Osuna returns to action with scoreless inning

Osuna returns to action with scoreless inning

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are searching for positives after a frustrating first week to the season, and at least they found one in the return of Roberto Osuna.

Toronto's closer was back on the mound Tuesday night as he tossed a scoreless inning in the Blue Jays' 4-3 loss to the Brewers. He struck out one and allowed one hit while tossing 14 pitches in his first appearance of the season.

Osuna was activated from the 10-day disabled earlier in the day after missing the first week of the year -- and most of Spring Training -- with neck spasms. Despite the lack of recent work, Osuna did not show any signs of rust, as he gave his team one last chance to get back into the game. In the end, it wasn't enough.

"I worked the last two days to get my fastball to where I wanted it," Osuna said after the game. "I felt much better today. I think my breaking ball was good today, too. I felt pretty good. I'm very happy with the inning today, so just keep working and hopefully I can get better."

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said earlier in the day he would not hesitate to use Osuna in high-leverage situations and even on back-to-back days now that he has returned. Osuna expressed a similar sentiment after the game, and while he stopped short of guaranteeing he would be available on Wednesday, he did express optimism that would be the case.

The 22-year-old experienced a drop in velocity while he was battling neck issues this spring, with the Blue Jays even turning off the radar gun for one of his final appearances. That might have been an issue before, but it was not on Tuesday night, as he consistently hit 95 mph with his fastball and topped out at 98.

"Everything is fine," said Osuna, who finished with 36 saves last season. "I did a couple of exercises to get better, so hopefully we can keep it this way."

Osuna's presence should let the rest of Toronto's bullpen return to its normal roles. Veteran righty Jason Grilli temporarily filled in during Osuna's absence, but he will now settle into a setup role alongside Joe Biagini and Joe Smith. Until J.P. Howell returns, Aaron Loup will serve as the club's primary lefty.

"Your top reliever is always your closer down there, so any time he's available, it does something for me, it does something for the coaching staff, and everybody in general," Gibbons said. "Coming into a season, not always defined roles right away, but everybody has a pretty good idea of what they're doing. That's your safety valve down there, and when [somebody] is missing, you push everybody back. Not that they can't do those roles, but that's not the way it was designed."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.