ST. PETERSBURG -- It took a lot longer than originally anticipated, but the Blue Jays can finally count themselves as one of the contending teams in the American League East.
Toronto recently became the first team since the Indians in 1979 to use at least a 10-game winning streak to surpass the .500 mark. The only problem is that every other team in the AL East also has a winning record.
That's not entirely surprising considering how competitive the division was projected to be this season, but it will make securing a spot in a postseason a daunting task for any of those organizations.
"Going into the season, I think everybody looked at it that way," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Until two weeks ago, it wasn't. I think every team is good in the division."
The biggest obstacle any team in the AL East must overcome to qualify for the postseason is that Major League Baseball uses an unbalanced schedule. Each of those teams must face each other 18 times a year, compared to just six or seven games against their counterparts in the AL Central and AL West.
That has the potential to create a lot of parity within the AL East but comes with the danger of those teams beating up on each other and costing a shot at one of the two Wild Cards.
"It definitely hurts you in an unbalanced schedule, when you play [AL East teams] 18 times, but that's the way it is," Gibbons said. "Personally, I think it should be a balanced schedule -- that's the fairest way to do it."
Reyes to return from disabled list Wednesday
ST. PETERSBURG -- Jose Reyes is set to rejoin the Blue Jays in time for their series finale against Tampa Bay on Wednesday afternoon.
Toronto announced late Monday night that Reyes will be activated prior to Wednesday's game. A corresponding roster move is not expected to be made until around the same time.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos made the trip to Triple-A Buffalo on Monday night to watch Reyes play for the Bisons and must have liked what he saw. Anthopoulos gave the green light to activate Reyes from the 60-day disabled list and get him back into the Blue Jays' everyday lineup.
"He's not limited in anything that he can do, not hobbling at all," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said earlier Monday afternoon. "He's swinging the bat, stole a base. Basically, he has come so far, but as far as actually playing games, it hasn't been that long -- just trying to build that up."
Reyes has been out since he suffered a severely sprained left ankle while stealing second base in Kansas City on April 12. He was originally ruled out until the All-Star break but recovered quicker than anticipated and had his timeline moved up to the end of June.
With Anthopoulos in the stands, Reyes went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and an RBI while playing all nine innings at shortstop for Buffalo on Monday night. The Dominican native finished his rehab .414 (12-for-29) with a double and six runs scored in seven games for Class A Dunedin and Buffalo.
Reyes is expected to resume his spot at the top of the Blue Jays' lineup on Wednesday. The likely scenario would then see current leadoff hitter Melky Cabrera drop down to fifth, while Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind remain where they are.
The Blue Jays had their 11-game winning streak snapped with a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Monday night, but despite the positive stretch, it's clear that Reyes will add another dynamic piece to their lineup. Reyes is a career .293 hitter with a .343 on-base percentage and 415 stolen bases in parts of 11 seasons at the big league level.
Toronto will have a tough roster decision to make prior to Wednesday's game. Infielder Munenori Kawasaki could be the odd man out after filling in for Reyes during the four-time All-Star's 66-game absence. Kawasaki is hitting .225 with a .337 on-base percentage and seven stolen bases this season.
Another scenario at the Blue Jays' disposal is to drop a reliever. Toronto currently has an eight-man bullpen with just a three-man bench. The candidates include left-hander Juan Perez and right-hander Dustin McGowan, but both pitchers are out of options on their contracts and would be exposed to waivers prior to being sent down.
Right-hander Neil Wagner also could be a possibility. He has an option remaining on his contract and could be sent to Triple-A Buffalo without the risk of having another team pick him up.
Morrow waiting for forearm inflammation to subside
ST. PETERSBURG -- Right-hander Brandon Morrow has yet to resume throwing and there is no immediate timetable for his return to the mound.
Morrow, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list, began a rehab assignment earlier this month but left his outing for Class A Dunedin on June 17 after just two innings. He suffered a setback with his sore right forearm and has been temporarily shut down.
An MRI didn't reveal any structural damage, but there is inflammation in the area and the Blue Jays don't want to take any chances and risk further complications.
"He's going to make sure it's gone," manager John Gibbons said of the inflammation. "Last time we tried that and it didn't work."
Injured third baseman Brett Lawrie remains on the mend, but according to Gibbons, is still a couple of weeks away from starting a rehab assignment. Lawrie has been out since May 27 with a sprained left ankle and has begun taking ground balls and batting practice, but he is still limited in his overall workload.
In other injury news, left-hander J.A. Happ recently began throwing off a mound but is still "a ways away" from getting back into games. Happ, who is on the 60-day disabled list, will have to make multiple rehab starts since he hasn't pitched since May 7 in St. Petersburg, where he was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Desmond Jennings.
Right-handed reliever Sergio Santos will throw a bullpen session at Tropicana Field on Tuesday afternoon. Santos underwent a minor surgery to clean up bone spurs in his right elbow on May 19, and this will give Gibbons and pitching coach Pete Walker an opportunity to see him throw in person.