The Blue Jays revealed a pair of anticipated moves, indicating that ace Roy Halladay and closer Scott Downs will be placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday due to their recent health woes. What was not expected was starter Casey Janssen landing on the shelf as well, forcing the Jays to promote rookie Brad Mills from Triple-A Las Vegas for a start on Thursday.
Halladay is out with a mild groin strain and his stay on the DL is retroactive to Saturday, meaning he will be eligible to be activated on June 28. Downs sprained the big toe on his left foot while running out of the batter's box on Tuesday night in Philadelphia. Janssen is sidelined after suffering inflammation in his right shoulder following a bullpen session earlier in the week.
"It's just one of those days," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said with a shrug. "When I first started managing, one thing I noticed right away is that every day that you come to the ballpark you're going to have problems. So, you kind of get used to it."
That doesn't make losing three pitchers on the same day any easier to take.
The Blue Jays are hoping Halladay can come back as soon as possible, and the right-hander echoed that sentiment. On Wednesday, Halladay threw a long-toss session and followed with 20 pitches off the mound in the bullpen in Philadelphia. After still feeling discomfort, Halladay decided to be cautious and cut his time on the hill short.
Halladay tweaked his groin on the second pitch he threw in the fourth inning of a start against the Marlins on Friday. The 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner said he didn't have any issues throwing on flat ground on Wednesday, but pitching off the mound still caused some mild soreness.
Considering Toronto had an off-day this past Monday and another day off on Monday next week, Halladay felt that it made the most sense to use the DL stint to recover. The way the schedule works out, Halladay will only miss two turns in the rotation if he is activated when first eligible. The Jays' ace said he could have probably pitched on Saturday, but added that it wasn't worth the risk.
"Talking to Cito," said Halladay, who is 10-1 with a 2.53 ERA through 14 starts this season, "I'd just hate to get in a situation where I'm coming out of a game early and we're all in a jam. I don't see it as a setback, I just see it as we had a chance that we could play out to see if I could get back.
"For me, it was going to be an easy decision. If I felt something that wouldn't allow me to be 100 percent, then I would take the extra few days. There have been times when I pushed things and it cost me more time. This is something that can be over quickly and I don't want it to turn into a long process."
Halladay noted that he would continue to play catch on flat ground over the next few days and he would likely attempt another bullpen session within the next week. Asked if he hoped to be back in Toronto's rotation when he is eligible to return, Halladay didn't hesitate.
"Absolutely," Halladay said.
Toronto will need a replacement starter for Saturday's game against the Washington Nationals, and will likely announce a move on Thursday. A possible candidate is left-hander Brett Cecil, whose next scheduled turn with Triple-A Las Vegas falls on that day. Cecil went 2-1 with a 4.38 ERA in four starts for the Jays earlier this season.
An X-ray on Downs' left foot on Tuesday night came back negative, but an MRI exam on Wednesday revealed that the closer suffered a sprain of his big toe. With only one position player left on his bench in the 10th inning on Tuesday, Gaston left Downs in the game to hit for himself. Instead of leaving the bat on his shoulder, Downs swung at a pitch and grounded out, stumbling out of the batter's box.
Gaston would have preferred for Downs to resist the temptation to swing, especially with the Blue Jays holding an 8-3 lead at the time. The left-handed reliever, who has a 1.98 ERA and eight saves in 26 outings this season, said that is easier said than done.
"I thought about not swinging," Downs said. "But then again, the kid comes out of you and you see a pitch you think you can hit. I made good contact with it, but other than that, it wasn't a good run out of the box. That's all it was."
While Downs recovers on the DL, Gaston said right-hander Jason Frasor will be turned to as the primary closer. Replacing Downs on the roster will be right-hander Jeremy Accardo, who has posted a 3.38 ERA in 21 games for Triple-A Las Vegas this season. Accardo saved 30 games for the Jays while filling in for an injured B.J. Ryan during the 2007 campaign.
Halladay, Downs and Janssen join a growing list of walking wounded.
Toronto is also without right-hander Jesse Litsch, who underwent season-ending Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery on his throwing elbow on Friday. The Jays also opened the season without starters Shaun Marcum (right elbow) and Dustin McGowan (right shoulder). Toronto has already used 10 different starters this season. Mills will become No. 11 on Thursday.
"It has not been good for us, as far as pitchers this year," Gaston said. "DLs and arms and groins and everything else."
Janssen missed all of last season after having surgery on his right shoulder two springs ago, but he was a top candidate for a rotation job entering this year. That was until he suffered a setback in March, forcing him to wait until the end of May to get the call to Toronto. In five starts, Janssen had inconsistent results, going 2-3 with a 6.23 ERA.
Gaston hopes the latest development doesn't cost Janssen too much time.
"It's something that I hope we caught in time," Gaston said, "so it doesn't keep him out as long as it probably would have if he pitched again. That's good in a sense."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.