The Toronto Blue Jays are getting their ace back sooner than expected.
After undergoing an appendectomy less than three weeks ago, Roy Halladay returns to the mound as Toronto (24-28) kicks off a four-game series against the struggling Chicago White Sox (24-24) on Friday night at Rogers Centre.
Halladay (4-2, 4.37 ERA) was expected to miss four to six weeks following surgery on May 11, one day after struggling for a second consecutive start en route to a loss to AL East-leading Boston. Halladay said he felt good after throwing 65 pitches in a simulated game Friday.
The 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner won his first four decisions this season, but received only one run of support in his only two starts this month while being knocked around for 17 runs and 23 hits in 10 1-3 innings.
Against Boston, Halladay threw only 86 pitches over five innings and was tagged for eight runs - seven earned - and 11 hits in an 8-0 defeat. Despite seeing the best pitcher on his team struggle, manager John Gibbons is anxious to send Halladay back to the mound.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game. We want to run him out there,” Gibbons said Saturday before a 9-8, 13-inning road win over Minnesota.
Toronto, which trails Boston by 12 games in the AL East, failed to record its first three-game home sweep of the New York Yankees since September 2000 after falling 10-5 on Wednesday night. Rookie Jesse Litsch, making only his fourth start, lasted just two-thirds of an inning and yielded five runs and four hits.
Following the game, Toronto activated Halladay and optioned Litsch to Double-A New Hampshire.
While the Blue Jays will have their ace back on the mound, the White Sox hope Mark Buehrle (2-1, 3.86) can rediscover the form that made him one of the team’s better pitchers in recent years. The left-hander will try to record his 100th career win - and first since April 23 - for Chicago, which is trying to avoid tying a season high with its fifth straight loss.
The White Sox scored only seven runs while losing five straight from April 28-May 4.
Chicago will have to bounce back from perhaps its most frustrating defeat of the season. With the bases loaded, David Aardsma allowed the winning run on a four-pitch walk in the bottom of the ninth of a 7-6 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday, a game in which the White Sox squandered a five-run lead.
Afterward, Chicago’s Ozzie Guillen sounded as if he expected to be the first manager in the majors to be fired this season - less than two years after ending an 88-year World Series drought.
“I’m going to get fired? Good. Is this team going to get better having me out of there? I’d be too happy with it. But as long as I’m here, we’ve got to play better. As long as I’m here, we have to play better,” he said after Chicago’s staff recorded a 9.12 ERA in the three-game sweep against the Twins.
He’ll look to Buehrle to end that slide. Since beating Kansas City late last month, though, the left-hander is 0-1 with a 4.83 ERA in five starts.
Facing Tampa Bay on Friday night, Buehrle allowed four runs and eight hits over seven innings, but didn’t get a decision in Chicago’s 5-4 win.
He’s 2-1 with a 3.96 ERA in seven career starts against the Blue Jays.
The White Sox went 5-4 against the Blue Jays last season, with three of the wins coming in Toronto.