ST. PETERSBURG -- Brett Lawrie made his return to the Blue Jays lineup on Monday night following a four-game suspension for his dispute with home-plate umpire Bill Miller.
Lawrie, who initially appealed the four-game ban, had been out of action since last appearing in Wednesday's game against the Yankees. He was forced to watch his team last week from a suite, which was easier said than done for the energetic second-year third baseman.
"It was annoying," said Lawrie, who entered play on Monday hitting .281 with three homers and 17 RBIs. "It's a different perspective on the game, and I didn't like it that much. I want to be playing this game until I die. That's what this experience has meant to me. I'm happy to be back."
Lawrie received the suspension after arguing a pair of strikes and then slamming his helmet into the ground in the vicinity of Miller. Lawrie maintained all along that he never had any intention of hitting the umpire with his helmet and just because there was inadvertent contact doesn't mean he's going to alter his aggressive approach on the field.
"It hasn't changed me at all," Lawrie said. "I'm still the same player. I'm still going to have the same fire. In the heat of the battle, I'm still going to be the same guy. I'm not any different. At the same time, the only thing I have to learn is not to throw a helmet toward an umpire. That's what I learned."
Lawrie's return to the lineup meant utility man Yan Gomes has been relegated to the bench for at least one game. That could change in the coming days as manager John Farrell looks to find ways to get the rookie into his lineup.
Gomes made his debut on Thursday and proceeded to go 4-for-10 with a homer and three RBIs in four games. He has the ability to play behind the plate, at first and third base, which could make him a valuable contributor off the bench -- especially during Interleague Play.
"The versatility is going to come into play for sure," Farrell said. "We feel like he's capable of going over to first base if the need be and his versatility allows us on a night like tonight to DH J.P. [Arencibia] with no hesitation because if something unforeseen were to happen to Jeff [Mathis] we would insert Yan immediately.
"He's going to get his at-bats by moving through those three, possibly four positions including the DH."
Santos continues work on shoulder in rehab
ST. PETERSBURG -- Sergio Santos made his return to the Blue Jays clubhouse on Monday afternoon, but not in the capacity he would have originally preferred.
Santos, who is going through rehabilitation on his right shoulder in nearby Dunedin, Fla., visited his teammates at Tropicana Field prior to the series opener against Tampa Bay.
The 28-year-old has been out since April 21 with inflammation, but remains optimistic that he is finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel in his rehab.
"At first it was a little frustrating because you'd have a couple of good days and you'd be thinking 'Alright, I'm getting back' and then you'll have a couple of bad days," Santos said. "It gets you frustrated for a little bit just because I want to be out here with these guys.
"But the last week I felt a lot better, so I'm really looking forward to building up this week and hopefully having some bullpen stuff maybe sometime next week."
Santos has been stretched out to throwing from 120 feet and hopes to expand that to long toss -- approximately 250 feet -- by the end of the week. Pitching off a mound would come next followed by a rehab assignment in the Minor Leagues.
That should keep Santos out for at least the next three weeks, but the club is hesitant to put any official time frame on the rehab. Before that happens, the Blue Jays want to make sure he is 100 percent healthy, which does not currently appear to be the case.
Santos was quick to dismiss the notion that he was still experiencing pain in the shoulder, but he's also not back to full strength.
"I guess it would just be more uncomfortable than pain because it doesn't hurt, but you know when you're feeling 100 percent and you know when you're not," said Santos, who has two saves in four opportunities this season. "It's not quite at 100 percent, but it's getting there."
Litsch's shoulder continues to be issue
ST. PETERSBURG -- The news went from bad to worse for Jesse Litsch and his problematic right shoulder.
Litsch has been suffering through a living nightmare ever since he received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection to treat inflammation in his sore shoulder.
The PRP ended up causing a serious infection which required an emergency surgical procedure that, if left untreated, could have become a potential life-threatening injury.
It was believed, at the time, that the emergency procedure successfully removed any lingering infection, but more than two months removed from the surgery, Litsch is still experiencing pain.
"Obviously it's unfortunate that he's had to deal with the situation," manager John Farrell said. "We're still waiting. When he was still experiencing some discomfort he was sent out to see Dr. Lewis Yocum as a second opinion.
"The MRI didn't show any structural damage. While he's in the early phases of a throwing program and still feeling some discomfort, we took the next step to take some additional blood tests to make sure the infection is completely gone. We're still awaiting those results.
"But it was upon the recommendation and evaluation of Dr. Yocum that over these next two weeks, he needs to continue to go through the rehab. Continue to work on his range of motion, which it came back fully and then when he started to throw he felt a little bit more of that discomfort."
Litsch will continue to be monitored by the club's medical staff while waiting for the latest test results. That could shed more light on what the current issue is, although Farrell admitted this is a pretty rare situation.
"I don't know that for any of these situations there is a clear-cut template, every case is going to be a little bit different," Farrell said. "But hopefully this isn't a career-ending injury. This is a good pitcher and, like many guys, they go through some injuries that they've got to correct and hopefully there's every step taken to date puts him in line to do that. Hopefully, we get him back in the not too distant future."
Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero went 1-for-4 with a double during an intrasquad game at the Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin, Fla., on Monday afternoon. Guerrero will continue to appear in games at extended spring training and his status will be re-evaluated by the club on Wednesday. He likely will require multiple games in the Minor Leagues before joining the Blue Jays.