Jays consider shutting down Downs

Jays consider shutting down Downs

BOSTON -- As much as Scott Downs wants to make a swift return to the mound, the Blue Jays might consider shutting their setup man down for the season's final two weeks. Downs aggravated a right ankle injury on Saturday night and the club wants to avoid another setback.

"We're just going to take a long look at it," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said on Sunday. "One thing we don't want to do is hurt his arm. He's day to day, and we've got an off-day tomorrow, so we'll see how he's feeling on Tuesday.

"This guy is a big part of this team. We certainly don't want to hurt his arm by pitching him -- we'd rather shut him down."

In the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Red Sox on Saturday night, Downs' ankle injury flared up during a play in the eighth inning. Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury chopped a pitch down the first-base line, and Downs tumbled to the ground shortly after running off the mound in an effort to retrieve the slow roller.

"I think it was my second step -- I don't remember," Downs said. "When I went to break and put pressure on it, it just gave out again. I caught it before it turned, but it's just something that's kind of been there and we're trying to get through it the best we can."

Gaston said that a decision regarding Downs' status will ultimately be in the hands of Toronto's team doctors and training staff. If Downs had his say in the matter, the left-hander get back on the hill soon -- just like he did after first spraining the ankle on Aug. 13. Downs missed a week the first time around, but he's quick to admit that he might have benefited from more rest.

"When it first happened, we didn't have the time -- I didn't want to take the time," Downs said. "Now, I've got two more weeks and then I can rest it for the offseason. That's my plan. I'm hoping to get back out there, but this time I'm going to listen to what the doctors and trainers have to say."

Downs will use Sunday and Monday's day off to rest the ankle, and he'll be re-evaluated by the team's medical staff on Tuesday in Toronto. The 32-year-old reliever wasn't sure when he might resume working off a mound, leaving his season in doubt with just 13 games remaining on the Jays' regular-season schedule.

Blue Jays catcher Rod Barajas is also considered day to day with a sore left hamstring. Gregg Zaun started behind the plate against Boston on Sunday and the team is hoping Barajas will be ready to resume his regular role by Tuesday or Wednesday. With Downs sidelined for the time being, lefty Jesse Carlson would likely serve as Toronto's primary setup man.

Gaston expressed concern that pitching with the ankle injury could potentially lead to arm issues for Downs. Since first injuring his ankle, Downs has struggled with his command. The pitcher said he's not sure if the injury with his landing foot has negatively affected his mechanics, or if the soreness has creating a mental stumbling block.

"I think it's more mental than anything," Downs said. "Before the ankle [injury], I didn't really walk that many guys. Then, after the ankle, I can't find the strike zone. I don't know if it's because I'm trying to alter my mechanics. I don't know if it's because I'm afraid to land on it firmly. Who knows?"

Prior to hurting his foot in mid August, Downs had a 1.25 ERA in 53 games, in which he struck out 51 and walked 20. In the 13 games since then, Downs -- inked to a three-year contract worth $10 million prior to this season -- has posted a 4.15 ERA with six strikeouts and seven walks over 13 innings.

"I'm just going out there, trying to compete the best I can," said Downs, who has a 1.78 ERA in 66 games for the Jays this year. "It's been rocky -- it's been rough -- needless to say."

Most of the damage has come in Downs' past six appearances. Over that span, Downs has allowed five runs on nine hits with six walks and two strikeouts across six innings of work. In those six outings, Downs has thrown just 49.5 percent of his pitches for strikes, compared to 60.6 percent in his previous 60 games.

"His control is not where it was before he hurt his ankle," Gaston said. "He hasn't been the same pitcher to me. I think he's having trouble putting pressure on his landing foot. That affects a lot of things and it can also hurt your arm if you dont watch out.

"We don't want that to happen to him. So it's actually going to be up to the doctors probably. If they suggest that we shouldn't pitch him anymore, then he'd probably be done."

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