Notes: Rotation shuffled for Burnett
Right-hander shifted to Tuesday; Thursday's starter not set
NEW YORK -- Not to be outdone by the Yankees, who have made multiple changes to their probable pitchers over the past few days, the Blue Jays made a late adjustment to their own rotation on Monday afternoon.
"Keep everybody guessing," Toronto manager John Gibbons joked.
A.J. Burnett was originally slated to take the mound for the Blue Jays in the regular-season finale at Yankee Stadium, but he left the club to tend to a family matter at home. With Burnett temporarily out of the mix, rookie right-hander Jesse Litsch moved his next scheduled start up a day to start against New York.
The switch creates the first of two changes to Toronto's probable starters for the upcoming three-game set on the road against the Orioles. Burnett lives outside of Baltimore, so Gibbons said the right-hander is expected to rejoin the team and start in the opener on Tuesday at Camden Yards.
"Burnett should be back to pitch tomorrow," Gibbons said on Monday. "He had to take care of some personal business, but he's in Baltimore."
That much is known, but the Blue Jays have yet to reveal who will start against the Orioles on Thursday. Shaun Marcum was slated to start in that contest, but he's set to undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on Wednesday in Florida.
The top candidates to fill in for Marcum are reliever Josh Towers, who went 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA in 15 starts earlier this year, or rookie Josh Banks, who was added to Toronto's roster as part of September callups. On Monday, Gibbons said that the final start in Baltimore could go to Banks, who would be making his first Major League start in the city in which he was born.
This season, the 25-year-old Banks -- selected by the Jays in the second round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft -- went 12-10 with a 4.63 ERA in 27 starts at Triple-A Syracuse. Over 169 innings with the Chiefs, Banks recorded 101 strikeouts and 24 walks, with a .284 opponents' batting average
Litsch was originally penned to take the ball in the opener against the O's. Moving his start up by one day didn't present a problem, considering the Blue Jays had an off-day on Thursday. Litsch, who last started on Wednesday against the Red Sox, was starting on his normal four days of rest.
Injury updates: After missing one game with a sore right knee, designated hitter Frank Thomas was back in the starting lineup for the Blue Jays on Monday. Thomas exited Saturday's game in the fifth inning after feeling minor pain in his right knee, and he was kept on the bench on Sunday as a precaution.
Gibbons said that injured left-hander Scott Downs was still not available out of the bullpen, though. Like Thomas, Downs left Saturday's game due to injury. During the sixth inning, the reliever's back locked up while he sprinted to cover first base. Gibbons indicated that Downs was feeling better on Monday and added that the pitcher should be fine within the next few days.
On Tuesday, first baseman Lyle Overbay is scheduled to have four pins removed from his ailing right hand by Dr. Thomas Graham in Baltimore. Also on Tuesday, center fielder Vernon Wells will have an operation to remove a cyst and repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.
Streaking: Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill lined a pitch from Yankees starter Andy Pettitte into center field for a single in the second inning on Monday. That extended Hill's hitting streak to a season-high 10 games. Entering the game, Hill had hit .450 (18-for-40) with six doubles and one home run during his nine-game hitting streak. He also entered the contest ranked third in the American League with 45 doubles.
Worn thin: On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Toronto used 21 pitchers who had combined to throw 574 pitches. Needless to say, there are a few fatigued arms in the Blue Jays' bullpen. Aside from Downs, Gibbons said that left-hander Brian Tallet, lefty Joe Kennedy and right-hander Brandon league weren't available on Monday.
Did you know? On Sunday, the Blue Jays nabbed three would-be New York base stealers. It marked the first time since June 7, 2001, that Toronto caught three in a single game and the first time since July 10, 1994, that Jays catchers threw out three runners in one contest.
Quotable: "We're like the Cubbies." -- Gibbons, joking about playing three straight days games
Coming up: Toronto right-hander A.J. Burnett (9-7, 3.40 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound when the Blue Jays face the Orioles at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Camden Yards. Baltimore will counter with left-hander Brian Burres (6-6, 5.27 ERA).
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.