ARLINGTON -- Late-inning relief has become the Blue Jays Achilles' heel during July.
Toronto's bullpen has converted just two of its nine save opportunities this month. On the whole, the Blue Jays have blown 17 saves in 37 opportunities this year, which is tied with the Angels for most in the American League.
"That's a high number, obviously," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "And yet we have the guys here that we're going to deal with, we're going to continue to put in situations to close games out.
"You can point to certain things, as long as we don't create opportunities for the opposition, we should convert a greater percentage of the saves that we're presented with."
Toronto lacks at a bona fide closer. Right-hander Frank Francisco was handed the role earlier this year but lost it on a couple of occasions while struggling with a 5.34 ERA and four blown saves in 28 2/3 innings.
Jon Rauch also received an opportunity and proceeded to go 7-for-11 in save opportunities. Every member of the bullpen has at least one blown save except for right-hander Octavio Dotel, who successfully converted his one chance on May 21 vs. Houston.
"I think the biggest thing is when we are able to throw strikes and force the opposition to beat us and not give opportunities," Farrell said. "That's what we've got to focus on first and foremost."
While the back end of the bullpen has received a lot of criticism, the overall numbers haven't been that bad. Toronto's relief corps has posted a 3.64 ERA in 316 2/3 innings, which ranks third in the American League.
Middle relief has become a strength of the team with right-handers Jason Frasor and Casey Janssen enjoying successful campaigns.
Frasor is 2-1 with a 2.98 ERA in 42 1/3 innings while limiting opposing batters to a .244 average. Janssen is 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA and has been particularly effective vs. lefties, who are hitting just .219 against him.
"The one thing that we continually strive to do is gain some consistency with the overall usage," Farrell said. "That's not to say we have roles etched in stone, but where Frasor has been very good in that seventh and eighth inning, particularly against the middle of the order.
"Casey has thrown the ball extremely well ... whether or not he's a guy we would turn to, he had the one save opportunity in Kansas City and converted it, yet we've got experience out there. Guys that have closed games out in the past and we've got to get them to the point of playing up to their capabilities."
Arencibia flashes 'D' as he finds groove at plate
ARLINGTON -- Lost in the shuffle of Saturday's gut-wrenching ninth-inning collapse was a terrific defensive play by J.P. Arencibia.
Toronto's catcher was put on the spot when Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus executed a suicide squeeze in front of home plate.
Right-hander Jon Rauch charged the ball and attempted to make a flip throw to the plate with his glove. Mike Napoli slid into home and beat the throw to tie the score at 4, but that didn't faze Arencibia.
Toronto's rookie immediately spun and fired the ball to first base just in time to get Andrus. Instead of runners on the corners with one out, the Blue Jays found themselves one out away from getting out of the inning.
"It was just one of those things where I knew we weren't going to have an opportunity to get the guy at the plate," Arencibia said. "As soon as [Rauch] let it go, knowing the situation, trying to get that second out because now that runner on third doesn't make much of a difference.
"Instead, with two out you can get a pop fly and end that inning as opposed to one out pop fly ends that game."
Arencibia also appears to be finding a groove at the plate. The 25-year-old entered play Sunday night with three home runs in his previous two games.
That impressive output came on the heels of going 13 games without a homer. From June 9-July 21 he was batting just .134 (13-for-94) with two home runs, two doubles and seven RBIs.
Arencibia credited the turnaround in Texas to working with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy and not overthinking things at the plate.
"I was putting a ton of pressure on myself," Arencibia said. "Just getting so mechanical and think about all these mechanics. I had so many things in my head. Finally me and Murph just tried to make it simple.
"He had been saying it for a while and I was still trying to be too mechanical. Finally, I kind of just emptied my brain and said, 'OK, I'm going to see the ball, hit the ball and just let my abilities take over,' and it has been able to ultimately help me with my success."
Arencibia is batting .216 with 15 home runs and 42 RBIs in 76 games. He is just nine home runs shy of the Toronto rookie record set by Eric Hinske in 2002.
Lawrie starting to regain stroke at Triple-A
ARLINGTON -- Top Blue Jays prospect Brett Lawrie appears to be finding his timing at the plate during his first week back with Triple-A Las Vegas.
Lawrie went 1-for-4 on Saturday night and is 9-for-19 in his past four games. The native of Langley, British Columbia, also smacked his first home run of the month with a two-run blast on Friday night.
"There has been some hard contact," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "He's doing a good job defensively as well. I think more than anything, as we look at situations where a guy misses either a two-week or prolonged stretch where they're able to step right back in and maintain some of the approach that they've had prior to the long layoff, those are all encouraging signs."
Lawrie missed more than a month after fracturing his left hand during a game with Las Vegas on May 31. The 21-year-old was on the verge of being promoted to the Major Leagues at the time of his injury, but the club wants to make sure he is all the way back to full strength before he makes his debut.
"It hasn't changed or given us a projected date," Farrell said of Lawrie's recent success. "But it's good to see him back on the field doing what he's doing."
Lawrie is batting .353 with 16 home runs and 54 RBIs in 58 games for Las Vegas.
The Blue Jays have hired John Mallee as senior roving hitting instructor for the remainder of the 2011 season. Mallee spent parts of two seasons as the Marlins' hitting coach before being let go in June. He also spent nine years with Florida as a Minor League instructor.
Jose Bautista was back at third base on Sunday night. Toronto has been playing him at third every other day as it attempts to ease the slugger back from a twisted right ankle. With an off-day on Monday, Bautista is expected to start at third on Tuesday against Baltimore.