Notes: Olmedo joins big-league club
Clayton designated for assignment to clear roster spot
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are riding the fine line between contending and evaluating. Toronto wants to see what its club is capable of doing down the stretch, but the team also wants to assess the fringe players who could play a role in 2008.
On Friday, Toronto designated 37-year-old shortstop Royce Clayton for assignment and promptly purchased the contract of infielder Ray Olmedo from Triple-A Syracuse. The Jays have 10 days to either trade, release or reassign Clayton, who was signed to a one-year deal by Toronto during the offseason.
In Olmedo, Toronto has a versatile defender who can man shortstop, second base and third base, if needed. The Jays claimed the 26-year-old native of Venezuela off waivers from the Reds in January and believe he could potentially serve as a bench player next season. That's what Toronto wants to explore over the next two months.
"We're trying to see if he's a utility guy going forward," said Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi. "We've got two months left and we want to finish strong -- as strong as we can -- and we want to put ourselves in a position where we're looking at guys who can help us going forward."
Clayton wasn't in the plans for Toronto beyond this season, and he hadn't performed as well defensively as expected. John McDonald performed well enough to take over as the Jays' primary shortstop, which sent Clayton to the bench. In 69 games with Toronto, Clayton hit .254 with one home run and 12 RBIs.
"In all fairness to Royce, the guy is a 16-year veteran and he wasn't going to play," Ricciardi said. "To have him just hang here and sitting on the bench I don't think is really fair to him. It gives us a chance to look at Ray, and that's really all it comes down to."
In 97 games with Triple-A Syracuse this season, Olmedo hit .290 with 14 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs. The switch-hitter spent parts of the 2003-06 seasons with the Reds, hitting .230 in 171 games in the Majors. Olmedo's strongest asset is his defense, and he is a contact hitter who can be utilized in hit-and-runs and bunt plays.
"Olmedo's always been a very good defensive player," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "We'll see what he can do. He can play some short here and he can play a little bit of second base to give [Aaron] Hill a day off every now and then, too. We'll see. He has some experience under his belt."
Burnett watch: A.J. Burnett's next start will take place in Ontario -- just not with the Blue Jays. Toronto's recovering right-hander is scheduled to make a Minor League rehab appearance on Monday with Triple-A Syracuse, which will be in Ottawa to take on the Lynx.
Gibbons said that Burnett, who has been on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder injury since July 1, is cleared to throw up to around 90 pitches. The pitcher will also only be required to make the one rehab start before rejoining Toronto's rotation for the upcoming series in Kansas City.
The only matter that hasn't been decided is whose rotation spot Burnett will assume. During the Aug. 10-13 road series against the Royals, Burnett will most likely start in place of either rookie Jesse Litsch or right-hander Josh Towers, who each have one more start before Toronto has to make a decision. Litsch posted a 1.71 ERA over five July starts.
"We'll see who matches up the best -- who's the best fit," Ricciardi said. "Litsch has done a good job. Towers has done a good job. They've all done a great job, so anybody you take out of there you're bumping someone who's done a good job."
Jays grab Luna: On Friday, the Blue Jays claimed infielder Hector Luna off waivers from the Cleveland Indians and designated infielder Howie Clark for assignment. The 27-year-old Luna will join Toronto, which will use him as a utility man -- similar to Olmedo. This season, Luna has hit .251 with six home runs and 35 RBIs in 83 games with Triple-A Buffalo. The native of the Dominican Republic has appeared in 260 big-league games over four seasons between Cleveland and St. Louis.
Climbing Stairs: With his next appearance for the Blue Jays, 39-year-old Matt Stairs will have played in 1,500 career games. Stairs, who is in his 15th big-league season, will join Larry Walker (1,988 games) and Terry Puhl (1,531) as only the third Canadian-born player in baseball history to reach the plateau. Entering Friday, Stairs -- a native of New Brunswick -- was batting .277 with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs in 83 games for the Blue Jays.
Flashback: Former Toronto first baseman John Mayberry was on hand at Rogers Centre as part of Toronto's Flashback Friday promotion. Mayberry spent the 1978-82 seasons with the Jays, with whom he hit .256 with 92 homers in 549 games. In 1980, he became the first player in franchise history to belt 30 home runs.
Did you know: Toronto has gone 2-5 through the first seven games of the 10 the club plays against Texas this season. The Blue Jays have now gone six straight years without winning a season series against the Rangers. The last time came in 2001, when Toronto went 6-3 against Texas.
Coming up: Toronto right-hander Shaun Marcum (7-4, 3.67 ERA) is slated to take the hill when the Blue Jays host the Rangers at 1:07 p.m. ET on Saturday at Rogers Centre. Texas will counter with righty Kameron Loe (5-9, 5.80 ERA).
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.