Notes: Clark turns bad into good
Injured and released by Padres in April, vet back in Majors
TORONTO -- While driving to Toronto on Wednesday, Howie Clark couldn't stop thinking about the series of events that led to his unlikely return to the Blue Jays' clubhouse. The 33-year-old veteran signed a Minor League deal with the Padres before the season and broke his thumb while diving for a ball in his only Spring Training game with the big-league club.
Due to the injury, Clark couldn't play in any more Minor League games and San Diego released him before the regular season began. He wasn't sure where his career would take him next. On Wednesday, though, Clark was back in a Toronto uniform for the first time in three years.
"It's crazy, the path that you take," said Clark, who had his contract purchased from Triple-A Syracuse. "Obviously, I was bitter when it happened, because I had never been released before. Looking back on it, I'm thankful it happened.
"That may sound crazy, because it was probably one of the lower points in my career, being at home in April. It's definitely a turnaround from then to now."
Clark turned things around on his own. After spending six weeks away from baseball, recovering from the broken right thumb, the utility man was cleared by doctors to pursue another job. That's when Clark, who spent parts of the 2003-04 seasons with the Jays, began working the phones.
One of the first people he called was Dick Scott, Toronto's director of player development. Scott invited Clark to extended Spring Training with the Jays and indicated that there might be a job opportunity with Double-A New Hampshire. By May 15, though, Clark found his way to Triple-A Syracuse, where he hit .246 in 14 games.
"That's kind of a neat little story," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He values every moment he's in the big leagues -- every day. You could tell that back then when he was here. He did some good things for us. I'm sure he never thought he'd probably ever get back. One thing you can say over here is we give guys opportunities."
Clark had stints in the Pittsburgh and Baltimore organizations over the past two years, and can play infield or outfield. On Wednesday, he started at third base in place of Troy Glaus, who is nursing a sore hamstring. Gibbons said Glaus was available off the bench, but the Jays would prefer to have him rest for the entire game.
Clayton update: An X-ray on Royce Clayton's left foot revealed no fracture, which was good news for Toronto's shortstop. Clayton fouled a pitch off his foot during the seventh inning on Tuesday night and had to be removed from the game.
Clayton was available in an emergency situation Wednesday, but Gibbons said he'd like to rest the infielder for the whole game, like Glaus. Clayton's foot is still sensitive, though, because team doctors removed his big toenail to help ease the pain caused by the injury.
"They had the X-rays, and there was no fractures or breaks," Clayton said. "The doc came in last night and said, 'Once we remove [the nail], it'll be fine.' It took a lot of pressure off."
Rehabbing: Right-hander Brandon League, who is on the 60-day disabled list with a shoulder injury, worked two innings in his first Minor League game of the season on Tuesday. League struck out three for Class A Dunedin and continues to show improvement with his velocity. ... In his third rehab start since landing on the DL on May 9, right-hander Victor Zambrano (right forearm) yielded five runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and a walk over 5 2/3 frames for Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday. ... Catcher Gregg Zaun, who was placed on the 15-day DL with a broken right thumb on April 25, went 2-for-3 with six walks and a home run in an exhibition game with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays on Wednesday.
Roster moves: In order to clear room on the active roster for Clark, the Jays optioned right-hander Jamie Vermilyea to Triple-A Syracuse. Toronto also designated infielder Ryan Roberts for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Clark. The Jays have 10 days to either trade, release or reassign Roberts.
Quotable: "I've never seen it until [Tuesday] night, except seeing it on tapes of Jackie Robinson."
-- Gibbons, on Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill stealing home
Coming up: Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay (4-2, 4.37 ERA) is scheduled to be activated from the 15-day DL to take the mound in the opener of a four-game set against the White Sox at 7:07 p.m. ET on Thursday at Rogers Centre. Chicago will counter with left-hander Mark Buehrle (2-1, 3.86 ERA).
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.