Toronto optimistic Liriano will start Thursday

Veteran lefty (sore neck) to throw 'pen session Tuesday

Toronto optimistic Liriano will start Thursday

BOSTON -- Left-hander Francisco Liriano threw off flat ground before Monday's series opener against the Red Sox, and the Blue Jays remain cautiously optimistic he will be able to take the mound for Thursday afternoon's series finale at Fenway Park.

Liriano left his last outing against the Tigers after retiring just six batters because of soreness in his neck. He was sent for further evaluations, but a doctor decided an MRI was not required and that all Liriano needed was rest.

Right-hander Mike Bolsinger would be the top candidate to start Thursday if Liriano is deemed unable to go. The club would like to avoid that scenario, but a final determination on Liriano's status will not be made until he throws a side session Tuesday afternoon.

"Hopefully he's good to go on Thursday," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "[Tuesday], he'll throw in the bullpen and we'll get a better idea, but he's feeling better."

Smith nearing return

Right-hander Joe Smith (sore right shoulder) was scheduled to make another rehab appearance for Triple-A Buffalo on Monday night. Smith began his rehab assignment with a scoreless inning Friday, which included one hit and one strikeout.

It's not immediately clear whether Smith will be given the green light to return following Monday's outing, but he's expected to be back soon. If all goes well Tuesday morning, there's a chance he could be back as soon as Wednesday in Boston.

Worth mentioning

Right-hander Dominic Leone was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo before Monday's series opener. Right-hander Lucas Harrell, who walked Miguel Cabrera with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th during Sunday's walk-off loss to Detroit, was designated for assignment to make room for Leone.

Leone entered Monday with a 2.95 ERA over 39 2/3 innings for the Blue Jays this season. He last pitched for the club July 6 before being optioned.

"He's good to go," Gibbons said. "He got a little breather down there. He has been great, so it's good to see him back."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.