4/18/2013 8:14 P.M. ET
Janssen's success anchors back of bullpen
By Steph Rogers and Evan Peaslee / Special to MLB.com
TORONTO -- There wasn't much for Casey Janssen to do Wednesday night other than watch his team rendered helpless at the plate in a 7-0 loss against the White Sox.
It's not to say that the 31-year-old hasn't made an impact on the Blue Jays, but he matters most when the adrenaline is highest and he has three outs to keep the door closed on an opposing team.
"I've relied a lot on my command, hitting my spots. I've been good at it," the Blue Jays closer said. "One way or another, it seems to be getting outs."
He's recorded a save in 26 of his past 28 chances, dating back to May 9, 2012, when he took over the role. Janssen is still convinced he can feel even better physically as he continues to nurse his way back from a routine off-season shoulder surgery.
"I'm feeling better, but it's totally not completely gone. There's days were it's like ..." Janssen trailed off, motioning that things are so-so. "They're becoming less and less. That's nice. My velocity's slowly starting to creep up a little bit.
"You have to be a special pitcher to be able to pitch at 88 to 90 mph and do it when the game's on the line."
Janssen is a stark contrast to those he took the duties from. First, the hard-throwing Sergio Santos, whose season was cut short a year ago, and then, struggling veteran Francisco Cordero. By all counts, the California native caught a lucky break when he inherited the role.
"It's nice to have a role and have a place on this team," Janssen said. "Then it's just a matter of going out and continuing to earn that opportunity."
It's a welcomed change to arrive at work knowing that his methodical personality is well-served in the ninth inning.
He sits in the same corner spot every night on the Rogers Centre bullpen bench. He stretches at the same time, in the same way. He takes the same path around the perimeter of the mound after striking out an opposing hitter. He's also learned to recognize the signals his body sends him as he gets older and his responsibilities change.
"You don't necessarily long toss everyday; you throw to tolerance every day. You don't work out because you know a workout in the weight room might not benefit you as much as it should or could," he said. "You pick and choose your battles on a daily basis. You stretch a lot, you get treatment. I'm sure the trainers are sick of me right now."
Janssen entered Thursday's series finale against the White Sox with a 1.80 ERA, four saves and eight strikeouts. Toronto's bullpen ranked seventh in the Majors with 49 strikeouts entering play on Thursday and it pitched the second most innings with 55 1/3.
"We've got a lot of talented guys down there," Janssen said. "We've got experience with a guy like Darren [Oliver] and now Ramon [Ortiz]. We've got some talented young arms, where it seems like their arms feel great every day.
"We have a lot of combinations and a lot of ways to get guys out. We're not necessarily giving the other team the same look with every guy that comes out. We might bring out a left-hander, but it's a completely different left-hander than the other one. Same with our rightys."
Lawrie looks for timing after quick return from DL
TORONTO -- Brett Lawrie took some extra batting practice with Blue Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola on Thursday after going hitless in his first two games back from a strained left oblique muscle.
The Blue Jays activated Lawrie from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, but even manager John Gibbons admits the team would have liked to have their third baseman spend a little more time in Dunedin, Fla., working on his timing after missing almost all of March. Injuries to the club forced Lawrie to return quickly, though.
"He's lost rhythm, that's about it," Mottola said prior to Thursday's game against the White Sox. "I think a safe bet [for him to find his rhythm] is 10 days. I think he can do it before then, but to expect more than that is kind of unfair."
Lawrie, who went 0-for-7 with a sacrifice fly in his first two games, isn't looking to change anything mechanical at the plate, he simply needs more reps after missing most of Spring Training.
"It's not necessarily something technical, it's not like that," he said. "It's just getting into a good rhythm, getting back into a good routine, and that's it.
"It just takes a few games just to get that good rhythm going and into that good mindset and just get everything where I need it to be."
Even with a slow start at the plate, Lawrie has more than made up for it with his glove. The third-year player has made a handful of difficult plays at third base look easy, showing people how dearly his defensive ability was missed while Mark DeRosa and Maicer Izturis struggled at the hot corner to begin the year.
"He sure looks good over there at third base," Gibbons said.
Mottola points to pressing offense for recent woes
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays offense has struggled of late, scoring only 12 runs in the team's past five games entering Thursday's finale against the White Sox, and sits 22nd in the league in runs scored.
It's obvious the team is missing Jose Bautista's bat in the middle of the lineup, and other than a couple of players, the Blue Jays just simply haven't found any consistency at the plate. Adding to the team's troubles is a .185 average with runners in scoring position, and it's clear why Toronto has struggled to score runs.
"I think it's just them pressing and trying to pick up the guys that we are missing from the lineup," said hitting coach Chad Mottola prior to Thursday's game against the White Sox.
Most hitters aren't allowing themselves to work deeper into the count, and when they do, they're expanding the zone and swinging at balls that are out of the strike zone, according to Mottola.
The team has been without its biggest bat in Bautista the past week and lost its hottest bat in Jose Reyes, so it's easy to see why the club may be trying to pick up the slack, although it's counterproductive to an offense.
"I think that if everyone goes out there and does what they're capable of doing and doesn't go beyond that, then we're going to be a lot better off," Brett Lawrie said. "But I feel if we go out and try and do more than we're capable of doing, that's when things are going to go wrong."
Mottola said that the team just needs to score three or four runs in the first inning and take some pressure off of themselves.
"What happens is we're not scoring first, then you're seeing at-bats change," he said.
Lawrie had an even easier suggestion.
"We all just need to take a big deep breath," he said, "and go out there and play."
Ortiz returns to big leagues at 40 years old
TORONTO -- Veteran right-hander Ramon Ortiz pitched 3 1/3 innings Wednesday in Toronto's loss against the White Sox. It was his first Major League outing since Sept. 28, 2011.
"The best thing in baseball is when you work hard, a lot of positive things can happen," he said. "I'm 40 [years old] soon, you don't see too many guys my age. I'm so happy. I always thank God, I don't know how many times."
The reliever gave up five hits and a walk, striking out two in his return to the mound. He joked that former teammates are always in shock when they see him.
"I know guys who are coaches and managers in the big leagues [or] the Minor Leagues. When they see me, they say 'Ramon, you're still playing?'"
Steph Rogers is a contributor to MLB.com. Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.