05/01/2013 7:55 PM ET
Dickey, Johnson on track to make next starts
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
TORONTO -- Blue Jays ace R.A. Dickey has been cleared to make his next start after the results from an MRI came back clean.
Dickey underwent an evaluation on Tuesday to discover the reason behind lingering pain in his upper back and neck. The MRI ruled out any type of structural damage and just displayed some inflammation.
That puts Dickey on track to make his next scheduled start on Saturday afternoon against the Mariners.
"Just a little inflammation, nothing bad. He threw a side out there and feels very good," manager John Gibbons said. "Even yesterday, before he had it, he said he was feeling much better."
Dickey has been pitching with discomfort in his neck for the past several weeks and despite the positive MRI news, it's something he'll likely have to keep dealing with.
That's not exactly an ideal situation for the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner, but so far, it hasn't negatively affected his performance. Dickey has appeared in four games since the injury first popped up and in each of those outings, he has thrown at least six innings.
The sore neck has had a slight impact on his overall velocity, but for the most part, it's something he should be able to deal with as long as the pain is tolerable.
"The doctors indicated that it's just a matter of time before it goes away," Gibbons said. "But you keep irritating it when you throw it, but we need him out there and he wants to be out there. Plus, they looked at it and there's nothing serious at all."
Right-hander Josh Johnson also appears to be in the clear for his next start. Johnson was forced to miss his last outing in New York because of tightness in his right triceps muscle.
The 29-year-old also went for an MRI which revealed some minor inflammation and he should be able to pitch on Friday night. He threw a short bullpen session on Wednesday and it appears as though the Blue Jays have narrowly avoided a couple of potentially serious setbacks to their pitching staff.
"We didn't feel good about it, but all indications early on were they weren't anything major," Gibbons said. "But you never know for sure."
Farrell firm believer in weighted ball program
TORONTO -- A weighted ball program that reliever Steve Delabar introduced to the Blue Jays last year has caught the eye of Red Sox manager John Farrell.
The program, designed by Jamie Evans, helped Delabar gain four-plus mph on his fastball and is now something Farrell's youngest son, Luke, has turned to. Luke Farrell has also seen his velocity increase four mph and he's now able to hit 94 on the radar gun.
Farrell, Toronto's former manager, brought in Evans to talk to the Blue Jays last year during a road trip in Baltimore. After hearing what Evans had to say and the results that Delabar got, Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil also turned to it and has enjoyed an uptick in velocity, too.
It's a program that Farrell has brought up with people in the Red Sox organization.
"We've had discussions, not to implement on a broad scale, but I think it's definitely worth maybe a pilot program to take a closer look at it," Farrell said. "There is a lot of validity to it."
Farrell said that Evans pretty much guarantees that he can help a pitcher gain at least four mph. While Farrell wasn't sure if it was something that organizations would start implementing in the future, he said it's certainly getting the attention of many.
As more players start turning to it and reaping the rewards, it will help bolster the program's credibility. Then, Farrell said, that's when an organization could look to apply it full scale.
Some players are skeptical of throwing with weighted balls due to injury concern, but Farrell said there are added components to Evans' program that make it much safer. Players perform mock or partial throws with the weighted baseball, which is placed in a sock, and hold it in a position on a follow through to help increase strength -- one of the differences from simply throwing with a heavier ball, Farrell said.
The program is designed specifically for each person based on age, height and weight.
"[Luke] was tested the same day Brett [Cecil] was to go through the initial assessment down there [in Baltimore]," Farrell said. "The benefits that both Brett and Delabar have experienced -- there is validity to the program."
Former Blue Jays Draft pick Eliopoulos passes away
TORONTO -- Former Blue Jays Draft pick Jake Eliopoulos passed away on Monday at the age of 21. Details surrounding his death were not yet known.
Eliopoulos was originally selected by Toronto in the second round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. The two sides could not come to an agreement on a deal, and Eliopoulos instead attended Chipola Junior College in Florida.
The native of Toronto unfortunately suffered a drop in velocity and went 1-2 with an 8.44 ERA before dropping out of the program midseason. He was selected in the 15th round of the 2010 Draft by the Dodgers and by the Blue Jays the following year in the 43rd round.
Eliopoulos never signed a professional contract. His funeral will be held Monday at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Toronto. He is survived by parents Jim and Lea, siblings Derek and Zoe and his best friends Max, Grant and Colin, according to his obituary.