Idea of six-man rotation nixed by Jays
Hill called up from Triple-A to make spot start on Thursday
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have abandoned the idea of a six-man rotation for September, but they need a spot starter this week against the Rangers at Rogers Centre. They have called up right-handers Shawn Hill and Robert Ray from Triple-A Las Vegas.
The 29-year-old Hill, who is coming back from elbow surgery, will start Thursday against the Rangers. Left-hander Marc Rzepczynski, originally scheduled to pitch Thursday, will instead pitch Wednesday on three days' rest after having a short outing against the Yankees on Saturday.
Hill, who is from Mississauga, Ontario, is coming back from his second Tommy John surgery and has pitched in the Majors with the Expos, Nationals and Padres. He is 6-2 with a 1.61 ERA in 11 Minor League starts this season, most recently with Las Vegas, where he was 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA in five starts.
Ray, 26, is 6-6 with a 5.51 ERA in 18 starts with Las Vegas. Ray was 1-2 with a 4.44 ERA in four starts with Toronto last year.
The Blue Jays had considered going to a six-man rotation in September to help preserve the young arms in the rotation. But right-hander Brandon Morrow was shut down after his start on Friday because of a buildup of innings.
Toronto no longer considers it necessary to expand the rotation to six, other than a couple of spot starts, because there are two more days off in the schedule. The Blue Jays also had an off-day Thursday.
"We have three days off this month, so we should be fine," Gaston said.
Hill's knee feels good enough to play
TORONTO -- Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill was a question mark during batting practice before Monday afternoon's series opener against the Rangers. But when the lineup came out, a little delayed, Hill was in it and batting sixth.
Hill hyperextended his right knee beating out an infield single in the ninth inning in Sunday's 7-3 victory over the Yankees in New York.
He was replaced at second base by Mike McCoy for the bottom of the ninth. On Monday, Hill was still testing the knee during batting practice as manager Cito Gaston waited to put out his lineup.
Hill rewarded Gaston for waiting, hitting a two-run homer in the third inning.
"He's swinging the bat real good right now, so I'm pretty sure he wants to play," Gaston said during batting practice. "If he's not able to play, then we'll get Johnny Mac [McDonald] back in there, and we'll go from there."
Gaston said Hill is not easy to take out of the lineup, because he wants to play.
"Hill's been beat up a little bit anyway," Gaston said. "He's the type of kid, he doesn't want to come out. Half the time he doesn't even tell you he's hurting. I tried to get him to come out in the middle of that inning when he was at first base.
"He's one you have to say, 'You're out.' You can't go up and ask him."
Escobar returns to lineup; Lewis still out
TORONTO -- Shortstop Yunel Escobar was back in the Blue Jays' starting lineup for Monday's game against the Rangers, but outfielder Fred Lewis was not.
Escobar missed seven consecutive games starting Aug. 29 with a stiff back, but he had been taking batting practice.
Lewis has not played since he hyperextended his right elbow during his nine-pitch at-bat in the sixth inning Wednesday against the Rays.
Lewis has been available only for pinch-running duties since the injury, but he was not used in that capacity in the three games in New York.
"Fred's day-to-day, month-to-month," manager Cito Gaston said before Monday's game. "He's got a hyperextended elbow. I don't know what's going to happen there."
Escobar's last appearance was on Aug. 28, when he went 2-for-4 and scored two runs in a 5-4 win over the Tigers. He was back in his familiar No. 2 spot in the batting order for Monday's game.
Watch out for bats, balls and the letter 'B'
TORONTO -- Jose Bautista has done some damage with his 43 home runs so far this season, but it was a foul ball during Monday's 7-2 win that vandalized the Jackie Robinson sign on the ring of honor at Rogers Centre.
Bautista fouled off a pitch from the Rangers' Tommy Hunter in the seventh inning, sending the ball back behind home plate. It knocked the "B" from the sign honoring Robinson's retired No. 42 off the stadium facing. It fell about 30 feet into the stands.
A man who identified himself as Ian, a Blue Jays season-ticket holder, was hit in the shoulder by the letter. He was sore, but otherwise uninjured.
"I was very surprised, because I didn't expect a 'B' to fall on me," he told The Associated Press.
The letter rolled down the aisle and was picked up by another fan before the stadium staff retrieved it.
The unusual happening in the stands went unnoticed in the dugout.
"I didn't see it at all," said Toronto manager Cito Gaston.
Larry Millson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.