TORONTO - It sure is nice, when plans go awry, for the alternative to work out.
The Blue Jays, minus injured starters Josh Johnson and J.A. Happ, have twice in five days put their fate in the hands of a 39-year-old pitcher who hasn't held a regular job in the major leagues since 2007.
Ortiz has given the team 12 innings in two starts, allowing only two runs. On Wednesday he was brilliant, tossing one run ball over seven innings as Toronto cruised to an 11-3 victory and a sweep of a mini two-game set with the defending world champion San Francisco Giants.
"I thank God for the opportunity," said Ortiz, who at one point during spring training had about a half-dozen Spanish-speaking teammates captivated as he preached a sermon at his locker. "He gave it to me to pitch in the major leagues again and I'm so happy to be here and pitch in the game. It's a great game tonight. Team play well, hit well, everything good together, so I'm very happy."
"He probably never envisioned he was going to be in this situation where he would make some starts in the big leagues again," said manager John Gibbons. "He came up earlier in the year; he was kind of a long guy. He's at that stage of his career where he probably wasn't going to get that opportunity. Now he's getting it and he's taking advantage of it."
Ortiz picked up his first win since September 11, 2001, when he pitched for the Cubs. That victory was in relief.
Until Wednesday night, Ortiz hadn't won a game he started since April 17, 2007.
"He's done unbelievable," said catcher J.P. Arencibia. "He goes out there, gives up a run and then shuts them down for the rest of the game. Especially after we put some runs on the board, to be able to go back out and shut them down that's huge. He did a great job of just keeping them off balance. We needed that."
The Blue Jays have won four in a row for the first time this season and the bats seem to be trying to make up for six weeks of inconsistency all at once. Since being one-hit by Red Sox ace Jon Lester last Friday, Toronto has scored 36 runs on 49 hits.
Under the tutelage of hitting coach Chad Mottola, who's been preaching a "take what the pitcher gives you" approach, the club's collective plate discipline has improved.
"That's what good hitters do," said manager John Gibbons. "I think early on we were strictly thinking pull, pull, pull, looking for the long ball. I think we've changed that a little bit. Now we're using the whole field, taking whatever they're throwing us.
"What I think it does too, it keeps you on the offspeed pitch out over the plate," Gibbons continued. "It also allows you to foul off some tough pitches and stay alive. We're still an aggressive club. We're swinging at our pitches a little bit more now too but you still have to look out over the plate because that's where most of the game's pitched."
CABRERA HAS MRI
Melky Cabrera, bothered by pain in both legs since late March, has been diagnosed with irritation of the right quadriceps and left hamstring.
Cabrera hasn't missed a game so far this season and will continue to play as long has it is tolerable to do so.
Manager John Gibbons will use Cabrera in left field when the opponent starts a right-handed pitcher. Cabrera will be the designated hitter when the Blue Jays face a left-hander.
Here's the reasoning: Gibbons wants both Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind in the lineup when a right-hander is on the mound. One of them plays first base, the other is the DH.
Lind won't be in the starting lineup against left-handers, meaning Cabrera can move into the DH spot. Gibbons says he's comfortable putting Emilio Bonifacio in leftfield.
SANTOS TO HAVE SURGERY THURSDAY
The reliever will pay a visit to the legendary Dr. James Andrews on Thursday for what the Blue Jays call a "minor" procedure on his right elbow.
Santos will have bone spurs, which have caused him discomfort, shaved down. Andrews also will remove "loose bodies" from Santos' elbow.
If the surgery and subsequent rehabilitation go well, Santos could return to the Jays' bullpen before the all star break.