Notes: Zaun to undergo surgery
Catcher has non-displaced fracture in his right hand
NEW YORK -- The news concerning Gregg Zaun's hand injury didn't blindside general manager J.P. Ricciardi by any means.
"I knew last night that it wasn't good," said Ricciardi, standing inside the visitors' clubhouse at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
One day after Zaun took a foul ball off his throwing hand in Toronto's win over Boston, the Blue Jays learned just how bad the injury was. Zaun left Boston and traveled to Baltimore, where he met hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham on Wednesday. Toronto was informed that the 36-year-old catcher suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right hand.
As a result, Zaun was placed on the 15-day disabled list, joining the growing list of walking wounded for Toronto. Zaun is expected to miss six to eight weeks after he undergoes surgery on his hand on Thursday morning in Baltimore. Veteran catcher Sal Fasano, who had his contract purchased from Triple-A Syracuse to help fill the void behind the plate, was already at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
"That's our starting catcher," manager John Gibbons said about losing Zaun. "But what are you going to do? That's why you sign guys like Sal."
Considering that Zaun could miss as much as two months, Toronto could have easily placed him on the 60-day DL. But according to Ricciardi, Graham indicated that the catcher could potentially return quicker, and that's why he was sent to the 15-day DL.
Ricciardi didn't like seeing Zaun get hurt, but the GM was glad to have some added depth in Fasano, who signed a Minor League deal with the Jays in November. Zaun was hitting just .186 through 20 games for Toronto. In 11 games with Syracuse this season, Fasano was hitting .297, with four home runs.
"We like Zaunie because he has the offensive potential of doing what he's done here in the past," Ricciardi said. "But he was off to a tough start. Not that there's ever a good time, but having Fasano here just gives us a little more comfort."
Zaun, who is in his fourth season with the Jays, signed a two-year deal worth $7.25 million in November. The contract also includes a vesting option worth an additional $3.75 million for 2009 if he appears in at least 270 games over the 2007-08 seasons. The injury now makes that option unreachable.
"We made it high," said Ricciardi, referring to the number of games it would take to pick up the option. "This isn't going to help him."
What now? With Zaun temporarily out of the picture, Gibbons said that Fasano and Jason Phillips would split duties behind the plate. Prospect Curtis Thigpen will remain the starting catcher with Triple-A Syracuse.
If Toronto needs an emergency replacement in a situation where Fasano and Phillips are both unavailable, Ricciardi said, utility players John McDonald and Ryan Roberts could fill in behind the plate. Roberts was going to catch some Toronto pitchers in the bullpen on Wednesday, but the game against the Yankees was postponed due to rain.
Hands on: Zaun typically keeps his throwing hand at his side when crouched behind the plate with runners on base. This allows for a quicker transfer when a throw is needed. The problem was that it also made Zaun's hand an unlucky target for the foul ball that Boston's Eric Hinske hit in the first inning on Tuesday.
"A lot of catchers keep that hand behind their back now," said Gibbons, himself a former catcher. "That's pretty common for catchers, hurting their fingers. He's going to come back. It's just going to take time."
Welcome back: Third baseman Troy Glaus, who is on the 15-day DL with a sore left heel, joined the Blue Jays in New York on Wednesday. Glaus played catch on the field and hit in the batting cages. Gibbons said that the third baseman should be ready to come off the DL as planned on Saturday.
Big Mac: In 12 games this year, McDonald -- a career .243 hitter -- has posted a .500 average, and he's currently riding a seven-game hitting streak. McDonald has helped fill in at third base while Glaus has been on the DL.
"You don't want to even look at him, you know?" Gibbons said with a laugh. "You don't want to give him any reason to stop. Just roll with it."
The fifth element: The rain that poured down on Yankee Stadium never allowed Toronto to use its proposed lineup on Wednesday, but there was an interesting change. Second baseman Aaron Hill, who is hitting .316 with four homers and 14 RBIs, was moved into the No. 5 spot for the first time this season.
Roster move: In order to clear room on the 40-man roster for Fasano, Toronto designated Minor League third baseman John Hattig for assignment. The Jays have 10 days to either trade, release or reassign the infielder.
Did you know? The Blue Jays have seven players (Zaun, Glaus, Reed Johnson, B.J. Ryan, Brandon League, John Thomson and Davis Romero) on the DL. Toronto had eight players land on the DL in all of 2006.
Quotable: "They've got a full night of New York City. So no injuries yet. Call me at 12:01 tonight, and things might be different." -- Gibbons, joking about having Wednesday night's postponement
Coming up: Right-hander A.J. Burnett (1-1, 5.57 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET in what is now the only game of the planned two-game set against New York. The Yankees will counter with right-hander Phil Hughes, who will be making his Major League debut.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.