5/30/2013 11:51 P.M. ET
Wagner, Perez make strong case in 2013 debuts
By Jon Cooper / Special to MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Wednesday night's solid appearances by pitchers Juan Perez and Neil Wagner weren't their first in the Major Leagues, but both took a step toward making it their last audition and becoming permanent pieces of the bullpen.
"If you're a guy that hasn't been here, it's always an audition," said manager John Gibbons prior to Thursday night's series finale with the Braves, an 11-3 loss. "They're trying to establish themselves as full-time guys and finish their careers up here, so it's always an audition for those guys. They're trying to work their way in, and they did a nice job of impressing us last night, that's for sure."
If there's a greater sense of urgency, it would probably be for Perez. The lefty will be 35 in September, is with his fourth Major League franchise since debuting in 2006, with Pittsburgh, and has already bounced back from elbow surgery that cost him almost all of 2008. He showed that he could dominate, retiring all eight Braves he faced, striking out four of them, and only twice getting as far as a three-ball count. Of those batters, he got Juan Francisco on a foul pop and came back to strike out Justin Upton.
Wagner, 29, had only seen the Majors for six games with Oakland in 2011, but he showed he could bring the heat on Wednesday, living in the mid- to upper 90s all night and keeping the Braves off balance with a slider in the mid- to upper 80s. He allowed only one hit but erased that runner by inducing a double play from the ensuing hitter.
Gibbons feels that both Perez, who had a 0.86 ERA when he was called up from Triple-A Buffalo, and Wagner, who was at 0.89 with the Bisons, may have laid the groundwork for a long stay in Toronto.
"You look at the way they threw last night, you could pitch them anywhere," he said. "In a tight ballgame against a good ballclub, when we had to have it, they stepped up. They showed they could get some pretty good hitters out. That's a good thing."
DeRosa still feels right at home in Atlanta
ATLANTA -- No one will ever accuse Mark DeRosa of forgetting where he came from.
Even though it's been nine years since he wore a Braves uniform, DeRosa still enjoys the feeling of coming to Atlanta, where he played from 1998 through 2004 and where his now-16-year Major League career started.
"It's home for me," DeRosa said. "I get a chance to sleep in my own bed, go in the pool with my kids and have a sense of normalcy. I work out with all [of the Braves] in the offseason, so this is like a home game for me."
DeRosa has felt comfortable here from the time he came up as a 23-year-old utility infielder. He's still made to feel at home at Turner Field, receiving a warmer welcome from the crowd during pregame introductions than several Blue Jays who are also former Braves. He started at third base and batted fourth on Thursday in the finale of the four-game home-and-home Interleague series.
DeRosa came up huge in the sixth inning, taking a first-pitch, knee-high cutter over the middle of the plate from Atlanta starter Mike Minor and lining it just inside the right-field line and into the corner, knotting the score at 3.
"He had been getting ahead of me all night," DeRosa said. "I kind of made a little plan that I wasn't going to let that happen again, so I was going to be more aggressive."
In three games against Atlanta, DeRosa went 2-for-8, but both hits were doubles, and he drove in three runs. The double on Thursday was especially satisfying, even against the backdrop of the 11-3 loss.
"It's always nice," he said. "I have family here. I probably know those guys better than I know my own teammates. So yeah, you want to come out and play well."
Now 38, DeRosa is at ease with being the veteran who can share what he's learned with the youngsters making their way up and looking to find their way, as he once did.
"I was very fortunate to come up with a team that every time they put their jersey on, they expected to win. They taught me how to win, taught me how to be a professional on and off the field," he said. "I love giving that advice to people, because I was never too proud to ask what they did on the field, pick their brains every day about different things, how to go about certain situations that will arise throughout the course of a game. So if I can be a sounding board for other guys, I love that."
DeRosa entered Thursday's game hitting .206, with three homers and 16 RBIs, but he's still dangerous. He hit homers in back-to-back games on May 5-6, the first time he accomplished that feat since July 27-28, 2009. He hit a big two-run double in his last start against the Braves, on May 28.
DeRosa just wants to contribute and play a role on a Major League roster, especially one that's on the way up -- as he did in San Francisco in 2011, in Washington last season and, he believes, in Toronto this season.
Being in the Majors is something he's never taken for granted, and never will.
"This game is so fleeting. Your time here is so fleeting. To make it as long as I have, I'm very proud of that," he said. "I think it was always year to year when I was with the Braves. 'What do I do to stay on the team? How do I stay on this roster?' I look up now, and I've been on eight teams and been in the league for 16 years. It's been quite a journey."
Johnson's return to Blue Jays takes another step
ATLANTA -- Josh Johnson took another step closer to getting back to Toronto on Thursday night, when he made his second start with the Buffalo Bisons.
Johnson went 4 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on eight hits, striking out three and walking three. He took the loss after the Bisons lost, 7-2, to the Durham Bulls. It was the third rehab start for Johnson, who went on the disabled list on May 2 with inflammation in his right triceps.
The 29-year-old fireballer was the centerpiece of the offseason trade with the Marlins that also netted Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck and cash. He started the season 0-1 with a 6.86 ERA in four starts before going on the DL.
Thursday's outing was supposed to be the final one for Johnson before returning to Toronto, following a rehab start at Class A Dunedin and another for Buffalo on May 25. He has a 5.40 ERA in those outings, allowing 12 hits, striking out 11 and walking four.
Lind gifts teammates with colorful tank tops
ATLANTA -- Maybe it's being around the Braves so much lately, hearing the chant and seeing signs reading, "This is why we chop!"
On Thursday morning, infielder Adam Lind put his own spin on the slogan, turning a trip to breakfast into his own play on the slogan: "This is why we shop!"
Lind later entered the clubhouse and handed out turquoise tank tops adorned with "JAPAN" in bold red capital letters over a red circle (the symbol on the Japanese flag) to seven teammates.
The lucky recipients, who certainly stood out in the clubhouse prior to the game, were Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Emilio Bonifacio, Edwin Encarnacion (who gave his to clubhouse neighbor J.P. Arencibia), Esmil Rogers and Munenori Kawasaki.
Lind, who kept a shirt for himself, said he was walking after breakfast and popped into Urban Outfitters at Lenox Mall, across from the hotel where the team is staying.
He saw the shirt in the store and couldn't resist.
"I bought all eight," he said and laughed.
Manager John Gibbons admitted that the shirts got his attention.
"It's an odd color," said Gibbons. "Where's Lindy shopping?"
• Wednesday night's game marked just the fourth time in franchise history that the Blue Jays shut out an opponent despite their starting pitcher recording fewer than 12 outs. Oddly, it's the second time it's happened in two years, as they did it last June 15, when Drew Hutchinson lasted two-thirds of an inning. Prior to 2012, you'd have to go back to May 12, 1993 (Todd Stottlemyre, 2 2/3 innings) and before that, Aug. 27, 1985 (Tom Filer, one inning).
• The Blue Jays saw their streak of double-figure-hit games snapped at six on Wednesday, even though they outhit Atlanta, 8-4. They also saw their run of five-run games ended at six. Their 47 runs over that stretch led the Majors (two better than Baltimore).
• Wednesday night was only the fourth time in 2013 that the Blue Jays won when scoring three runs or fewer. It was the first such win since their 3-2 victory at Boston on May 11.
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.