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Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marc Rzepczynski. REUTERS/Mike Cassese (Mike Cassese/Reuters)
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marc Rzepczynski. REUTERS/Mike Cassese (Mike Cassese/Reuters)

The Look Ahead

Bullpen becomes a source of relief for Blue Jays Add to ...

With a healthy Jose Bautista and Aaron Hill back in the lineup, the Toronto Blue Jays finish off a four-game home series with the Detroit Tigers on Monday, play a quick two-game set at the Rogers Centre against the Boston Red Sox, then leave for a five-game trip to Minnesota and Detroit.

Still don't know what to make of the Blue Jays offensively, but starting pitchers Jo-Jo Reyes and Jesse Litsch have bought Brett Cecil more time at Triple-A Las Vegas - his last two starts suggest Cecil's making the most of it, to his credit - and the Blue Jays' bullpen has emerged again as a source of strength. The pen has a 2.77 earned run average that was tops in the American League after Toronto's game Sunday.

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Much like his predecessor J.P. Ricciardi, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos knows how to put together a bullpen: Carlos Villanueva has gone two plus innings in five of his 10 games and has allowed four hits in those games. Marc Rzepczynski is the new Scott Downs: among the AL leaders in appearances (17) while holding opponents to a .125 average, including limiting lefties to 2-for-25.

PUCKS

The longer the Western Conference series go, the better it is for Boston Bruins winger Patrice Bergeron, who suffered his third diagnosed concussion in 3½ seasons on an open-ice hit by Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers last Friday. The immediate implication is that Tyler Seguin, the Incredible Disappearing First Draft Pick, is expected to be activated for the first game of the Eastern Conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which could be either Tuesday or as late as Thursday or Saturday. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli described the concussion as "mild," but, really, you'd think they've all have learned by now, no?

HOOPS

The Memphis Grizzlies have Game 4 on their home court on Monday, leading 2-1 in their Western Conference semi-final against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have been the NBA's team on the cusp for two years and will rue missed a opportunity with the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers toast. The Grizz are 4-0 at home during the playoffs and have 11 wins this season when they've fallen behind by double digits in the second half - including two in the postseason.

BILE

Nouveau riche Manchester City will no doubt get its back up if Manchester United gets the point it needs to clinch its 19th English Premier League title away at Blackburn on Saturday, the same day on which City plays Stoke City in the F.A. Cup final at Wembley Stadium in London. It would be fitting if United manager Sir Alex Ferguson steals much of his archrival's thunder.

PUNISHMENT

NASCAR is expected this week to mete out punishment after a fight between Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya and another tiff between Kevin Havrick and Kyle Busch at the Southern 500 on Saturday. Newman and Montoya tossed down during a meeting in NASCAR's trailer to address incidents the weekend before at Richmond. Havrick followed Busch into pit lane after Saturday's race, climbed out of his car and approached Busch who was still in his car. Havrick threw a punch while Busch floored it, driving Havrick's car into the wall to clear a path. Good times in the Redneck Rodeo.

THE LAST WORD

Blunt. No sport matches the NBA for studio analysts willing to go beyond the usual boiler-plate piffle, and on ESPN, Hall of Famer Magic Johnson reinforced that notion in his blunt analysis of the team he starred for and also had an ownership stake in. "The Lakers have two problems: They're too slow and they have no athletes. This is an athletic league right now. When you think about all the teams that are in the playoffs right now, they can all run fast and jump high. Sometimes you can be together too long. This group has probably been together too long." You'll note that he didn't say they're all "good guys."

BLUE JAYS ATTENDANCE WATCH

23,165

Average home crowd through 14 dates in 2011

16,418

Average home crowd through 14 dates in 2010

QUOTABLE

"My adrenalin was too high and I fed off the crowd. I wanted to be a part of it. And if you see me Monday, don't ask me how I feel. I'm gonna play," Rajon Rondo

In the grand tradition of Willis Reed and Larry Bird, the Boston Celtics guard finished Game 3 on one arm after dislocating an elbow. He promises he'll play in Game 4 Monday of a best-of-seven playoff series at home against the Miami Heat. Game 5 is Wednesday in Miami.

 

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