Ryan, Romero land on disabled list
Closer shelved indefinitely; rookie may return by mid-May
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are being forced to reconfigure their pitching staff once again. Sticking with the unfortunate trend of the past few seasons, Toronto lost another pair of arms to the 15-day disabled list on Thursday afternoon.
The latest pitchers to join the walking wounded are closer B.J. Ryan and rookie starter Ricky Romero. That increases the number of sidelined pitchers to six for the Blue Jays, who have grown accustomed to having their staff decimated by injuries in recent years.
"Unfortunately, we're used to it," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said with a shrug.
One day after blowing his second save of the season, Ryan was shelved with tightness in his right trapezius -- a muscle in the upper back and near the shoulder. Romero has been bothered by pain in his right side for more than a week and an MRI exam on Wednesday revealed that he was suffering from a strained oblique.
Romero's stay on the DL is retroactive to Monday and Ricciardi said the club expects him to be fully recovered by the middle of May. In Ryan's case, it's not clear how long the veteran left-hander has been dealing with his injury and no one could say with any certainly how much time the closer might miss.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said it was good to at least learn that the injury might be an explanation for Ryan's struggles with his pitch velocity and command.
"It is," Gaston said, "because he's around here for next year, too. If it takes that long to get him back, it'll be great to have him back whenever he is back. At least we know it's something."
While Ryan is out, left-hander Scott Downs will likely serve as the Blue Jays' primary closer. How long that will be the case remains to be seen, considering Ricciardi said there is no established timetable for Ryan's return.
"They said 'trapeze,' I thought it was a circus act," Ricciardi said with a laugh.
During the spring, the 33-year-old Ryan fought diminished velocity with his fastball -- an issue that improved over the past month. Even with his pitches once again registering around 87-88 mph, Ryan remained inconsistent with his location. In six outings, Ryan allowed seven runs with five walks and four strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.
On Wednesday, Ryan yielded three runs in one inning against the Rangers, blowing a save situation and watching his ERA rise to 11.12 in the process. Gaston said Ryan informed the team of his injury after that appearance. Ryan is scheduled to head to Dallas early next week to visit a specialist.
"After the game he felt it," Gaston said. "I think he's been feeling it for a while, but he let us know last night after the game that he was having some problems there. It's the best thing for him to get it taken care of and get back here and help us out if he can."
Ricciardi, who noted that there is nothing structurally wrong with Ryan's shoulder, wasn't sure if the injury dated back to the spring.
"I don't think so," Ricciardi said. "But, you'd have to ask him how long he's been feeling it. All we can go on is what he's told us. Maybe he's felt it a lot longer. He's not a guy who tells you too many things, so he may have had it longer and he just admitted it recently."
Ryan -- owed $20 million through next season -- declined comment.
Romero, 24, said that he first felt a sharp pain in his side after sneezing prior to his start against the Twins on April 14. He told Toronto's medical staff about the discomfort following that outing and he pitched through some soreness again on Sunday against Oakland. After shutting the A's out for seven innings, Romero indicated that the pain had worsened.
"I'm disappointed. I've been so down the whole week," Romero said. "Being the competitor that I am, there was no way that I was going to come out of that game. I just battled through it, but it comes to a point where you have to be smart.
"I'm so scared to sneeze now, it's crazy."
Romero, who claimed a rotation job over prospects Brad Mills and Brett Cecil during the spring, was stellar through his first three big leage outings this season, going 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA over that span. Romero -- the first pitcher selected (sixth overall) in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft -- has compiled 13 strikeouts and four walks over 21 innings.
"It's a shame, because this kid has really pitched well for us," Gaston said.
Ricciardi said placing Romero on the DL was a precautionary move.
"If this was the playoffs, he could pitch," Ricciardi said. "We just don't want it to become long-term. When we've got five more months ahead of us, we're better off just backing him off for a couple weeks. Unfortunately, the thing he needs most is rest."
The Blue Jays have yet to announce who will replace Romero on the active roster, but the club purchased the contract of right-hander Bryan Bullington from Triple-A Las Vegas to fill the vacancy in the bullpen. Bullington has gone 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA in four games for Vegas, striking out 10 with one walk over 9 2/3 innings.
It appears as though left-hander Brian Burres -- also with Las Vegas -- is likely to start on Saturday in Chicago in place of Romero. Burres' next scheduled turn to start in the Minors would be on Friday, and Toronto has already shown that it is hesitant to promote one of its younger pitching prospects so early in the season.
On April 14, the Jays placed starter Jesse Litsch on the 15-day DL with a right forearm/elbow injury. The club opted to shift Tallet out of the bullpen and into the rotation, rather than calling up either Mills or Cecil. The two young left-handers will likely remain at Triple-A even with Romero now sidelined as well.
Ricciardi said that Romero, Litsch and right-hander Casey Janssen -- shelved with a right shoulder injury in the spring -- could all be ready to return midway through May. That would provide a boost to a pitching staff that could also be without Shaun Marcum (right elbow) and Dustin McGowan (right shoulder) for the season.
Romero might resume throwing in two or three days, and Ricciardi indicated that Janssen is scheduled to make a rehab appearance with Class A Dunedin on Monday. Ricciardi added that Litsch is going to throw on Friday and could also make a rehab outing on Monday. If all three return at the same time, Ricciardi said Janssen could be used as a reliever.
Ricciardi also noted that Marcum, who had reconstructive elbow surgery at the end of last season, is slated to throw in a bullpen session on Saturday and there is a slim chance he could rejoin the rotation late in the season. McGowan has shown improved range of motion with his shoulder and is slated to play catch on May 1.
"Probably the most encouraging news is we're hoping that Janssen, Romero and Litsch are all back by the middle of the month," Ricciardi said. "We could possibly get all three of those guys back -- that'd be a big lift. We're going to have to hold the fort down until those guys can get back here."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.