TORONTO -- B.J. Ryan didn't know what to expect when he stepped into the office of arm specialist Dr. James Andrews. Toronto's closer knew something was definitely wrong with his elbow, and he couldn't help but fear the news would be devastating.

"You're almost kind of in a daze," Ryan said on Thursday. "You could be staring down the barrell of so many things. You hope for the best and you try to stay positive, but in the back of your mind it's always a worst-case scenario."

When Andrews examined the results of an MRI exam on Ryan's throwing arm, he informed the pitcher that surgery wouldn't be necessary -- a tremendous relief for the All-Star closer. Ryan had suffered a strained ligament in his elbow, and he would probably have to miss four to six weeks before stepping on a mound again for the Blue Jays.

"Four weeks is a lot better than a year," said Ryan, who saved 38 games for Toronto last season.

Ryan admitted that the pain in his elbow first became a mild issue toward the end of Spring Training. The 6-foot-6 closer missed roughly three weeks with a back injury in the early spring and felt some discomfort in his arm as he tried to get ready in time for the regular season.

The pain became a little worse in the first week of the season, but Ryan, who had never landed on the disabled list in his first eight big-league seasons, still thought he could fight through it. It wasn't until Saturday, when Ryan blew his second save of the season in a disheartening loss to the Tigers, that the pitcher admitted defeat.

"It wasn't right. I couldn't even throw a strike," Ryan said. "You try to think you're tough enough and you can pitch through it. Eventually, your body tells you, 'You know what? That's enough. You need to take a step back and get this checked out, because you're not helping the team and you're going to hurt yourself.'"

The plan going forward is for Ryan to rest his arm for the next month, staying away from playing catch and other baseball activities. In the meantime, the lefty will work with strengthening excercises before beginning a throwing program in May. Ryan said his only job now is to listen to Toronto's trainers, who helped Jays starters A.J. Burnett and Gustavo Chacin rebound from similar injuries a year ago.

"They have a good plan," said Ryan, who was placed on the 15-day DL on Sunday. "It's a good staff here that can get you back on the field, as you can tell from A.J. and Gus. Those guys put their work in and they took their time, and they got back and they're pitching good now."

What a relief: Losing Ryan was a big blow for the Blue Jays, but Toronto has enjoyed a strong start from the bullpen as a whole. Entering Thursday's game against Boston, the Jays' relief corps boasted a 2.79 ERA, which ranked third in the American League. Opposing hitters have hit just .206 against Toronto's relievers.

"Those guys are good, man," Ryan said. "You read everything people wrote about them in the beginning of the year and it's always a question mark. But there are some young guys down there who want the ball. They go out there and pound the zone and pitch aggressively."

The countdown: On Thursday, Toronto designated hitter Frank Thomas belted a 2-1 offering from Boston starter Julian Tavarez deep to center field for a solo home run in the second inning. With the blast, Thomas sits 11 homers shy of 500 for his career and four behind Fred McGriff and Lou Gehrig for 21st on the all-time list.

Minor matters: On Wednesday, left-hander David Purcey turned in a complete-game shutout in a victory for Double-A New Hampshire. Purcey recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts and gave up one hit in seven innings. It was considered a complete game because the contest was part of a doubleheader, consisting of two seven-inning games. ... Despite having an 0-2 record, right-hander Dustin McGowan has posted a 1.80 ERA with 22 strikeouts over 15 innings in three starts for Triple-A Syracuse.

Did you know? Toronto starters have combined to go 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA in the past three wins for the Blue Jays. Over 24 1/3 innings, Jays starters Roy Halladay, Josh Towers and Chacin have allowed just two earned runs.

Quotable: "It's tough. You pride yourself in that aspect of your career -- that I haven't been on the DL. But some things are just out of your control." -- Ryan

Coming up: Burnett (1-1, 7.07) is slated to take the mound on Friday night at 7:05 ET in the opener of a three-game weekend set against the Orioles in Baltimore. The O's will counter with righty Daniel Cabrera (1-1, 3.66).