Notes: Burnett returns, League on DL
Out with sore shoulder, righty makes first start since June 28
KANSAS CITY -- The Blue Jays activated right-hander A. J. Burnett in time for his start Sunday night vs. the Royals. The team made room on the 25-man roster by placing relief pitcher Brandon League on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 5. He had only been on the active roster since July 15 and hadn't pitched in a few days because of a right oblique strain.
League suffered a shoulder injury during the offseason that forced him to spend parts of the first four months of the season on the DL. This year he compiled a 0-0 record in 6 2/3 innings in seven games with an ERA of 6.75. For the past two months, the starters have been going deep into games, limiting League's opportunities. He will remain with the team while he rehabs.
Burnett has made two trips to the DL since early June and hasn't started a game since June 28. He also had two stints on the DL in 2006 and has spent some time on the DL every season since 2000.
The hard-throwing right-hander won't be under a strict pitch count.
"We'll keep an eye on him," manager John Gibbons said. "We're not going to push him, in the 90s, maybe."
Burnett's return makes for a bit of "Christmas in August" for the Jays. They get back a proven top-notch veteran starter to join forces with ace Roy Halladay and the three young up-and-comers Shawn Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch. Burnett entered Sunday's game 5-6 on the season with a 4.31 ERA. He had given up only 79 hits in 94 innings of work. He had struck out 106, more than one per inning.
The Blue Jays have struggled at the plate in recent weeks, so they will need continued strong pitching as they compete for the American League Wild Card. Toronto entered Sunday's action 6 1/2 games back of the Wild Card leader, the Seattle Mariners.
Extra bases: On the heels of the Royals' five stolen bases Saturday night, the Blue Jays were looking for answers but refusing to point fingers. Gregg Zaun was behind the plate for last night's track meet and for the season has thrown out less than 10 percent of the runners, the lowest percentage among starting catchers in the American League.
Zaun said he would accept his share of the responsibility. He also said he would never ask his pitchers to sacrifice stuff for speed to the plate. Last season he threw out more than 18 percent of the runners.
Gibbons said it's been a combination of things. "The power pitchers are slow to the plate," he said. He also conceded his catcher was "not throwing great."
Oh-for-August no more: Troy Glaus snapped an 0-for-27 slump with a single and a double on Saturday night. He struck out in his first two at-bats and in the process broke his record of 26 straight hitless at-bats set in 2003. Still, Glaus entered Sunday's game with only four hits in his last 48 at-bats. He has not hit a home run since July 22. He hit 38 home runs in 2006, but has only 15 home runs so far this season.
Arms race: Toronto has posted the best ERA in the Majors since July 1. The emergence of young starters Marcum, McGowan and Litsch has helped the team to a 3.61 ERA.
Gibbons said the bullpen deserves a lot of the credit as well. Since June 1, reliever Scott Downs has appeared in 31 games and compiled an ERA of 1.13. Closer Jeremy Accardo has a 2-3 record and a 2.42 ERA with 21 saves in 25 chances.
Road worriers: The Blue Jays have compiled an impressive 35-22 at Rogers Centre, but have stumbled to a 23-35 mark on the road. That is largest discrepancy of home and road records in Major League Baseball.
"We can't figure out why it is," Gibbons said. "That's been the difference in our season."
Coming up: The Blue Jays face the Royals for the final time this season on Monday night in a 7:10 ET start. Righty Litsch (4-4, 3.64 ERA) faces lefty Odalis Perez (6-11, 5.87 ERA). Toronto returns home Tuesday night at 7:10 ET to face the Angels and begin a nine-game homestand. Angels southpaw Joe Saunders (6-0, 3.46 ERA) squares off against the Jays' Halladay (13-5, 4.17 ERA).
Max Utsley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.