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League returning to the bullpen

League returning to the bullpen

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BOSTON -- The disappearing act pulled by Brandon League has come to an end. After Saturday night's 9-4 loss to the Red Sox, the Blue Jays announced that their long-lost reliever was making his return to the bullpen.

The Jays activated League from the disabled list, where the 24-year-old has resided since the end of Spring Training. When the Blue Jays arrived in Florida roughly five months ago, League was in the plans as the club's setup man. That all changed when an eye-opening bullpen session in February revealed that the right-hander had lost nearly 10 mph on his fastball.

The Jays indicated that the root of the problem stemmed from a shoulder injury -- the result of an over-developed lat muscle. League had taken a month off from throwing after an MRI exam in October revealed a slight tear in his rotator cuff, and the down time, combined with a continued weight-lifting program, led to the lat problem.

Now, after months filled with treatment and throwing programs, League could be back in the mix as Toronto's setup man. After Saturday's game, manager John Gibbons said that the club would "ease him into" the role, which is currently being filled by right-hander Casey Janssen -- owner of a 2.30 ERA in 41 games.

"It'll be good to have him back," Gibbons said. "He's been pitching very good."

In 18 rehab appearances with Class A Dunedin, Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Syracuse, League went 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA. He allowed eight earned runs on 19 hits with 19 strikeouts and 12 walks over 21 2/3 innings.

The biggest concern has revolved around League's pitch velocity. Last season, when he posted a 2.53 ERA in 33 games for Toronto, he consistently hit in the high-90 range on the radar gun, and even topped 100 mph on occasion. This past spring, League's pitch speed dropped into the mid- to high-80 range, but reports are that he's been able to hit in the mid-90s in his recent rehab outings.

In order to clear room on the active roster for League, the Blue Jays optioned right-hander Jordan De Jong to Syracuse. Toronto did not have to vacate a spot on the 40-man roster because the team held only 39 players after giving Victor Zambrano his unconditional release over the All-Star break.

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

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