Morrow, Francisco set to return to this week

Morrow, Francisco set to return to this week

BOSTON -- The Blue Jays' pitching staff is expected to receive a big boost this week with the return of Brandon Morrow and Frank Francisco.

The two right-handers made their final rehab appearances on Sunday for Class A Dunedin. Barring any last-minute setbacks, Francisco likely will join the Blue Jays on Tuesday, with Morrow scheduled to make his first start later in the week.

Morrow, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow, is expected to throw 80-85 pitches for Dunedin, and the goal is to get him at least into the sixth inning.

"Even if he has five or six pitches left after five, we'd like for him to at least get up a sixth time just to make sure the ups, downs aren't limited as they otherwise might be," manager John Farrell said. "Everything points to this being the last [start] for him."

Morrow is expected to take the spot of either Jo-Jo Reyes or Jesse Litsch in the starting rotation. Farrell said that has "yet to be decided," but Morrow will make his first appearance on Friday or Saturday.

Francisco allowed one hit and struck out two over one scoreless inning. It marked his second consecutive impressive outing after he threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings on Friday. He has now allowed six runs and notched six strikeouts over five innings in the Minors.

"It was a very encouraging inning and a third the other night," Farrell said Saturday morning. "Not just in terms of the velocity, but the quality and the crispness of the stuff in the strike zone.

"We'll be sure to get him into a game today, whether that's limited to 12-15 pitches -- almost like a final tune-up before he comes back to us."

In Spring Training, Farrell announced that Francisco was the Blue Jays' closer. During the veteran reliever's absence, though, Jon Rauch is 3-for-3 in save opportunities, including a perfect inning against the Red Sox on Friday night.

There is no immediate guarantee the job will immediately go back to Francisco upon his return.

"We're not going to not acknowledge what Jon has done," Farrell said. "That was as crisp of an inning the other night when he came into the ninth that you'd ever want to see. Frankie coming back will give us options."