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CLE@TOR: Laffey goes five for first win of 2012

The Blue Jays are still in the cellar of the American League East, the only club with a record below .500. Making matters worse as they head into a three-game series against the Red Sox, their injuries just keep piling up.

There is seemingly no end to the dings and dents Toronto has suffered this season. They Jays have lost starters Brandon Morrow, Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek. Reliever Luis Perez underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week.

In New York, Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie went down in the same series. Bautista was placed on the disabled list with left wrist inflammation, and Lawrie was fortunate to emerge from a scary fall into a camera well in New York with only a right calf contusion.

"Much like the injuries we've sustained in our rotation, we haven't used it as an excuse," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "We haven't allowed that to distract us from what our end result is."

The Red Sox, who are tied for third with the Rays, also have been banged up, and they put designated hitter David Ortiz on the disabled list Wednesday with a strained right Achilles tendon. But overall, Boston's health has improved in the past week.

Jacoby Ellsbury returned last Friday, fellow outfielder Carl Crawford joined him on Monday, and Boston activated second baseman Dustin Pedroia from the DL for Thursday night's walk-off win against the White Sox.

"It's great, we need that thunder," Ortiz said of Pedroia, who missed 11 games with a strained right thumb. "Dustin has been driving everybody crazy around here not being able to play. He loves being on the field. Right now with myself being out and a couple guys coming in, it's working out perfectly."

Boston's rejuvenated lineup will face Toronto left-hander Aaron Laffey in Friday's opener at Fenway Park. Laffey picked up his first win of the season his last time out, allowing four runs over five innings against the Indians.

Laffey enjoyed his best outing of the season against the Red Sox on June 26, his first start of the year, when he allowed only three hits over six shutout innings.

Meanwhile, Red Sox starter Josh Beckett battled the flu going into his outing against the Rays on Sunday and said the medicine he took for it left him feeling "zapped" during a three-run first inning, as he experienced "borderline blackout periods" between pitches.

But the right-hander bounced back with five scoreless innings and picked up his 10th quality start of the season and his first win since May 31. He struck out seven and walked only two while giving up eight hits.

Beckett will look to keep things going for the Red Sox, who are 5-2 in taking their first two series after the All-Star break.

"We've got to win series now," he said. "We didn't put ourselves in a situation where we can go out and just play .500 baseball from here on out, so we've got to figure out a way to win some series."

Blue Jays: Farrell balancing eight-man bullpen
Toronto's bullpen has been taxed lately, forcing the club to go with an eight-man bullpen. Farrell admitted the lack of an extra position player has hurt, but he will continue to use the eight-man 'pen on a series-by-series basis. With a rain-shortened game Wednesday and Thursday's day off, a roster move could be on the way.

"Days of rest certainly play into it," Farrell said. "For the time being, we are at eight relievers."

The Blue Jays' late-inning relievers are set in stone: Darren Oliver, Jason Frasor and closer Casey Janssen. Past that is a second group consisting of rookies Sam Dyson and Aaron Loup, Francisco Cordero, Drew Carpenter and Chad Beck.

"That is where it takes an entire unit out there to contribute," Farrell said. "We are also taking a look at some guys to see what they have."

Red Sox: Gonzalez doing damage with the bat
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez notched his fifth straight multihit game on Thursday and now has at least one hit in 23 of his last 24 games. His only hitless effort came against the Yankees on July 7, when he left after one at-bat with flu-like symptoms.

During this stretch, Gonzalez is hitting .408 (40-for-98) with three home runs, five doubles and 19 RBIs.

"He's stepping in the box every time and he knows he's going to do damage and he expects it out of himself," outfielder Cody Ross said. "You can just tell when he gets in there he's determined. I've been watching him play for years and when you start seeing him hit balls like he does out to left field, you know he's locked in. When he's on it's a blast to watch. He can carry a team."

Gonzalez's OPS still sits 160 points below the .940 mark he achieved over the previous three seasons, but manager Bobby Valentine has been seeing progress.

"He's got the ability to drive the ball to all parts of the field," Valentine said. "When we were in Seattle and Oakland, he hit some balls really well that could have been game-winners into the gap that just died, and luckily he didn't get away from that swing. He looks like he's on right now."

• Ortiz expects to take some light swings in the batting cage on Friday and does not think he will be out longer than the 15-day minimum. He will have his right foot immobilized in a walking boot for the next four to five days.

Worth noting
• Toronto has lost seven of its last eight road games and nine of its last 13. Wednesday's loss to the Yankees handed the Blue Jays their fifth sweep, including their third on the road.

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