well."

Burnett, who signed a five-year contract worth $55 million with the Jays in the offseason, has had two stints on the DL this year. The right-hander began the season on the 15-day DL after injuring his right elbow during Spring Training. After starts on April 15 and April 21, Burnett landed back on the DL with the same issue and remained out for two months.

The source of the injury was strained scar tissue and a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. It's an issue that Toronto hopes doesn't flare up again and a reason why not everyone in the clubhouse feels like his return is similar to a trade acquisition.

"Yeah, you could probably draw those comparisons to a midseason trade," Gregg Zaun said. "It's like that in a way, but it's not. We're not getting somebody else's top pitcher at the top of their game. We're getting one of our best pitchers coming back from an injury that we're hoping is healthy.

"I think it's relatively unfair at this point to heap a lot of expectations on him," he added. "What we're going to get from him at this point, nobody knows. I don't think he even knows."

Sweep dreams: The Jays have had trouble bringing out the brooms this season. Entering Thursday, Toronto has had nine opportunities to sweep an opponent and has been unsuccessful in each attempt. The 10th try comes against the Braves, who dropped the first two games of current series with the Blue Jays.

"Today is going to be our 10th opportunity to sweep a series. We're 0-9," Zaun said. "We haven't been able to capitalize. Just figure if we win half of those -- less than half, even -- if we win four of those nine opportunities, we're in first place."

Entering Thursday, Toronto was 3 1/2 games behind Boston in the American League East. Part of the reason for the lack of a long winning streak by the Jays -- three victories in a row is the season high -- has been the constant woes that have hit the pitching staff.

If Burnett can make a success return without any more injury issues, the Jays feel he can help them compile a longer winning streak -- even though the club is 37-29 in the games they've played with him on the DL.

"What he brings to the ballpark every fifth day is something that not a lot of people have," Overbay said. "He's going to give us a great opportunity to win. I told him, 'Don't screw it up. We've been waiting all season for a sweep. We've been waiting for you to get back.'"

In short: At first, Gibbons said playing Troy Glaus at shortstop was a "one-night deal" back on May 26. Then, Toronto's manager said the Jays' regular third baseman would see more time at short during Interleague Play in order to give the offense a boost.

Now, Gibbons is considering using the 6-foot-5 infielder at shortstop more often, even in AL stadiums, where Toronto has the luxury of using a designated hitter.

"I wouldn't hesitate to do it," Gibbons said. "We might do it again. Maybe against a tough left-hander or something."

Glaus, who played shortstop in college at UCLA, has started at shortstop in five of Toronto's last six Interleague games. Entering Thursday's game, he has no errors in 17 chances at the position and had helped turn two double plays.

Streaking: Catcher Bengie Molina entered Thursday riding a 17-game hitting streak, which is the longest of his career. Molina has posted a .365 (23-for-63) average during the streak, which is the longest by a Blue Jays hitter this year. It is tied for the eighth-longest in club history -- 11 games shy of the team record set by Shawn Green in 1999.

Quotable: "We've been hovering around and nobody's really pulled away in our division. Sooner or later, you've go to make a move if you're going to do anything. A big part of what we were going to do this year was based on what we were going to get out of him." -- Gibbons, on Burnett

Coming up: Toronto right-hander Casey Janssen (5-5, 4.50 ERA) will take on New York lefty Tom Glavine (10-2, 3.48 ERA) when the Blue Jays host the Mets in the opener of a three-game Interleague set at 7:07 p.m. ET on Friday at the Rogers Centre.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.