Blue Jays Notebook: Loup takes meaningful step towards return

Aaron Loup has been sidelined since March with a forearm flexor strain. (Jim Mone/AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Aaron Loup’s rehab has progressed to the point that he can envision a return to the big leagues this month.

Loup, who’s been sidelined with a forearm flexor strain since March, will throw a bullpen off a mound Monday, a meaningful step toward a potential return to Toronto.

“If that goes well, and I don’t see any reason it wouldn’t, a couple bullpens, extended spring and rehab,” Loup said.

The 28-year-old threw off flat ground at Tropicana Field Sunday under the supervision of pitching coach Pete Walker. If Monday’s bullpen session goes well that would set Loup up for extended spring training and an eventual rehab assignment. An optimistic timeline could see Loup return by the end of the month. At the very least there’s some reason for optimism after a couple of slow months.

“Everything’s going well,” Loup said.

The Blue Jays’ bullpen currently includes one left-hander, Brett Cecil, who’s 0-5 with a 5.79 ERA after a surprisingly difficult start. Franklin Morales, who made the Blue Jays’ opening day roster, continues throwing long toss as he looks to return from a shoulder injury.

MORE REPS FOR STOREN: Drew Storen’s struggles continued in Friday’s series opener, when he allowed a home run to Brad Miller, but the Blue Jays intend to keep calling on the right-hander regularly.

“I plan on just throwing him out there,” manager John Gibbons said. “You’ve got to. Otherwise you’re not very good if he’s not a key guy. The good ones, they all learn how to survive and make adjustments.”

Storen’s velocity has dropped off from 94 mph last year to 91.9 mph in 2016, but that alone doesn’t account for a slow start that saw him post a 10.13 ERA with 14 hits and three homers allowed in eight innings in April.

“Who knows,” Gibbons said. “It’s a tough role, man, being a bullpen guy year after year.”

Perhaps the transition to the American League requires more adjustments of Storen, who had spent his entire career with the Washington Nationals before the January trade that sent him to Toronto.

“It’s definitely a different league, no doubt about that,” Gibbons said. “Some different ballparks.”

CHAVEZ PITCHING WELL: Jesse Chavez‘s strong start to the season continued Saturday with 1.1 scoreless innings. The right-hander was acquired for his versatility, but the Blue Jays rotation has pitched well, so they haven’t needed to stretch him out early on. Chavez has yet to record more than five outs in a single outing with Toronto, and his stuff has played up in shorter stints. One year after averaging 91.2 mph with his fastball, he has touched 95 mph repeatedly for an average of 93.9 mph. That’s a welcome development for a bullpen that needs all the stability it can get.

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