CLEVELAND -- The Blue Jays got a pair of much-needed innings out of right-hander Esmil Rogers during Saturday afternoon's 5-0 victory over the Indians.
Toronto entered the game with five of its relievers -- Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil, Neil Wagner and Todd Redmond -- unavailable to pitch. It was a less-than-ideal situation that was made easier to handle because of seven-plus innings from left-hander Mark Buehrle.
There was still a need for someone to come in from the bullpen and close things out. Rogers entered with a pair of runners on and nobody out in the eighth inning, but managed to record the final six outs without any major issues.
"He was outstanding. I think he kind of simplified all of his pitches," Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro said. "We went with a 1-2 combo, fastball-slider and it worked out pretty good."
Rogers has gotten off to a rough start this season, so any positive outing he has can be considered a step in the right direction. He has already given up four home runs in just 10 1/3 innings, and that has caused the club to hesitate before using him in any close ballgames.
Prior to Saturday's game, he had gone five full days without pitching in the bullpen. He still gave up a very deep fly ball in the eighth, but managed to escape without any runs crossing the plate and according to Navarro, his slider was one of the main reasons why.
"He was throwing the backdoor to lefties ... and the fastball has some life to it," Navarro said. "He hit 95 a couple of times, and it was nice to have him bounce back like that, and he's going to help us out a lot throughout the whole season. He has what it takes and he needs to keep throwing the ball like that, and his confidence will start building up again."
Navarro's offensive production an added plus
CLEVELAND -- The Blue Jays had a very quiet offseason, but the one significant upgrade they made can be found behind the plate.
Veteran catcher Dioner Navarro entered play on Sunday afternoon tied for the team lead with 12 RBIs. He's also struck out just three times in 63 at-bats and has helped provide some additional depth to Toronto's lineup.
There's still some work to be done, as Navarro is hitting .254 on the season with a .597 OPS, but the catching position isn't the same kind of black hole it used to be when J.P. Arencibia was struggling to historic lows in 2013.
"Some people in this game now don't believe in RBIs, but I sure as heck do, and those were two big ones that gave us a little breathing room right there," manager John Gibbons said of a key two-run single Navarro had during Saturday's 5-0 victory.
"He's got some clutch hits for us. He's just a good hitter. He doesn't strike out much, he puts the ball in play, he's a line drive guy. He gives you a great at-bat, either way."
To a certain extent, Navarro's numbers are a byproduct of where he has been hitting in the Blue Jays' lineup. Navarro has split his time this season in the No. 5 and No. 6 spots of the batting order, and he has been presented with plenty of opportunities, with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and the now injured Adam Lind hitting in front of him.
The reason he's hitting in those spots, though, is because he has gained the trust of Gibbons. Last year, Arencibia's .227 on-base percentage was the lowest in the Major Leagues among players with at least 250 at-bats. His production with the Rangers this season is equally as poor, as he has just two hits and one walk in 29 plate appearances.
Navarro's ability to put the ball in play means Gibbons has faith that he'll be able to move the runner or drive somebody in from third base. The main reason the Blue Jays signed Navarro to a two-year contract during the offseason was his ability to handle a pitching staff, but the offensive output is another major boon to his overall value.
"I think I had a pretty good idea about the strike zone," said Navarro, who got a rare day off on Sunday with somebody other than R.A. Dickey pitching. "I don't want to get out of my game plan -- keep swinging at strikes and make things happen."