Back from injury, Zaun feeling strong
Backstop says throwing arm is fine after DL, rehab stints
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays welcomed Gregg Zaun back from the disabled list on Sunday, though the catcher might've been able to return sooner had it not been for a stormy stay in the Minor Leagues.
"I wasn't counting on monsoon season in Columbus," joked Zaun, who had three of his scheduled rehab games with Triple-A Syracuse rained out in Ohio.
At least the inclement weather afforded Zaun more time to rest his recovering right elbow. On Sunday, the catcher was back in Toronto's lineup as the designated hitter for the finale of a three-game set with the Cubs, but Jays manager John Gibbons noted that Zaun's arm is considered a "non-issue."
The only question now is how often Gibbons decides to start Zaun behind the plate. In Zaun's absence, catcher Rod Barajas has worked well with the pitching staff and emerged as one of the more consistent hitters within Toronto's inconsistent offense.
"We'll just put the guy out there that we think can help us win that day," said Gibbons, when asked if he had a plan for the pair's playing time.
Entering Sunday's game against Chicago, Zaun was batting .264 with two home runs, eight RBIs and a .350 on-base percentage for the Blue Jays. Barajas boasted a .295 average with five homers, 21 RBIs and a .359 on-base percentage over 43 games for Toronto.
Since Zaun landed on the 15-day DL with inflammation in his throwing elbow on May 27, the 32-year-old Barajas has hit at a .298 clip. Since May 1, Barajas has batted .348 with four homers, nine doubles, 18 RBIs and a .408 on-base percentage in 28 games.
There's also the performance of Toronto's pitching staff when throwing to one of Barajas or Zaun. Entering Sunday, pitchers have posted a 3.31 ERA over a span of 291 innings with Barajas behind the dish. In 327 innings with Zaun, the Jays' pitchers had combined for a 3.63 ERA.
"My situation is what it is," said Zaun, who has been Toronto's primary catcher for much of the past five seasons. "For now, I'll play when my name's in the lineup. We'll leave it at that. I don't have control over when or how much I'm going to play.
"Probably, my best guess, is I'm probably not going to catch four or five days in a row coming back off a fresh arm injury. What happens after that, I don't know. We'll see what happens. At this point, my role on this team is what the manager says it is."
In two Minor League rehab appearances with Syracuse, Zaun went 2-for-8 with one home run. The switch-hitter also homered in a rain-shortened game on Friday, but it wasn't an official blast, considering the weather brought an early end to the contest.
The showers didn't come until later on, allowing Zaun time to get pregame work in to further test his arm. That was the one plus that came out of the situation for the 37-year-old backstop, who is in the final year of the two-year contract he inked with the Jays prior to last season.
"It probably actually worked out better -- I got a couple extra days," Zaun said. "I got work in, but I didn't have the stress and the strain of a game. So I actually got an extra couple days of work and recovery time. It probably worked out to my benefit."
More importantly, Zaun said his throwing arm has felt fine.
"Catching-wise, it went fine," said Zaun, referring to his rehab game on Saturday. "I threw the ball around a little bit. A guy got a good jump on a steal and I had to do one of those quick, 'get-rid-of-its' and I didn't feel anything.
"I'm throwing the ball crisp and I don't have any pain."
In order to clear room on the active roster for Zaun, the Blue Jays optioned catcher Curtis Thigpen back to Syracuse. Gibbons said Toronto would likely keep its roster in its current state for the club's upcoming Interleague road trip through Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.