Drafted in '06, Diaz finally makes Blue Jays debut
Filling in for injured Reyes, shortstop collects first big league hit, RBI
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jonathan Diaz had to wait a little bit longer than first anticipated, but he has now officially come full circle with the Blue Jays.
Diaz was drafted by Toronto in 2006 and spent seven years in the organization, but never made it to the Major Leagues with the club. He finally got his shot last season in Boston, but when the offseason came along, he decided to return to the Blue Jays on a Minor League deal.
Now, just two days into the season, Diaz finds himself on the Major League roster after his contract was purchased from Triple-A Buffalo following a hamstring injury to Jose Reyes.
"I know how important Reyes is to the club and he's irreplaceable," said Diaz, who started at shortstop Tuesday night. "You can't replace a guy like that and I'm just here to do what I can, help the team win and I just want to contribute.
"Unfortunately it was Reyes going down and he's such a major part of this team. I just want to be able to go out there, play defense, whatever I can, get on base for the guys to drive me in."
Throughout Diaz's career, he has been frequently compared to former Blue Jays infielder John McDonald. Diaz has limited upside with his bat -- as evidenced by his career .230 average with a .655 OPS in eight Minor League seasons -- but he's also an elite defender.
The Blue Jays decided to put an emphasis on that part of the game as they decided to go with Diaz over Munenori Kawasaki. Kawasaki, a fan favorite, can provide a little more offense, but he also doesn't have nearly the kind of range that Diaz has up the middle.
"We wanted to throw our best defense out there," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's the best shortstop we got out there, he's really good out there."
Reyes is expected to miss at least the next two weeks with mild inflammation in his hamstring.
Diaz entered Tuesday night's game against the Rays hitless in four career at-bats, but it didn't take long for his presence to be felt in Toronto's lineup. He drew a walk in his first at-bat, then had an RBI single off right-hander Alex Cobb in the fourth inning. That helped propel the Blue Jays to a 4-2 victory, their first of the season.
"It felt pretty amazing, especially with the team that drafted me, the team that I spent so many years with," Diaz said. "It was definitely a good feeling and that we got the 'W' was even better."
Santos out to seize opportunity to close games
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Sergio Santos has another shot at closing now that Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen is out because of a lower-back injury.
Santos was acquired to become Toronto's primary closer before the 2012 season, but was injured just three weeks into the season. A similar situation arose the following year when Santos made just a handful of appearances before August.
The hard-throwing right-hander was expected to start this season in an eighth-inning role, but that changed when Janssen suffered an injury during his final scheduled appearance of the spring Friday in Montreal.
"Any time an opportunity is presented to you, you want to make the most of it, and that's all I want to do," said Santos, who recorded 30 saves for the White Sox in 2011. "If I get a couple opportunities at that ninth-inning role, come in, throw strikes and get the job done. Hopefully I can build off that and who knows what could happen."
This opportunity also provides Santos with a shot at redemption following those injury-plagued seasons. In '12 it was a shoulder injury and last year it was a surgical procedure to remove bone spurs from his elbow.
Santos did return in August, though, and allowed just four earned runs over his final 21 1/3 innings. That showed just how dominant he can be, but he admits that he still pitches with a chip on his shoulder because of the checkered past.
"Trust me, for a year and a half just being hurt and being away from anything was one of the most miserable things in the world," Santos said. "That's something that keeps the fire going in me and keeps the fuel going in me. I know where I was then and I know where I want to be, and I'm just going to work as hard as I can and hopefully make the most of whatever opportunity I get."
In Tuesday night's 4-2 victory over the Rays, Santos allowed a run, but stranded runners on second and third by striking out Yunel Escobar looking to end the game.
• Left fielder Melky Cabrera took over for the injured Reyes as the Blue Jays' leadoff hitter for Tuesday's game against the Rays. Gibbons also decided to move Colby Rasmus up in the order to bat second.
"I don't know what else we were going to do," Gibbons said. "Colby can hook 'em with the best of 'em, maybe if we get someone on first, he can hit that hole."