Notes: Litsch ready for homecoming

Notes: Litsch ready for homecoming

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jesse Litsch feels right at home at Tropicana Field. The Blue Jays rookie stepped onto the field inside Tampa Bay's domed stadium for the first time as a big leaguer on Monday, but the ballpark is far from being foreign to Litsch.

Litsch grew up in nearby Pinellas Park and spent the 2001-02 seasons as a batboy for the Devil Rays. On Tuesday, the 22-year-old right-hander will take the mound against the club he used to lug equipment for as a high schooler. Litsch also expects a large contingent of his family and friends to be in attendance.

"I don't think I'll be nervous; it's my hometown -- I can't be nervous," said Litsch, who added that he pitched at Tropicana Field two or three times when he was younger. "It's always great to pitch at home. It's going to be a good experience and hopefully the best will happen. I'll have a lot of people here rooting me on."

Litsch was somewhat of a local legend when he was coming up through the area youth leagues. In 1993, an eight-year-old Litsch went 46-for-46 at the plate and turned in 14 no-hit innings on the mound for the Pinto Reds in the Pinellas Park Pony League.

The pitcher has held his own as a fill-in starter in Toronto's rotation 14 years later. Since being called up from Triple-A at the end of June, when right-hander A.J. Burnett landed on the 15-day disabled list, Litsch has posted a 2.16 ERA in four starts for the Blue Jays. Litsch credits his stint as a batboy for some of the success he's had as a professional.

"Ain't nothing better than talking baseball with big leaguers," Litsch said. "It was awesome. It was a great learning experience, listening to people. That's a kid's dream job. But, it's over with, and I'm on the other side of the spectrum now."

Prior to Monday's game against the Devil Rays, Litsch spent time catching up with the few people left that he used to work with at Tropicana Field. Litsch did the same over the weekend in Chicago, where the pitcher sought out White Sox catcher Toby Hall, who was with Tampa Bay when Litsch served as a batboy.

"I always liked Toby Hall. Me and him were pretty close," Litsch said. "Besides being a good guy, he helped me out and made me feel like I belonged here."

On second thought: Gustavo Chacin's stint as a member of the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs was a short one. Two days after Toronto optioned the left-handed starter to the Chiefs, the club reversed the transaction by voiding the option used on Chacin. Instead, the Jays placed the lefty back on the 15-day DL.

Chacin, who was originally placed on the DL with a shoulder injury on April 28, has gone 0-1 with an 11.12 ERA in two rehab outings at Triple-A. By being placed back on the DL, Chacin remains on the Major League roster, which means he's still eligible to receive his big-league salary, and can continue to build up his service time while rehabbing with Syracuse.

Impressed: If there's one thing that's helped Burnett deal with his latest trip to the DL, it's been the performance of Toronto's rotation. Entering Monday, the Jays' starters had combined to post a 3.54 ERA since Burnett landed on the DL on July 1. That's nearly a point lower than the 4.50 ERA the rotation has on the season.

"It's unbelievable -- these kids," said Burnett, who is slated to make a rehab start in the Gulf Coast League on Wednesday. "[Shaun] Marcum and [Dustin] McGowan, and Litsch has had ups and downs, but for the most part he's been progressing. It's fun to watch, because you know those guys are going to be here in the future."

Well traveled: Pitching outside of Toronto has suited Marcum just fine. Marcum's victory in Chicago on Sunday gave him a team-high five wins on the road. The right-hander's 2.90 ERA away from home currently ranks sixth in the American League. Over his recent stretch of six straight quality starts on the road, Marcum has posted a 1.74 ERA.

Did you know? The Blue Jays lead the Major Leagues with seven complete games from their starters this season. Roy Halladay has turned in four complete games, followed by two by Burnett and one by McGowan.

Quotable: "Those things, you can only leave so many. It don't cost much to get in this place, so there's plenty of seats open. They can pretty much sit wherever they want." --Litsch, when asked how many tickets he left for family and friends

Coming up: Litsch (3-4, 4.01 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays in the second game of a three-game set against the Devil Rays at 7:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay will counter with right-hander Edwin Jackson (2-10, 7.00 ERA).

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