TORONTO -- With a right-hander on the mound for the Orioles, and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on the hill for Toronto, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons plugged in every left-handed bat into his lineup for the series opener on Friday.
The lineup featured only two right-handed batters: Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. It's a lineup that Gibbons plans to run out whenever there's a righty on the mound.
"That's our lineup against righties," Gibbons said. "The only difference is [Josh] Thole being in there to catch Dickey."
In its current configuration, the lineup features an infield defense of Macier Izturis at third, with Munenori Kawasaki and Emilio Bonifacio patrolling the middle of the infield, something that's become the norm the past week or so.
Blue Jays' 'pen has become mighty
TORONTO -- A big part of the Blue Jays' eight-game winning streak entering Friday's game against the Orioles has been the club's starting pitching. But what has been a constant all season has been the strength of the bullpen.
The Blue Jays are the only team in the Majors yet to blow a lead in the seventh inning or later; they were 26-0 heading into Friday's series opener.
The emergence of Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil has pulled the bullpen -- largely considered to be the weakness of the club entering the season -- out of obscurity and turned it into the Blue Jays' greatest weapon.
Cecil was riding a club record with 43 consecutive batters faced without allowing a hit after retiring all five batters he faced Friday night, and Delabar has been on quite a roll himself. He hasn't allowed a run over his last nine appearances and has struck out 18 batters in his last 10 innings, leading to the moniker that some fans have given him -- Strikeout Steve.
"That sounds pretty cool, so I'll stick with it," said Delabar, who leads the American League in strikeouts for a reliever with 47.
"First off, he's got that great arm," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It's a great success story, you know. He was out of the game, comes back, and he's one of the better relievers in baseball right now."
Delabar famously worked as a high school baseball coach and substitute teacher three years ago, after sustaining a severe elbow injury in 2009 while in the Minors.
His success and resurgence comes after he started using the velocity program that was created by Jamie Evans, who is now a consultant with the club. The program helped increase Delebar's speed, and he now regularly sits in the mid-to-high 90s.
The new-found velocity has made both his fastball and splitter among the game's best, allowing him to strike out batters seemingly at will.
"You go in with the mindset that I'm going to get this guy out, and our whole bullpen has been the same." Delabar said. "When the count gets in our favor with two strikes, we just put them away."
Like Delabar, the bullpen is currently enjoying its finest month as a unit. They haven't allowed an earned run in their last 24 innings, four shy of the club record set in 1989, and they lead the Majors with a 0.67 ERA, .147 opponents average and a 0.85 WHIP since May 31.
"The confidence is there, and the whole feel of everything, the same guys are down there, familiar faces, everything is just real comfortable," Delabar said. "The bullpen is kind of rolling together. We know when we're going to pitch [and] everybody is in a comfortable role right now."
With the bullpen rolling, and each man in a defined role, the unit feeds off of the momentum that they've built.
"It's not me against the other guy in the 'pen. It's what he did, I'm going to roll off that," Delabar said. "You got that big rock at the top of the hill and that rock is starting to roll. So we're going to keep giving it a little bit of a shove and keep it rolling."
Reyes doubles, scores in first rehab game
TORONTO -- Jose Reyes' weekend series with Triple-A Buffalo will be a deciding factor as to when the Blue Jays' shortstop will rejoin the big club.
Reyes got off to a solid start, playing all nine innings on Friday night against Durham and going 1-for-4 with a double and run scored. Reyes is scheduled to play nine innings at shortstop in all three games, including Sunday, which will be his first day game after a night game.
With Reyes' return imminent, there has been plenty of talk on whom he will replace and what the Blue Jays' lineup will look like once he returns.
Manager John Gibbons chose not to speak on the impending move, but is getting a clearer idea of how his lineup will shape up.
"He'll definitely be at the top," Gibbons said of Reyes. "We're not sure what we'll do after that."
The most likely move will see Melky Cabrera slide behind the hot-hitting Adam Lind into the five-hole -- something that Gibbons seems to be leaning towards at the moment.
Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.