Notes: Burnett set to return
Righty flame-thrower likely to pitch on Sunday against Royals
TORONTO -- A.J. Burnett is preparing to face the Royals. After spending nearly six weeks on the disabled list, the Blue Jays pitcher is scheduled to rejoin Toronto's rotation during the upcoming weekend series in Kansas City.
The final test for Burnett came on Monday, when the right-hander completed a successful rehab start with Triple-A Syrcause. Based on that five-inning performance, Toronto manager John Gibbons indicated that Burnett was healthy and more than ready to step back on the hill for the Jays.
Gibbons said that Burnett will likely get the nod for Sunday's tilt against the Royals, following Blue Jays starters Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan in the rotation. Gibbons still has to meet with general manager J.P. Ricciardi and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg to decide whether Burnett will assume the starting spot currently held by Josh Towers or rookie Jesse Litsch.
"He threw good and he felt fine, which is all we're worried about," said Gibbons, referring to Burnett. "We haven't decided past this weekend. I still have to talk with J.P. and Arnie. We'll just look at it and see how we're strongest."
Towers, who started against the Yankees on Tuesday, has gone 3-5 with a 5.18 ERA in 10 starts since being moved from the bullpen to the rotation on June 11. The 30-year-old right-hander is under contract for $2.9 million this season, which is the final year in the contract he inked with the Jays after the 2005 campaign.
Towers isn't likely part of the plans for 2008, which isn't the case with Litsch. The 22-year-old right-hander has impressed the Blue Jays, and could be in the mix for a rotation job next season. In six starts since being called up from Triple-A to fill in for Burnett, Litsch has gone 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA.
"We'll make a decision later on," said Ricciardi, who doesn't technically have to make a decision until Burnett is activated on Sunday. "Litsch has pitched great. Towers has pitched great, too. We'll make [the decision] based on a couple things."
If Toronto decides against optioning Litsch back to Triple-A, Towers could either be moved back to the bullpen or potentially designated for assignment. Either way, someone will need to be removed from Toronto's roster to clear room for Burnett, who landed on the DL with a right shoulder injury on July 1 after going 5-6 with a 4.31 ERA in 15 starts this year.
Still sliding: The persistent slumps that have plagued Toronto's Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay continued on Monday, when the pair of infielders combined to go 0-for-7 in the loss against the Yankees. Playing a role is the fact that both Glaus and Overbay are battling lingering injury issues.
Glaus, who has dealt with a left foot injury on and off all season, has no hits in his last 15 at-bats, entering Tuesday. Since July 16, the third baseman has hit just .125. Overbay is dealing with a sore right hand, which was fractured in early June, and he entered Tuesday with no hits in his last 11 at-bats. Since coming off the DL on July 12, the first baseman has hit .222.
"Very rarely does it happen where they all get going at once," Gibbons said. "They're both beat up, but nobody's going to use that [as an excuse]. It's a tough game to play when you're feeling good."
Close call: Plenty of people probably were wondering if Litsch was sending some sort of message when he threw a fastball behind the legs of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez on Monday.
Not so said Litsch, who was simply trying to move Rodriguez off the plate in the second inning. The rookie right-hander shook off the suggestion that his errant offering was retaliation for the incident in Toronto on May 30, when Rodriguez yelled to distract Jays infielders on a crucial ninth-inning pop up.
"It was just a two-seamer that got away from me," Litsch said. "I tried to go in on him all game. He got a base hit up the middle on an inside pitch, also. I'm not going to give away the inside. Yeah, what happened, happened, but I go inside a lot."
Rolling Hill: In the eighth inning on Monday, Toronto's Aaron Hill belted his 12th homer of the season -- a solo shot that landed in the second deck above left field. Hill's 12 home runs mark the third-highest total by a second baseman in club history. Roberto Alomar owns the top two spots with 17 homers in 1993 and 13 in '95.
Roster move: On Tuesday, the Blue Jays announced that they had released veteran shortstop Royce Clayton. The 37-year-old infielder signed a one-year deal with Toronto this past offseason, but was designated for assignment on Friday. In 69 games with the Jays, Clayton hit .254 with one homer and 12 RBIs. Toronto also sent infielder Howie Clark outright to Triple-A Syracuse.
Did you know? The Blue Jays' 5-4 loss to the Yankees on Monday dropped the Blue Jays' record to 12-4 in one-run games at home this season. It marked the first one-run defeat at Rogers Centre for Toronto since May 13. The Jays are 19-19 in one-run games this year, and their 38 one-run affairs are the most in the American League.
Quotable: "They're on a big-time roll right now with the way they're swinging it, but that's how that team's built. Really, I don't think they're surprising anybody. They just keep coming at you one through nine." --Gibbons, on the Yankees
Coming up: Toronto ace Roy Halladay (12-5, 4.13 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound in the finale of a three-game set against New York at 7:07 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Rogers Centre. The Yankees will counter with right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (13-5, 3.49 ERA).
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.