BALTIMORE -- Yunel Escobar is set to make his return to Toronto on Thursday for the first time since receiving a three-game suspension for writing a homophobic slur on his eye-black patches during a game against the Red Sox.
It remains to be seen what type of reaction Escobar will get from the hometown crowd upon his return. He has already apologized multiple times and pledged to take part in community events to bring awareness to the issue, but whether or not he is forgiven ultimately will be up to the fans.
"Yunel is going to go through the things that he stated in response to the suspension, and that's part of the ongoing education that he'll take part in," manager John Farrell said. "That's also part of the reaching out to the group that took offense to his actions. I would hope that he's able to make peace with that in short order and that we all move on from it."
The Blue Jays likely caught a break by heading out on the road immediately after the story broke about Escobar's use of the slur. The club played three games in New York and St. Petersburg before moving onto Baltimore for another four.
There has been no reaction at all to Escobar on the road and there's a strong possibility that enough time has passed that there won't even be much of an uproar at Rogers Centre when the Blue Jays open a four-game series against the Yankees.
"I think just through common reaction when it's most fresh in people's minds there is the potential for a little bit initial backlash," Farrell said, "but it doesn't take away from what took place."
Blue Jays optimistic Laffey can make one more start
BALTIMORE -- The Blue Jays remain optimistic that Aaron Laffey will be able to make one more start before the end of the season.
The left-hander tossed 5 2/3 innings during Tuesday night's 4-0 victory over Baltimore, but he admitted after the game he was pitching on fumes.
There was a noticeable drop in Laffey's velocity, as he consistently threw only 82-83 mph, and while he should still make one more outing, his status will continue to be monitored.
"He's a little stiff, and that's to be expected," manager John Farrell said of Laffey, who has already thrown 100 more innings this year than in 2011. "He's kind of beat up a little bit in general physically, not any one specific area.
"[It's] not unexpected by any means, but we'll take every precautionary measure, every treatment available to him and see how he responds over the next couple of days and we'll determine his next time out."
If Laffey is unable to go, then his start likely would be given to Shawn Hill. The veteran right-hander's contract was purchased from Triple-A Las Vegas on Monday to serve as a long reliever and emergency starter during the final week of the season.
The need for Hill arose because Laffey and right-hander Carlos Villanueva have thrown a high number of innings this season. Both starters are battling fatigue due to the increased workload, and Hill serves as an insurance policy in case any changes need to be made.
"We knew at a minimum he would give us length out of the bullpen," Farrell said of Hill. "Knowing that the doubleheader was Monday, the condition of both Aaron and Carlos as we're getting to the end here, we felt like we needed a guy who could go three-to-four innings in an outing if the need arose."
Laffey has thrown 159 1/3 innings this year between the Majors and Triple-A compared to just 57 combined innings in 2011. He is 4-6 with a 4.52 ERA for the Blue Jays this season.
Arencibia regaining timing as season winds down
BALTIMORE -- J.P. Arencibia is starting to show signs of turning things around at the plate, which indicates he is almost over a right hand injury that cost him more than a month of the season.
Arencibia, who fractured his hand in late July, entered play on Wednesday hitting 6-for-7 with a homer and five RBIs in his past three games. The quality of his at-bats have improved and it appears as though Arencibia is set to finish the year on a positive note.
"My timing and getting my strength back every day in my hand has been key," Arencibia said. "Every day that passes my hand gets stronger. I'm able to use my top hand again, and unfortunately I didn't have much time to rehab.
"That's not anyone's fault, it's just what the circumstances were. I wanted to come back, so it's been kind of a battle. But little by little, my strength is coming back and getting back to where I was before I got hurt."
Hand and wrist injuries are notoriously difficult for hitters to overcome. It impacts workouts during the rehab process and often takes a long time for the player to regain full strength.
That's why it was important for the Blue Jays to get Arencibia back into a regular workload so he could finish the year and remove any doubts about a potential long-term setback.
"I think it brings some closure to the injury, because if you end the year having missed a substantial amount of time, I think you go into the offseason [thinking], 'What kind of year did I really have? Was it incomplete?" manager John Farrell said.
"I think the fact that he ends this last couple of weeks trending upward, I think can put that hand injury and the results that soon followed after he came back, further out of his mind."
Arencibia is hitting .234 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs in 95 games this season.