"I walked in and Doug Davis looked at me," recalled Carlson, who joined the Blue Jays on Thursday. "He said, 'You know, I really don't know how to say this. I'm trying to keep things positive here for you.' Then, I was thinking maybe I'm [being sent] down."
Davis didn't keep the cruel joke going for long, informing Carlson that the pitcher was indeed being promoted from Triple-A Syracuse to Toronto's big league bullpen. At that moment, Carlson couldn't stop emotions from taking over.
"From that point on, the tears started coming down," he said. "It was just great. It was a night I'll never forget."
Carlson nearly earned a relief job with the Jays with a strong showing in Spring Training. The battle for the final spot in Toronto's bullpen came down to the left-handed Carlson and right-hander Randy Wells, but the Jays opted to give Wells a chance to begin the season.
Toronto's relief corps has been taxed over the past few games and the Jays have relied heavily on lefties Scott Downs and Brian Tallet. The Jays wanted to add another lefty to the mix until closer B.J. Ryan, coming back from Tomm John reconstructive surgery on his left elbow, is ready to return to the bullpen later this month.
"This will give us one more guy down there," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It's inevitable that somebody's going to have to go when B.J. comes up anyway, so we're trying to strengthen ourselves as much as possible, at least until that time."
Gibbons noted that he's not afraid to use Carlson in a tight situation or against right-handed batters. During Spring Training, when the lefty posted a 0.90 ERA over seven games with the Jays, Carlson worked on honing his changeup -- an offering he uses against righties.
"That's a big pitch for me and gives the hitters another look," said Carlson, who also throws a fastball and curveball. "Coming into the spring, I wanted to showcase that [changeup] as well. Everything was clicking good.
"This is a dream come true for me. I'm just trying to enjoy the experience right now and, at the same time, I know I have to be here to work and concentrate on that to help the team."
In two games with Triple-A Syracuse this season, the 27-year-old Carlson hadn't allowed a run in 3 2/3 innings. Last year with Double-A New Hampshire, he went 8-2 with a 4.86 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 18 walks over 70 1/3 innings.
Wells, 26, had only made one appearance for Toronto, turning in one shutout inning against the Red Sox on Saturday. The Jays picked up Wells from the Cubs in December's Rule 5 Draft, but designated him for assignment on Wednesday night. That gives Toronto a 10-day window to sort Wells' situation out.
Toronto is required to offer Wells back to the Cubs for $25,000 -- half the cost of drafting him. There's a chance the Jays will try to work out a trade with Chicago to possibly keep Wells in the organization, though. Either way, Wells would need to clear waivers to be sent to the Minors.
"He pitched great," said Gibbons, referring to Wells. "He only got one inning up here, but he did his thing. It's tough to carry Rule 5 guys sometimes, especially when you like your ballclub. It can be tough to do. Maybe they can work something out with Chicago and we can keep him in the system."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.