TORONTO -- The back end of the Blue Jays' bullpen was in a state of constant flux until right-hander Casey Janssen took over as closer midway through the 2012 season.
The likes of Jeremy Accardo, Kevin Gregg, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Francisco Cordero attempted to solidify the ninth inning over the years, but ultimately failed.
The closer role was an obvious weakness, but Janssen has been relatively flawless since getting his shot last May. The veteran right-hander had been passed over before, but he has quickly made up for lost time and after pitching a scoreless ninth inning on Saturday afternoon, he also reached the 30-save plateau for the first time in his career.
"It's a nice little milestone," Janssen said. "I still want to close out as many games as I can to finish the year. I said it when I took the job, I just kind of wanted to take the opportunity to have my name be recognized around baseball as a guy who is a viable late-inning arm.
"I don't know if I ever would have imagined being a closer saving 30 games, but I wished, I thought and I hoped I could and it was just a matter of getting the opportunity."
Janssen likely was overlooked in the past because he's not the prototypical hard-throwing reliever. The native of California relies more on command and his offspeed pitches to get through the lineup of opposing teams, but you'd be hard pressed to find someone with better numbers over the past year-and-a-half.
The 31-year-old is 52-for-57 in save opportunities over the past two seasons. This year, he has posted a respectable 2.76 ERA while striking out 44 batters and walking just 13 over 49 innings prior to Sunday's game.
What makes Janssen's current season even more impressive is that he wasn't even expected to head north with the team after Spring Training. Janssen was attempting to come back from offseason shoulder surgery, and his workload was limited during the spring.
Even when the season began with Janssen on the roster, it was a grind. Janssen didn't start feeling like himself until midway through the year, but it certainly wasn't noticeable based on the numbers.
"It was hard to justify the injury early on," said Janssen, who didn't blow a save until June 8. "I was telling guys that I feel [bad] and I might have a 1-2-3 inning and they're like, 'What are you talking about?' It was hard to get through those first three months or so.
"I started to get into a nice routine, obviously I was further away from the surgery date and I hopefully I'm able to power through this last stretch and get through the year."
Rasmus gets breather due to 'body soreness'
TORONTO -- Colby Rasmus was held out of the Blue Jays' lineup on Sunday afternoon because of what's being described as "general body soreness."
Rasmus missed more than a month because of a strained oblique before returning on Friday night. He homered in each of his first two games back, but woke up on Sunday with some discomfort and decided to take the day off.
The 27-year-old was quick to dismiss any notion that he has aggravated his oblique, and instead said the soreness stemmed from playing on the AstroTurf at Rogers Centre following a prolonged absence from the field.
"Just a little sore and trying to watch myself a little bit," said Rasmus, who was originally listed in the lineup but became a late scratch prior to game time. "I hadn't played in a month, woke up this morning a little sore and I thought it would be best not to push myself too much and be smart about it."
Rasmus didn't have the luxury of appearing in rehab games prior to his return, and the drastic increase of intensity over a short period of time could have played a role in his body not responding well.
The former first-round Draft pick of the Cardinals wasn't sure how much time he would need to rest, but with an off-day coming on Monday, it's possible Rasmus could return on Tuesday night against the Yankees.
Despite the recent injuries, Rasmus has enjoyed a breakout season at the plate. He is hitting .275 with 20 homers and 63 RBIs while posting an .828 OPS in 114 games.
"I'm not 22 anymore ... knowing that I'm just trying to make sure I keep myself healthy and I'm able to finish strong," Rasmus said. "Obviously I want to play today, but woke up a little sore this morning so I just kind of pulled the reins back to make sure I'm able to do that."
September callup Jeffress capitalizes on opportunity
TORONTO -- Right-hander Jeremy Jeffress is making the most of his opportunity with the Blue Jays since being called up at the beginning of September.
Jeffress got off to somewhat of a rough start in his September debut against the D-backs, but he has been gaining the trust of manager John Gibbons ever since.
The 25-year-old hasn't allowed a run over his past three appearances while striking out three and walking just one. He is starting to be used in more high-leverage situations and earned his first victory of the season on Saturday with a clean seventh inning vs. the Orioles.
"It was a great opportunity for me," Jeffress said. "I knew a couple of relievers [weren't available] and I would probably get an opportunity to pitch. It was a great opportunity for me and I was glad for him to trust me in that situation."
There's never been any doubt about Jeffress' natural abilities on the mound. He consistently records upper-90s velocity on his fastball, but his weakness has always been a lack of command.
The sample size is still incredibly small, but even dating back to his season with Triple-A Buffalo, pitches in the zone have been a lot more consistent. He credits most of that to a new three-quarters arm slot this season, compared to previous years when he threw more over the top.
"I think it has gotten pretty good results," Jeffress said. "It has been staying down in the zone, working for the past month or so and just attacking with my best stuff has been working pretty good.
"If you command the ball in the game, you'll get hitters out. I'm just trying to put it where it needs to be and pitch with a little conviction."