BALTIMORE – There's something about the pitching mound at Oriole Park.
After losing Brett Cecil to groin tightness on Friday, the Blue Jays watched as R.A. Dickey removed himself from the game in the seventh inning on Saturday with the same problem.
Dickey insisted the decision to excuse himself was as much preventative as anything else but the sight of the knuckleballer trudging off the field cast a further pall on a 3-2 loss to the Orioles.
"I didn't want to jeopardize my next start," said Dickey. "I was probably out of the game after that next batter anyway so I decided it was probably in everybody's best interest to call it a day."
The Blue Jays conclude their four-game set in Baltimore on Sunday and have an off-day on Monday before opening up a three-game series in New York. Dickey isn't scheduled to work again until Saturday in Cincinnati and he's hopeful the extra day will provide enough time for a full recovery.
He saw a doctor after leaving the game and the diagnosis left Dickey feeling optimistic. He admitted, however, that he has never had a groin injury and therefore had no comparable to assess the degree of the problem.
Meantime, Adam Lind fouled a pitch off the top of his right foot in the sixth inning. He finished the at-bat against Orioles starter Bud Norris, grounding out, and didn't return when his designated hitter's spot came up again in the eighth. Dioner Navarro took his place.
X-rays were negative, it's a bone bruise, but Lind was noticeably hobbling after the game.
"You can see the seams," said Lind of the bruise.
"I didn't have a shin guard on or a foot guard so I'll be wearing one in the near future," said Lind. "I hit it pretty good. I hit it right on the sweet spot so it wasn't a soft liner off my foot. It was a pretty good one."
Lind will ice the injury on Saturday night and didn't rule out playing on Sunday, although to the observer that would seem unlikely.
Toronto's offensive slump continued on Saturday.
While the Jays got nine hits off five Orioles' pitchers, the club stranded five runners in scoring position on the afternoon.
Jose Bautista was thrown out at home trying to score from first base on Edwin Encarnacion's one-out double in the eighth. Baltimore led 3-1 at the time. Chalk it up to a bad send by third base coach Luis Rivera, who was overaggressive in waving Bautista around, perhaps because everyone is pressing to try to generate runs.
Toronto has lost six of eight games heading into Sunday's series finale with the Orioles.
At the time of this publishing, the Yankees were three games back of the Jays for top spot in the AL East (pending the result of their game on Saturday night in Oakland). Baltimore, in third place, closed the gap to three-and-a-half games.
Left-hander J.A. Happ gets the Sunday start. The Orioles counter with right-hander Chris Tillman.
McGowan's First Save
Dustin McGowan pitched the final inning and two-thirds of Friday night's 4-0 Blue Jays win over the Orioles, notching his first career big league save.
He didn't know of his milestone, however, until after the game when Jose Bautista presented him with the baseball.
The Jays led 4-0 in the eighth when McGowan replaced Brett Cecil, who went down with a groin injury. The Orioles had two runners on, meaning the tying run was in the on deck circle, qualifying McGowan for the save.
"I usually do," said McGowan when told he didn't know the rules for a save. "When I came in, I was just focused on getting the batter out."
McGowan's first pitch came in a 1-2 count to Baltimore slugger Chris Davis. Davis, like probably most in the ballpark, was expecting a fastball. What he got was a changeup on the outer half of the plate with plenty of movement. He flailed and struck out.
"Yeah it was a good pitch," said McGowan. "It was the best pitch I could throw in that situation and luckily it worked out."
McGowan had never had a save. Had he had a one-pitch strikeout before?
"I don't think I've ever had one of those either," said McGowan. "Probably the last one of those I get, too."
What's clear in his tone of voice and in his body language is McGowan's at peace with his permanent move to the bullpen. He thrived in the role last season and in 11 relief appearances this year, McGowan's allowed one earned run in 13 1/3 innings (0.68 ERA) while striking out eight and walking only one.
Manager John Gibbons has said repeatedly he believes the life of a short man will lengthen McGowan's career.
"I think he's right," said McGowan. "I'm recovering a lot better out of the bullpen and I'm not throwing 100 pitches, which makes it a lot easier."
The role suits McGowan's personality, too. He'll throw his fastball at 95 miles per hour without worry.
"That's one thing you can do out of the bullpen. You can let it go," said McGowan. "When I was starting, I had to reserve some in the tank. It's fun letting it go, too. It's how I've always been so it kind of works out good for me."
Jays Fast-track Santos' Return
A day after manager John Gibbons indicated Sergio Santos would remain with Double-A New Hampshire for a third rehabilitation appearance, Santos was back with the Blue Jays on Saturday.
The reason: Brett Cecil has a groin injury and while he hasn't been placed on the disabled list, Cecil wasn't available for Saturday's game against the Orioles and Dustin McGowan, who threw 1 2/3 innings on Friday evening, was available in a limited role.
Outfielder Darin Mastroianni was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo to make roster space for Santos.
Cecil was feeling better on Saturday but wasn't sure whether he would require a trip to the disabled list.
Manager John Gibbons can't have a short bench and a short bullpen at the same time so a decision will have to be made soon.
"A couple of days," said Gibbons. "We're short on our roster too with a position player."
Mastroianni and Kevin Pillar, both right-handed hitting outfielders, are inside the 10-day option window, meaning neither can return to the Blue Jays unless they replace a player who's gone on the disabled list.
Pillar was part of a centerfield platoon with left-handed hitting Anthony Gose in the absence of Colby Rasmus. The absence of a dedicated fourth outfielder means Gibbons would turn to Steve Tolleson to take an outfield spot in the event a late-game replacement is needed.