NEW YORK -- The Blue Jays' pitching staff is in rather dire straits after another short outing from a starter led to the depleted bullpen being forced to work overtime.
On Friday night, left-hander Aaron Laffey received an emergency start in place of the injured Josh Johnson and lasted just 2 2/3 innings against the Yankees. A quartet of relievers was then pressed into action, and the extended workload could have serious repercussions over the next couple of days.
Laffey surrendered two runs but walked five batters before being designated for assignment after the Blue Jays' 6-4 loss to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
"I was commanding the ball pretty good, and then, just in that third inning, I got ahead, 0-2, and just seemed like I lost my release point," Laffey said. "I just couldn't really get out front, stay on top of the ball. I was just kind of all over the place. I was trying to do everything I could to try to find my release point again."
Another disappointing loss for Toronto capped what has been an even more depressing week for Laffey. He was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays on Tuesday and a few days later found himself in the rotation when it was announced that Johnson had to miss his scheduled outing because of tightness in his right biceps.
The stint would prove to be short-lived. Laffey got through his first two innings relatively OK, but it was all downhill from there. In the third, he seemed incapable of finding the strike zone and walked four batters in the frame, with his only two outs coming on a sacrifice bunt by Brett Gardner and a sacrifice fly by Vernon Wells.
Manager John Gibbons had no choice but to go with his bullpen a lot earlier than he intended to, and he pieced together the rest of the game by using Brad Lincoln, Aaron Loup, Steve Delabar and Darren Oliver. The group allowed three earned runs, and the extended use leaves the Blue Jays strapped for pitchers this weekend.
Laffey gave up just two hits, but it was the walks that were his undoing. He has now allowed 15 runs in a total of 15 innings of work at Yankee Stadium.
"We didn't know what to expect," Gibbons said. "He battled. He just lost the zone in that one inning. That's basically all that happened. The other guys came in and held the game right there."
The Blue Jays have yet to announce a corresponding roster move following Laffey's departure, but in all certainty, another reliever will arrive in time for Saturday afternoon's game. The club likely will be without the services of all four relievers who pitched on Friday night.
The only rested arms are Esmil Rogers and Casey Janssen. Even left-hander Brett Cecil ideally would receive another day of rest after tossing 1 2/3 innings on Thursday. Making things even more problematic is that the club doesn't know what to expect from No. 1 starter R.A. Dickey on Sunday as he continues to deal with injuries to his upper back and neck.
The bullpen is suddenly a major area of concern.
"You know, we don't abuse any of them," Gibbons said. "We'll be conscious of that. But there's no question that we need a good one out of [J.A.] Happ tomorrow, that's for sure. We'll get a pitcher here, we'll be covered."
Almost lost in the fallout from Laffey's rough start is that the Blue Jays jumped out to early lead for the second consecutive day but were unable to capitalize. First baseman Edwin Encarnacion saw his hot streak continue with a home run in the first inning off right-hander Ivan Nova and another in the sixth off David Phelps.
This was Encarnacion's first multihomer game of the season and ninth of his career. He also has a four-game homer streak and has hit five homers over that span while obviously turning a corner after a slow start. Jose Bautista added his sixth of the year with a solo shot in the eighth.
But the offensive production mattered little after Lincoln surrendered an RBI triple to Lyle Overbay in the fourth. Overbay would eventually score on a wild pitch, and the Yankees tacked on a run in the seventh on a passed ball by J.P. Arencibia and one more in the eighth on a homer by Gardner.
"We put on the runs on the board, it's not as though we didn't do that," third baseman Brett Lawrie said when asked about his club's offensive woes. "It just seems as though right now we get off to an early lead, and somehow they crawl their way back in without laying the hammer down.
"I think that's the biggest thing right now -- teams are just finding a way back into the game. Ultimately, they're going to keep doing that until we put a stop to that."