DENVER -- Alex Gonzalez did not miss a beat after missing two games due to personal reasons earlier this week. In Thursday's 3-2 win over the Rays, the Jays' shortstop belted a home run in his first at-bat back with the ballclub.
Toronto manager Cito Gaston knows that missing the previous two games was not something Gonzalez enjoyed.
"He's a kid that doesn't really want to be off," Gaston said. "I have to force him to take a day off."
That second-inning blast gave Gonzalez 13 home runs this season, representing the most long balls launched in one season by a Blue Jays shortstop since Chris Woodward finished with 13 in 2002. Entering Friday, Gonzalez led Major League shortstops in homers, RBIs (35), slugging percentage (.513), extra-base hits (30) and total bases (117).
Gaston, Jays thinking about McDonald
DENVER -- The last thing that Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston is worried about right now is when veteran John McDonald will be rejoining the ballclub. Under the circumstances, Gaston wants McDonald to take as much time as he needs.
McDonald has been away from the Blue Jays for the past six games to be with his father, Jack, who is fighting advanced liver cancer. Toronto placed McDonald on Major League Baseball's bereavement list on Thursday.
"He's going through a tough time right now," Gaston said. "I told him whenever he gets back is fine."
Once placed on the bereavement list, a player must miss a minimum of three games and a maximum of seven contests. Gaston reached out to the 35-year-old McDonald on Friday morning and got the veteran infielder's voicemail. The Jays manager' left a message to let McDonald know that his teammates are thinking of him.
"He worries about being back here, letting his teammates down more than anything," Gaston said. "But I want him to know his teammates are worried about him. So just stay there and make sure he takes care of his mom and his dad.
"I think about him every day, and my heart goes out for him and his family. Also, I think about him in the way the guys love him on this team. He's a great guy on the ballclub. I get people in the stands yelling at me about putting him in the game."
Tallet slides to 'pen to make room for Litsch
DENVER -- Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston believes that having Brian Tallet back in the bullpen can only benefit the team's pitching staff. The veteran left-hander was shifted out of the rotation to clear a spot for right-hander Jesse Litsch.
"Tallet's a great guy on this club," Gaston said. "He's a little disappointed he's not starting anymore, but you won't ever hear him ... complain about it. But he will tell you that he'd rather be starting. I think we're a better club this way."
After being sidelined for roughly a year after undergoing Tommy John ligament surgery on his right elbow, Litsch is back on the Jays' starting staff and slated to pitch on Sunday against the Rockies. Tallet started on Tuesday, but Gaston said the lefty is available out of the 'pen.
In his career as a reliever, the 32-year-old Tallet has posted a 3.74 ERA over 158 games, with 159 strikeouts across 199 2/3 innings. As a starter, Tallet went 9-12 with a 5.03 ERA in 36 outings, during which he struck out 134 in 197 innings. Tallet gives Gaston a third lefty in the bullpen, alongside David Purcey and Scott Downs.
"At least I have three left-handers in that bullpen now," Gaston said. "And he can come out and pitch long for us."
Gaston said he hopes Litsch returns to the type of form he displayed down the stretch in 2008, when the righty went 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA over his final nine starts. If Litsch proves to be healthy and as effective as he was prior to his surgery, Gaston believes Toronto will have an even better rotation.
"That's my vision," Gaston said. "I hope that's what I see when he's back."
Blue Jays right-hander Scott Richmond, who is currently on the 60-day disabled list recovering from a right shoulder issue, made a rehab start with Class A Dunedin on Thursday. Richmond picked up a win after allowing one earned run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. ... Lefty Brett Cecil leads the Jays with seven wins this season, and he has picked up a win in each of his past five starts. That matches the longest winning streak by a Toronto pitcher this season (Shaun Marcum also won five in a row). Cecil is the first Jays lefty to win five straight starts since Gustavo Chacin in 2005 (July 7-31). ... The second-inning home run belted by Jays shortstop Alex Gonzalez on Thursday snapped a drought of 20 consecutive innings without a homer for the Blue Jays. Toronto's 98 home runs as a team are the most the club has launched through 61 games in franchise history. ... Entering Friday, the Blue Jays accounted for 10 of the 40 homers the American League has managed in Interleague Play. ... The Jays have out-homered their opponents 98-46 this season, entering Friday. That difference of 52 home runs is the best in the Majors.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.