Reyes’ return seems just around the corner

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes. (CP/Chris Young)

TORONTO – On Saturday morning, Jose Reyes zipped around the Rogers Centre base paths, and Sunday, he practiced taking double-play relays, looking more and more like himself both times.

So, Alex Anthopoulos, how long until the all-star shortstop goes out for a rehabilitation assignment?

“Our medical staff had said about 10 days or so, maybe a little bit less, but he’s certainly getting close and it’s great to see,” the Toronto Blue Jays general manager said Sunday. “Then it will be a question of how many at-bats is he going to need and how do his legs feel playing seven innings, nine innings, and so on.”

“We’re definitely going to be anxious to have him back.”

Under such a scenario, Reyes could head out on rehab around June 19, play about a week’s worth of games and potentially rejoin the Blue Jays for a four-game series that opens in Boston on June 27. That timeline is speculative but reasonable, barring setbacks.

Reyes has been on the disabled list with a left ankle sprain since April 13, the day after an awkward slide at Kansas City.

The news is less good for third baseman Brett Lawrie, who suffered a high left ankle sprain on another awkward slide into second base May 27, and has gone from a walking gingerly to wearing a protective boot. He needs to get back on his foot before any sort of timeline can be mapped out.

“It’s not healing as quickly as we’d hoped,” said Anthopoulos. “That’s why the medical staff just said, ‘You know what, it’s healing more and more slowly so let’s put him in a boot.’ … It’s just slow to heal right now so at this point I don’t really have a timeline because if it just takes time to heal, again, he’s going to have to get back to running and all those kinds of things.

“It’s not as severe as Reyes but it seems like it’s certainly healing very slowly right now.”

Right-hander Brandon Morrow, out since June 1 with a forearm strain, is feeling better and is set to throw a side session sometime in Chicago this week. Given the length of his looming absence, he’s likely to need two, maybe three, rehab starts before returning to the rotation.

Other highlights from Anthopoulos’s 18-minute chat with media are below:

On the commitment made to Chien-Ming Wang, who’ll make US$500,000 with the Blue Jays:

“Really, there’s just one start, start to start to start. It came down to Chad (Jenkins) and him. Chad did a good job for us. His first two starts he was outstanding. The last start in San Diego, the line looked good. He was hit fairly hard. We all saw the game: Colby (Rasmus) robbed the home run and a lot of balls were hit to the track. But that being said, I don’t want to take anything away from him. When you look at Wang and Jenkins, very similar styles: average fastball velocity, sinkers, ground-ball guys, secondary stuff isn’t strong, but they both throw strikes and they both get a lot of ground balls. Wang, even at the minor-league level, has had a lot more success than Chad has. And then you look at obviously what he’s done in his career and his experience. And even currently, what he’s done. His ground balls in the minor leagues have been outstanding. He’s been going deep into games, he’s been throwing strikes. We scouted his last two or three outings. We almost had an agreement to have him make that start for us on Sunday in San Diego – the start that (Ramon) Ortiz made – just it was a little too last-minute. Once we knew Morrow wasn’t going to make that start, it was a little too last-minute so we continued to have dialogue with him. … “We hope he makes a lot of starts for us, but we don’t want to go in and promise x-number amount of starts. Hopefully, he does well and we catch lightning in a bottle with him. But he understands, his agent understands, that if things don’t work out, we have the right to turn the page.”

On why Wang earned the start Tuesday instead of Jenkins:

“In this scenario, we get to option Chad and keep him, because right now he would be the next starter. We get to see if Wang might be an upgrade there. If things don’t work out with Wang, Chad’s still here and Chad could come right back up. But if Chad makes that start and something happens to some other starter, or Chad doesn’t perform, I don’t know who the next guy would be right now.”

On Ricky Romero abandoning his revamped mechanics for his old delivery:

“I think it’s one of those things that whatever works for him. He has to feel confident and comfortable with what he’s doing. Even the changes that we made before, we had told him you’re going to be a part of this. Anything you don’t feel comfortable with, anything you don’t like, we’re not going to do. We had tried, in 2012, certain things during the season. We spent a lot of time, we couldn’t get any results there. Clearly we tried in spring training. We tried all kinds of things. I think we’ve all been pretty candid about it. No one knew exactly what the solution was going to be. When a player struggles like he has you’re going to look for answers and tweak and make changes and so on.

“It looks as though he may have found something because the way he was doing it in the past obviously led to the problems. Maybe going through all of this and the struggles, he’s found something that’s started to click for him. He’s making a lot of strides and it’s great to see.”

On Ramon Ortiz, whose elbow injury isn’t as bad as initially feared:

“He just had a strain. He thought it was worse. We all saw it. The good part is he doesn’t have a tear. It just looked pretty severe. That was great news that he can get back this year and should end up being fine. How long it takes, everyone recovers at their own pace. We expected it to be torn. We were thinking Tommy John and so on. You see the reaction and how upset he was and so on, so it was great news for us.”

On whether the bullpen’s workload was becoming a concern:

“I think it’s starting to slow itself down, clearly, because we’re getting more innings out of our starters. You look at R.A. (Dickey) and (Mark) Buehrle specifically, even with ERAs being where they were, they’re averaging a lot of innings a start and they’ve done a great job. Especially early on they had some starts, four innings, two innings, three innings, so they’re really starting to pitch deep into games. I think it’ll balance out. If that pace had maintained itself it would have been an issue but over time I think we’re starting to shave those innings down and I think we’ll be at a manageable number.

“I think now, we have so much more depth in the bullpen, Gibby really has seven guys or eight guys that he can go to and feel good about at any point in the game. That was the concern we had last year. You had three, four guys and if you were down you couldn’t use those guys because you needed to save them for when you were up. Now we have relievers who can keep the game close for us.”

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