TOR@BOS: Laffey pitches five innings of two-run ball

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays continued to manage their overworked bullpen on Monday, when they called up left-hander Aaron Laffey from Las Vegas and returned right-hander Chad Beck to the Triple-A club.

"We needed length, and [Laffey is] on the 40-man [roster] right now," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said before Monday's opener against the Orioles. "He was scheduled to pitch [on Tuesday]. He's a guy that could give us four or five innings, assuming the performance is there, if we need him. Hopefully, you don't, and your starter can go deep. But we needed the protection in case something was to happen."

A series of short starts and a couple of extra-inning games on Toronto's six-game road trip have resulted in a series of moves. On Sunday, Beck and right-hander Jesse Chavez were called up from Las Vegas, with catcher-infielder Yan Gomes sent down and right-hander Ryota Igarashi designated for assignment. Igarashi had been called up on Friday and was used in two games.

Chavez, who had been starting at Las Vegas, gave the bullpen a boost by pitching five innings in Sunday's 12-6 loss to the Rangers after right-hander Kyle Drabek was removed after three innings.

"What Chavez did ... Obviously, the game was out of hand, but at that point, being able to save your bullpen [was important]," Anthopoulos said. "At that point you can't continue to burn your relievers."

Anthopoulos said that all the recent moves are short-term.

"For right now we haven't planned for anything beyond short-term," he said. "We hadn't really thought that far ahead when we called up Chavez, called up all these guys. We're just managing in the now and trying to get our bullpen back and give them the right amount of rest.

"Chad Beck was up and he didn't get to throw an inning, but we needed length. It's one of those things. You explain it to the players. It's never easy.

Laffey, 27, has made nine starts for Las Vegas and is 2-5 with a 4.88 ERA. In his last four starts, he has a 2-1 record with a 2.70 ERA. He was with Toronto from April 9-14 but did not appear in a game.

Laffey has a career record of 21-23 with one save and a 4.34 ERA in 126 games (49 starts) over parts of five Major League seasons. Beck, 27, has made 19 appearances with Las Vegas and is 1-0 with seven saves with a 1.31 ERA.

Johnson returns to Blue Jays' lineup with a bang

TORONTO -- Second baseman Kelly Johnson tested his sore hamstring before Monday's series opener with the Orioles and was pronounced ready to go.

Was he ever.

Johnson wasted no time making an impact, legging out a double in the first inning and scoring on Colby Rasmus' single. With the double, he extended his string of reaching base safely to 20 games.

Johnson ended with two doubles, a two-run homer and three RBIs in the 6-2 win after missing the two previous games.

"He swung the bat very well," manager John Farrell said. "His gait is still a little bit guarded. He has to manage that situation a little bit, as we all know. The two games down gave him a little bit of some fresh legs, and the way he swung the bat was just outstanding."

Johnson was removed for pinch-hitter Omar Vizquel in the eighth inning of Friday's 14-3 loss to the Rangers, and afterward received an injection to reduce the inflammation, which has been bothering him for a while.

"You know one thing we're finding out about Kelly, he's got an extremely high pain threshold," Farrell said. "He's dealing with some discomfort, he's not 100 percent. But he's able to play to the capability that he is right now. It's something that we monitor every day."

"If it is going to hurt while I'm running bases, then I hope it hurts all game long," Johnson said. "We're done trying to be 100 percent. Everybody's playing with something. At 88 or 85 percent, that's good enough."

Escobar sits with injured left groin

TORONTO -- Shortstop Yunel Escobar was not in the lineup for Monday's opener against the Orioles because of an injury to his left groin.

"Right now Yunel's situation is day to day," manager John Farrell said. "We don't think that's a long-term issue."

The 29-year-old exited Sunday's 12-6 loss at Texas in the fifth inning after sustaining the injury two innings prior while running from first to third on a single by Colby Rasmus. The groin bothered him again in the fourth, and he was thrown out on a close play at first base on a ground ball.

Omar Vizquel, who played second base in the previous two games because Kelly Johnson was out with a sore hamstring, started at shortstop on Monday and batted ninth.

With the bullpen having been overworked in recent days, the Blue Jays entered Monday with an eight-man relief corps. This leaves them vulnerable on the bench, especially with the two middle infielders dealing with injuries.

"With the combination of eight relievers and [the Escobar and Johnson] situations, it makes our middle infield thin," Farrell said. "At some point we'll have to make some moves to adjust to protect ourselves if those two conditions persist."