Jays notebook: Reyes moving closer to return

Jose Reyes (Kathy Willens/AP)

CHICAGO — Jose Reyes is off to Florida Wednesday to put the finishing touches on his recovery from an April ankle sprain that’s damaged the Toronto Blue Jays season, aiming for a speedy return but cognizant his timing won’t be regained instantaneously.

The all-star shortstop sprinted around the bases out of the batter’s box on both sides of the plate Tuesday, the latest point of progress in his recovery.

The plan is for him to work out again in Dunedin once he arrives before moving to a pair of simulated games starting Friday.

Barring setbacks, the rehab assignment will be on after that, and how many games he needs is impossible to know at this moment.

Given that he’s missed two months since the fateful slide into second base at Kansas City on Apr. 12, manager John Gibbons suggested two weeks of games as a starting point, saying “that doesn’t seem too long to me.”

Reyes, on the other hand, put the estimate at “maybe five, six, two,” before adding, “who knows?”

“If it feels like my swing is there where I need to be, I don’t want to take too long because I need to be here and not down there,” he continued. “When I start to see live pitching and I feel like my swing is comfortable enough to be here I’m going to come up.”

To this point, his left ankle (supported by a brace he’ll likely need for the rest of his career) has responded well to every test, with base-running, moving side to side to field grounders, turning back to chase poppers in the outfield, and turning double plays causing him no discomfort.

The ankle still feels tight, he says, but that’s something he’s going to have to deal with.

As for turning it up on the bases Tuesday, he said, “good, good speed right there. I still have a little bit more left when I start to play the games. But I feel good, the way I performed when running the bases.”

Perhaps more challenging will be getting his timing back at the plate. T

The-30-year-old — Tuesday was his birthday — was off to a brilliant start, posting slash lines of .395/.465/.526 in 10 games prior to his injury.

Regaining that rhythm isn’t likely to happen at the snap of a finger.

“I didn’t play for two months so when you don’t play for that long you’re going to lose some stuff,” he said. “But at least I’ve been hitting BP the last two weeks, working on my swing, but the big thing is going to be facing live pitching.

“That’s when I’m going to know where my swing’s at but other than that everything feels good.”

MORROW ON MOVE: Jose Reyes isn’t heading to Florida alone, as Brandon Morrow will join him as he starts his own rehabilitation assignment.

The right-hander, on the disabled list with a forearm issue, will throw one more bullpen in Florida before making the first of either two or three rehab starts in the minors. If he only makes two starts in the minors, he’d likely come back for a start with 75-80 pitch cap.

Should the Blue Jays go down that road, the outing would likely fall at the end of their visit to the Tampa Bay Rays June 24-26, or the start of a four-game stop in Boston from June 27-30.

PEREZ’S PROGRESS: The start of reliever Luis Perez’s rehab assignment Monday means the Blue Jays must activate him by July 10, barring any setbacks.

The left-hander is the first of the three Blue Jays pitchers to undergo Tommy John surgery last season to begin his rehabilitation assignment.

Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison are both throwing live batting practice which means game action is getting close for both.

Perez’s looming return only adds to what is suddenly a wealth of bullpen arms for the Blue Jays, who are currently carrying eight relievers with another arm, Esmil Rogers, promoted to the rotation.

Sergio Santos is also on the disabled list recovering from elbow surgery.

It’s one reason why with Chien-Ming Wang’s arrival Tuesday, they decided to go with 13 pitchers.

“We definitely don’t want to send any of them down, they’re all pitching really good,” said manager John Gibbons. “In the American League you don’t need as much (of a bench) … but our bullpen is beat up. We had a little stretch where we came back and played Texas, guys hadn’t pitched three or four days, then the 18-inning game, next thing you know we’re back where we were a week ago.

“We thought maybe we were beyond that. And those guys coming out of the bullpen have all been really good; you don’t want to lose any of them. That’s just how the season’s gone with the use of those guys.”

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