TORONTO -- Melky Cabrera is expected to return in the near future after appearing in his first game for Triple-A Buffalo on Friday night.
Cabrera began his rehab assignment last week for Class A Dunedin and has since played three games for Double-A New Hampshire. He entered play on Friday hitting .294 (5-for-17) with one homer and two RBIs in five rehab games.
The 28-year-old has been out since June 28 with left knee tendinitis, but discomfort in both of his legs has been a lingering problem since the season began. He might not get back to 100 percent this season, but there has been at least some improvement since being shut down.
"The reports I've gotten are that he's running better," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I'm not sure if he's running like he used to, but definitely better."
The Blue Jays will face a tough roster decision when Cabrera is eventually activated from the 15-day disabled list. The club currently only has a three-man bench and it would seem unlikely that Emilio Bonifacio, Mark DeRosa or Josh Thole gets removed from the 25-man roster.
That will force the club to drop a reliever from its eight-man bullpen. Right-hander Neil Wagner has an option remaining on his contract and could be sent to Buffalo, but left-hander Juan Perez would have to pass through waivers before he is eligible for a Minor League assignment.
Complicating matters even more is that right-handed reliever Sergio Santos is also nearing a return. Santos struck out the side in his first appearance for Buffalo on Thursday night, but likely will need to work on back-to-back days for the Bisons before a promotion becomes a realistic possibility.
Santos would have to be activated from the disabled list before his potential 30-day rehab assignment comes to an end on Aug. 2. If the club opts to wait until then, it's possible a move at the non-waiver Trade Deadline would open up another spot on the roster.
"I'm not sure," Gibbons said when asked for Santos' timeline. "These guys here are all pitching good, so they've bought us some time. We want to make sure he's good and ready."
Blue Jays need quick second-half start
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are looking to turn the page on a disappointing first half of the season, but the only way they can realistically do that is with a fast start out of the All-Star break.
Toronto finished the first half with a 45-49 record, which was the organization's worst mark heading into the break since 2004. It's a far cry from where the club thought it would be at this time of the year and the impact has been felt in the standings.
The Blue Jays entered play on Friday night trailing first-place Boston by 12 1/2 games. The outlook for the second Wild Card spot isn't a whole lot better with Toronto 8 1/2 games back of Texas.
"We need to do something quick, we really do, and the teams ahead of us in our division are all playing good," manager John Gibbons said. "We definitely need to play better baseball."
There was a glimmer of hope in the middle of June when the Blue Jays reeled off 11 consecutive wins to get back into the race, but all of the progress was then undone with a 7-13 mark before the break.
That creates the daunting challenge of needing to go 45-23 over the final 68 games of the season to reach the 90-win mark. It won't be easy, but with Melky Cabrera nearing a return, accompanied by J.A. Happ and Brandon Morrow hopefully not being too far off a strong post-break record is possible.
"We expected more wins, but as far as running the team and everything that happened, no," Gibbons said when asked if his job has been more difficult than expected this season. "You never know what to expect, but I think having done it before has helped that, having done it here, has helped that."
Gibbons will be patient with returning Lawrie
TORONTO -- Brett Lawrie is finally healthy, but the Blue Jays will exercise some patience when judging his performance at the plate.
Lawrie missed approximately six weeks with a severely sprained left ankle earlier in the year, but returned two games before the All-Star break in Baltimore.
The 23-year-old had just one hit in eight at-bats against the Orioles, but manager John Gibbons was generally pleased with what he saw following such a prolonged absence.
"I don't know if you can look at results, because sometimes you can hit a lot of bleeders out there and your numbers get jacked up a little bit," Gibbons said. "He barrelled a few balls in Baltimore in those two games, but he didn't have much to show for it."
Lawrie hit just .204 with five homers and a .621 OPS in 39 games in the first half and will now attempt to turn his season around while also making a transition to second base.
The native of British Columbia spent the past three years as a third baseman, but has since moved to the middle of the diamond where he used to play while in Milwaukee's Minor League system.
"The key is, he's played that most of his career coming up with Milwaukee," Gibbons said. "That's nothing new to him and now it's just repetition. The big thing is that he has to work with [Jose] Reyes, because that's new to both of them. We'll see how all of that works out. I kind of like the look of it, so we'll see."
• Left-hander J.A. Happ threw five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts for Class A Dunedin on Thursday night. Happ has been out since May 7 after getting struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings, but has since made a lot of progress.
Happ is expected to ascend through Toronto's Minor League system and could make a return in early August. He is 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA in seven starts for the Blue Jays this season.