ANAHEIM, California - Sergio Santos is back with the Blue Jays and when he toed the rubber in the sixth inning of Thursday's 8-2 loss to the Angels, it marked the first time Santos has pitched for Toronto in a month other than April.
In two injury-plagued seasons, including Thursday night's two innings of work, Santos has appeared in only 12 games for the Blue Jays for a total of 11 1/3 innings.
Shoulder surgery shut him down in 2012. What began as a triceps problem this season morphed into surgery to shave down bone spurs in his pitching elbow.
He hasn't pitched since April 13 in Kansas City but Santos says there will be no holding back.
“I'm going in and I only know one way and that's to go hard and that's what I'm going to do,” said Santos. “As far as the maintenance stuff, I'm going to be smart about that and obviously pay attention to my body a little bit more than I have in the past and to know that quality of work is better than the quantity of work. Just trying to figure that out.”
“He's here to pitch,” said manager John Gibbons. “We need him to. We can't baby him.”
The Blue Jays didn't rush Santos back. He came two days short of maxing out his 30-day minor league rehabilitation assignment and made 12 appearances for three different teams.
In six appearances for Triple-A Buffalo, Santos pitched six innings and allowed five earned runs. The results weren't there but, for the most part, results aren't what rehabbing pitchers concern themselves with up against developing hitters.
“I'll flip some good pitches in whether it's a good changeup, good slider, my fastball location I've been pretty pleased and happy with the whole time in my rehab innings,” said Santos. “Everything works off the fastball and if I can build off that hopefully I can have some clean innings.”
To make room for Santos' return, reliever Dustin McGowan was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique. Brandon Morrow, out since late May with a compressed nerve in his right forearm, was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to accommodate Santos' spot on the 40-man roster.
McGowan was injured on Monday in Oakland. He pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief in that game but first felt the pain in the sixth while pitching to Yoenis Cespedes. McGowan got two more outs in that inning, then faced three hitters in the seventh before being removed from the game.
Given the Blue Jays history with oblique injuries – Brandon Morrow missed significant time last season and Brett Lawrie has missed parts of 2012 and 2013 – there's no telling how long McGowan will be out. With that in mind, would Gibbons have preferred McGowan speak up when he felt the tweak?
“Well, you know, he's different though,” said Gibbons. “He's been hurt so much he's pretty tired of being hurt. But you've got to be smart with that because that can linger. That can turn into a long term deal.”
Meantime, after the game, Melky Cabrera was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a recurrence of the knee problem which has plagued him for much of the season.
Cabrera was lifted from the game in the fourth inning.
Reliever Neil Wagner has been recalled from Buffalo.