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08/06/10 11:25 PM ET

Jays turn to Mills for spot start vs. Rays

Brad Mills did it once. The Blue Jays are hoping he can do it again.

The 25-year-old pitcher was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas to take the place of Jesse Litsch, who was scheduled to start on Saturday. Litsch is out for the season and is scheduled to undergo season-ending hip surgery.

Mills will take the hill on Saturday as the Blue Jays try to take the series in the second of a three-game set.

Mills made one previous spot start for the Blue Jays this season, and it couldn't have gone much better. He used his violent over-the-top release to earn a win on July 28 against the Orioles, allowing just two hits over seven shutout innings.

"It's great to come up here and prove to myself that I belong here," Mills said. "I can pitch here and get outs here. Regardless of if I was staying or going down, I know I can pitch here."

Despite his strong outing, he was optioned back to Triple-A after his start. But with Litsch sidelined, Toronto's choice for a replacement was obvious.

"Mills pitched pretty good up here," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. "So we'll give him another shot and see what happens."

A second win this season likely will be much more challenging than Mills' first. James Shields will start for the Rays, coming off what manager Joe Maddon said was the best he'd ever seen him.

Shields (10-9, 4.54 ERA) threw 7 1/3 shutout innings against the Yankees on Sunday -- his first scoreless start since last May. The right-hander tied his season low by allowing four hits, and he struck out 11 batters for his third consecutive win.

"I see him staying in his delivery better, not falling off," Maddon said. "When he does do that he's able to locate his fastball better. Having said that, his velocity is a little bit less, which I like. [He threw] 92-93 mph, when a lot of times he overthrows a bit for balls. He's throwing a little bit harder, but the ball is not going where he wants it to. Because of [his mechanical adjustments], his changeup has gotten better. I think because his alignment and consistent delivery, his changeup is going to be better.

"Furthermore, I've also seen the utilization of more curves and less cutters. I think those are all ingredients for success. It begins with his delivery and it goes down to pitch selection."

Blue Jays: Arencibia to make debut
Rookie J.P. Arencibia is likely to make his Blue Jays debut behind the plate on Saturday. Toronto's first-round Draft pick in 2007, Arencibia could receive most of the playing time at catcher due to John Buck's thumb injury that landed him on the disabled list.

Arencibia was hitting .303 with 31 home runs, 32 doubles, 71 runs scored and 79 RBIs in 95 games with Las Vegas this season before being promoted. The 24-year-old catcher is expected to be a big part of the club's future, and fans will get their first look at him in a Blue Jays uniform when he catches former Triple-A teammate Mills.

"I'm going to come in, and I'm going to play," Arencibia said. "I'm going to learn, and it's really out of my control. I'm going to come to the field every day ready to play, and whenever I get my opportunity, I'll just get it done."

Rays: Foot forces Pena to DL
First baseman Carlos Pena was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday with lingering foot issues. He had been sidelined with plantar fasciitis in his right foot since Saturday's contest against the Yankees, when he exited in the sixth inning after hitting a fly ball to right field.

Ben Zobrist and Dan Johnson will pick up the slack at first base until Pena is able to return on Aug. 16. Right-handed pitcher Dale Thayer was called up from Triple-A Durham to fill the void in the active roster.

"Last night, and [Friday] in the morning, they brought it up. I wasn't too happy, to be honest, because I want to be out there playing," Pena said. "I felt confident I would be able to [recover] within a short amount of time, within a couple of days. I thought maybe tomorrow I would be able to play. But after talking to the doctors and to [Maddon and the medical staff], we looked at it in a different way.

"Would I rather play eight weeks at 75 percent or seven weeks at 100 percent? For me, it's a no-brainer -- I'd rather play seven at 100."

Worth noting
Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista has belted at least one home run in nine consecutive series. With a homer in the three-game set against the Rays, Bautista would tie the franchise record. Carlos Delgado belted a homer in 10 straight series in 2001. ... Left-hander Scott Downs is riding a streak of 19 consecutive shutout innings, representing the longest scoreless run of the season by a Blue Jays pitcher. ... Maddon gave All-Star outfielder Carl Crawford a respite on Friday. The club is in the home stretch of a 20-game-in-20-day stretch, and with Crawford playing in 104 of the teams 108 games this season, Maddon decided to give Crawford the night off.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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