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After losing slugfest, Jays alter relief corps

After losing slugfest, Jays alter relief corps

TORONTO -- Down the hall from the Blue Jays' clubhouse, the door to manager Cito Gaston's office was closed late Monday night. The players know what that means. Most often, it signals a return to the Minor Leagues for a teammate.

Following a draining 13-12 loss to the Red Sox at Rogers Centre, where the Jays' bullpen was asked to log six innings in a grueling seesaw affair, Gaston became the bearer of bad news for a pair of relievers. He was left with little choice given the way the club's bullpen had been battered in recent days.

"We're short arms right now," Gaston said after his postgame meetings. "We had to do something to get some arms up here."

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The Blue Jays optioned right-hander Jeremy Accardo to Triple-A Las Vegas and designated Merkin Valdez for assignment, giving the club 10 days to either reassign, trade or release the righty. To fill their spots in the 'pen, Toronto recalled right-hander Josh Roenicke and purchased the contract of lefty Rommie Lewis.

Both Roenicke and Lewis -- contenders for the bullpen during Spring Training -- are expected to be in Toronto in time for Tuesday's night game against Boston. Their arrival will breathe some life into a relief corps that was forced into extra work due to an early exit from starter Dana Eveland on Monday evening.

This after the Rays pounded the same 'pen over the weekend in St. Petersburg.

"Our bullpen's been beat up a little bit the last three games," Gaston said.

That qualifies as an understatement.

Over the past three contests -- losses contributing to a 3-7 slide over the Jays' past 10 games -- Toronto's bullpen has surrendered 17 runs on 20 hits over nine innings. The club overcame an early 5-0 deficit with a six-run outburst in the third inning of its latest loss, but the 'pen was tagged for six runs over the final six innings.

That meltdown began when Accardo took the mound after Eveland allowed Boston's first two hitters to reach base to open the fourth. A wild pitch allowed the Red Sox to tie the game -- effectively erasing the three-run homer from Jose Bautista that gave Toronto a 6-5 lead a half-inning earlier -- and then a two-run single from Jason Varitek helped Boston run to an 8-6 advantage.

In his five appearances for the Jays this season, Accardo allowed all six of his inherited runners to cross home plate. After the right-hander fashioned an 8.10 ERA over 6 2/3 innings, the Jays decided that he was better werved working out his issues at Triple-A. Valdez (20.25 ERA in two outings) was more a victim of circumstance.

The 26-year-old Roenicke was acquired from the Reds in the Trade Deadline deal that sent third baseman Scott Rolen to Cincinnati last year. Roenicke, who appeared in 13 games for the Jays in 2009, has not allowed a run over 8 2/3 innings with Vegas this month. Lewis, 27, has a 2.35 ERA over seven Triple-A games after posting a 1.50 ERA in six innings this spring.

Gaston said he was looking forward to seeing Lewis, who is set to make his Major League debut.

"He opened up a lot of eyes in Spring Training," Gaston said. "I liked the kid all spring, but it was just one of those things where you can't bring everybody. He happened to be a guy that we could send out."

Now, the Blue Jays are looking for Roenicke and Lewis to give them some much-needed relief.

"We ran through all our guys," Gaston said. "We'd be hurting a little bit if we didn't have some fresh arms here. I'm not worried about it. I just hope we can continue to move forward and have those chances to win ballgames. If that can go on all year, then we've got a chance to win some games."

Thanks to a strong night from the offense, the Blue Jays (10-10) were indeed in a position to walk away with a win against the Red Sox (9-11). Toronto chased Boston right-hander Josh Beckett (eight runs on nine hits) after just three-plus innings and then added four additional runs off the Red Sox's bullpen.

The Jays had eight different players record at least one hit and five with mutlihit showings. Seven players scored at least one run and five collected at least one RBI. Toronto established season bests with 12 runs and 16 hits in a game that lasted four hours and three minutes, falling 13 minutes shy of becoming the longest nine-inning game in club history.

First baseman Lyle Overbay led the charge for the Jays with a 3-for-5 showing that included a solo home run in the sixth inning and four RBIs. Bautista also drove in four -- three on his third-inning blast and one on a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Bautista's homer capped off an outburst in the third that saw 10 Jays combine for six runs on six hits with two singles, two doubles, one triple and the homer.

And, yet, it was not enough.

"Not a good day to pitch today," said Eveland, whose ERA ballooned to 4.57 from 1.93 with his performance. "I didn't have my best stuff out there. I pitched behind a lot and paid for it. They're a good hitting team. If you make mistakes, they're going to take advantage of it, and that's exactly what happened."

After Eveland bored the brunt of Boston's barrage, relievers Shawn Camp, Casey Janssen and Accardo labored as well. The Red Sox had issues of their own, cycling through seven pitchers in the game. In all, the Jays and Sox used 13 pitchers who combined to throw 399 pitches, which results in 25 runs and 34 hits.

"It's one of those games that either side never quit," Gaston said. "We kept battling back and I'm pretty sure between the two managers we just pretty much felt like every time we put somebody in there we'd just need one out. We had trouble getting one out.

"The guys swung the bat and they battled like crazy tonight. We'll just have to put this one behind us."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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