MacArthur: Night after meltdown, Jays' bullpen bounces back

Scott MacArthur
4/19/2014 1:09:19 AM
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CLEVELAND – Relievers will tell you one of the things they appreciate about their roles is the near-immediate opportunity to make amends for a poor performance. Starters, when they struggle, have to live with it for five days.

For Sergio Santos and Steve Delabar, two of the three men who authored one of the ugliest pitched innings in Blue Jays' franchise history on Thursday night, the bounce-back chance came right away.

Both were up to the task, each a significant contributor to Toronto's series-opening 3-2 win over the Indians.

Delabar came on in relief of starter Drew Hutchison in the sixth. Hutchison had given up a two-run home run to Carlos Santana, which turned a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit, and one out later was the victim of an Asdrubal Cabrera triple.

Delabar walked David Murphy, the first batter he faced, putting Indians at the corners with one out but worse, creating the sort of uh-oh moment he was looking to avoid so soon the meltdown in Minneapolis.

But then, he bore down. Delabar jammed former Blue Jay Yan Gomes with an inside fastball, inducing a pop up to shortstop Ryan Goins, before dropping the hammer on Lonnie Chisenhall for an inning-ending strikeout. The Jays escaped down only a run and wouldn't you know it, the offence responded with a two-run seventh to reclaim the lead.

The bullpen would ensure the lead wasn't lost again.

"Get in there and brush off whatever," said Delabar. "Like even today, whatever I did today is in the bank and we wipe the slate clean and go out there and do the same thing tomorrow."

Scoreless innings from Brett Cecil and Neil Wagner followed, paving the way for Santos, who only 24 hours earlier had faced three batters, walked each of them, committed three wild pitches leading to three runs and was tagged with the blown save and the loss to the Twins.

It was an eventful ninth inning. Chisenhall led off with a double. Santos bounced back to strike out Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher but, with two outs, he walked Jason Kipnis and Santana, loading the bases and creating a game-deciding showdown with Michael Brantley.

Manager John Gibbons, who typically restricts his trips to the mound to pitching changes, paid a visit to his closer. He wouldn't divulge his message.

"That's between us, a manager and one of his players," said Gibbons. "We believe in him. He did a heck of a job. It got a little hairy there. I don't know how they laid off some of the pitches they did."

Brantley hit a screamer to first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who knocked the ball down and beat Bradley to the bag for the final out. Game over. Had it all the way, right?

"I just kind of told myself on the mound, I said just try and relax and take it pitch by pitch," said Santos. "I wasn't trying to look too far ahead as far as who was coming up or what the situation might be. It was just, (Dioner Navarro) put the signs down and I just went to attack. Luckily I was able to get out of it."

The win improved the Blue Jays to 4-3 on their nine-game road trip. The victory was an important one coming on the heels of a two-loss day.

It also reset the bullpen, so effective prior to Thursday, on a positive track.

That's the beauty of baseball. As bad as things can seem one day is as good as things can seem the next.

Lind to disabled list; Francisco's contract purchased

Adam Lind was moving around the visitor's clubhouse in Cleveland better than the day before in Minneapolis but the slight progress wasn't enough to keep him off the disabled list.

"We just decided we may as well give it the full rest and not try and push it," said Lind. "Just let it heal, fully."

Lind, who has a history of back problems but nothing of significance since the 2012 season, felt his lower back tighten up in the fourth inning of Tuesday night's game against the Twins. He remained in the game until the seventh when he was lifted for pinch-hitter Josh Thole.

Lind will leave the team and head to Dunedin, where he'll be under the care of the Blue Jays' medical staff. He expects to receive an injection in his back on Monday.

His stint on the disabled list will be made retroactive to April 16, making Lind eligible to return on May 1.

The Blue Jays have purchased the contract of infielder Juan Francisco to take Lind's place. Francisco signed a minor league deal with the club on April 2.

Like Lind, Francisco's a left-handed hitter who can play first base and designated hitter. He could also play third base in a pinch.

Francisco has some pop. He hit 18 home runs in 348 at-bats for the Braves and Brewers last season.

To make room for Francisco on the 40-man roster, the club transferred infielder Maicer Izturis (knee) to the 60-day disabled list.

Reyes returns Saturday

The Blue Jays will formally activate shortstop Jose Reyes from the disabled list in time for Saturday afternoon's game against the Indians.

Reyes has been out since the first inning of the season-opening game in Tampa Bay, when he aggravated a left hamstring strain that had been bothering him since mid-March.

Infielder Munenori Kawasaki was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo to facilitate Reyes' return.

Janssen returning to Toronto

Casey Janssen will resume throwing bullpen sessions when the Jays get back to Toronto after their series in Cleveland.

He'll have to go back out on a rehabilitation assignment before stepping into a big league game.

"He'll have to start that all over again," said Gibbons. "I mean, think about it, he really didn't have spring training much at all anyway. Then in Montreal, when that flared up, he hasn't thrown much in the last couple of months."

Janssen suffered an abdominal strain in Montreal on March 28. He appeared in only three spring games due to stiffness in the back of his pitching shoulder.

Redmond unimpressed with protective cap prototype

Don't count Todd Redmond among those impressed with a prototype protective cap that found its way into the Blue Jays' clubhouse.

"I just played catch with it," said Redmond. "It's probably a pound and a half, at least."

Holding it, the prototype feels heavy enough to affect a pitcher's delivery. The hat got passed around and those who put it on garnered a laugh from the assembled mass. Its heavy padding gave it a hockey helmet look.

Redmond has an open mind when it comes to wearing better head protection in the wake of line drive incidents involving J.A. Happ, Alex Cobb and Brandon McCarthy.

"If something comes out and it looks like a regular hat and felt like a regular hat, it'd be fine," said Redmond. "I wouldn't object to it if they made it mandatory but as long as it's not mandatory I don't think anybody's going to wear that."

Navarro and Santos (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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