07/21/06 7:50 PM ET
Notes: Walker's season over
Right rotator cuff tear puts 37-year-old's future in question
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
The operation, which is scheduled for Tuesday, will effectively end Walker's year. On Friday, Toronto manager John Gibbons didn't sound too confident that the 37-year-old right-hander would be able to pitch again, but said Walker was the type of player that could defy the odds.
"It's going to be tough to come back at his age. It's a pretty major thing," Gibbons said. "If there's one guy that can do it, it'd be Pete. I'm sure we'll give him a chance to come to Spring Training to see where he's at, but it's not going to be easy."
Walker, who was 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 30 innings of work this year, was placed on the 15-day disabled list July 8 because of a shoulder injury. Over the All-Star break, the Blue Jays sent him to Birmingham, Ala., where he had noted orthropedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews evaluate the extent of the injury.
Toronto wanted to see if the pain Walker was experiencing was related to the shoulder bursitis that landed him on the DL on June 10. Andrews identified the rotator cuff as the source of the latest flare-up and Walker had to decide whether to have surgery or not.
"He got checked out last week," Gibbons said. "It was a decision of whether he wanted to rehab it -- if that'd do any good -- or get the actual surgery. He decided to have the surgery on his rotator cuff, which is major."
Prior to joining the Blue Jays in 2002, Walker had stints with the Mets, Padres and Rockies during his 16-year professional career. Walker hadn't pitched more than 13 Major League games in a season until Toronto claimed him off waivers in '02, when he made 37 appearances for the Jays.
"When you've been pitching that long -- all that wear and tear -- eventually you'll get some breakdown in there," Gibbons said. "It just started catching up with him."
Walker had his best big-league season last year, going 6-6 with a 3.54 ERA in 41 games. If the Blue Jays decide to give Walker another chance next season, they would most likely sign him to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training.
A good mistake: No one was going to argue with the result of Vernon Wells' final at-bat on Thursday, when the Blue Jays center fielder belted an 11th-inning walk-off solo home run off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to beat New York, 5-4.
Prior to the game-winning moonshot, though, Wells was supposed to successfully execute a hit-and-run with Frank Catalanotto on first base and no outs. Rivera threw a pitch that Wells couldn't turn on and Catalanotto was thrown out at second base.
"I was upset that he made that pitch," Wells said. "You want to do what you're told. I was getting ready to swing and I had to basically save my knees. I was more upset that I was unable to swing and do my job."
After the home run, the Blue Jays couldn't have cared less.
"I'm glad he didn't hit it," Gibbons said with a laugh.
Taubenheim, Rios update: Toronto right-hander Ty Taubenheim, who is on the 15-day DL with a staph infection in his left foot, was back with the team on Friday. Gibbons said that Taubenheim wasn't near being ready yet and would have to make at least one Minor League rehab appearance before rejoining the staff.
Right fielder Alex Rios, who has been sidelined by a staph infection in his left leg since June 27, will not be available for the beginning of Toronto's upcoming road trip, which begins Monday in Seattle. Gibbons said Rios would "need some games" in the Minors, too, before coming off the DL.
"It's not like he can go down there for one or two [games] and be ready to go," Gibbons said.
Rookie League begins: On Thursday, the Blue Jays teamed with Toronto Community Housing to launch the 18th season of Rookie League Baseball, which is a Jays Care Foundation program that provides a free league for more than 400 underprivileged children between the ages of eight and 14.
Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Godrfrey and Wells, who has served as the Rookie League's honorary commissioner since 2002, were on hand at the league's opening ceremonies. Wells helped distribute baseball gloves to each of the participants and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The Jays Care Foundation is also helping the Field of Dreams program, which is aimed at restoring and upgrading baseball diamonds throughout Toronto. The foundation also has instituted the Big League Dreams Scholarship, which will help a few kids with the Rookie League pay for a college education.
Quotable: "You wait around for two or three hits off Rivera in one inning and it usually doesn't happen. You try to make something happen. It didn't work, but Vernon made something happen." -- Gibbons, on Wells missing the hit-and-run on Thursday
Coming up: Toronto left-hander Ted Lilly (9-8, 3.86 ERA) will take on New York righty Chien-Ming Wang (10-4, 3.92 ERA) at 4:07 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Rogers Centre.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.