BALTIMORE -- Right-hander Sergio Santos has finally turned into the dominant late-inning reliever the Blue Jays expected two years ago, when they acquired him an offseason trade with the White Sox.
Santos has been borderline untouchable during recent weeks as he continues to finish the year on a strong note. He entered play Wednesday night riding a 13-innings scoreless streak, and perhaps even more impressive is that he hasn't allowed a hit over his past 11 1/3 innings.
The 30-year-old has remained healthy after appearing in just 11 games during his first year and a half with the club following of a series of arm injuries.
"The way I'm feeling, the way I'm bouncing back after I throw, this is the best I've felt and I'm just fortunate things are going my way right now," Santos said.
In 27 games out of the bullpen this season, Santos has allowed just four earned runs in 23 innings while limiting the opposition to a .120 average (9-for-75). He has stranded all but one his 19 inherited runners.
When Santos returned at the beginning of August following surgery on his right elbow, it wasn't immediately clear how he would fit into the club's bullpen. Right-hander Casey Janssen was firmly entrenched as the Blue Jays' closer, while Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil settled into their roles as setup men.
Santos was used in middle relief and occasionally had to be throw more than one inning at a time upon his return. It was essentially a mop-up role, but since then, he has gained the trust of manager John Gibbons.
Santos is now being used as one of the primary setup men for Janssen. He alternates the opportunities with Delabar while averaging a strikeout per inning and further solidifying what was already an impressive relief corps.
"That was a big motivating factor to me coming back," Santos said of proving his doubters wrong. "I wanted to prove to myself and everybody else that I still have the ability to get people out.
"That's what I was working hard for, that's what the light at the end of the tunnel was when I was down in Dunedin rehabbing and almost losing my mind. It's just pushing myself and knowing that when I did get an opportunity again, to try and make the most of it."
Drabek exits vs. O's after taking line drive off ankle
BALTIMORE -- Blue Jays right-hander Kyle Drabek was forced to depart Wednesday night's game against the Orioles with a right ankle injury. He was diagnosed with a bone bruise after X-rays came back negative.
Drabek was struck in the ankle by a line drive off the bat of Baltimore's Nate McLouth. The ball was hit so far it ricocheted off Drabek's leg and into foul territory.
First baseman Adam Lind fielded the ball and was able to tag McLouth out, but Drabek had to be removed from the game. He walked off the field under his own power and didn't appear to have a major limp.
Another injury is the last thing Drabek would want after he spent the past year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He returned to the Blue Jays as a September callup and had two games under his belt before making a brief appearance against the Orioles.
Right-hander Jeremy Jeffress took Drabek's spot on the mound and closed out the sixth inning.
Arencibia's struggles force questions for front office
BALTIMORE -- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos will have some tough decisions to make this offseason when it comes to his starting catcher for the 2014 season. J.P. Arencibia has been a mainstay in that role for the past three years, but that is in at least some doubt following a disappointing '13 campaign.
Arencibia has struggled with the bat since April and at times has become a lightning rod for criticism, particularly after his war of words with the Blue Jays' broadcasting team earlier this summer. That doesn't mean he won't be back, but when asked about Arencibia's status for next year, Toronto's GM remained non-committal.
"The one thing you're never going to see me do is criticize players openly other than stating the obvious when they're on the roster or on the team," Anthopoulos said. "I think I can say this for the entire team, we're going to look to improve anywhere we can. That's not to single anybody out and it's all about the alternatives."
Arencibia entered play on Wednesday night hitting .194 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs in 136 games this season. The home runs are the most this season by any catcher in the Major Leagues, but his .594 OPS ranks fourth worst in all of baseball.
Those numbers pale in comparison to that of his first two full seasons, when he posted an OPS above .700 each year. To his credit, Arencibia has battled a left knee injury for most of the season, but managed to get through the year without a stint on the disabled list.
The durability is impressive, but the production hasn't been what Anthopoulos thought it would be heading into the year.
"He has been better than this in his first two years in the league," Anthopoulos said. "There are certain things that you would expect, the average has always been in the mid-to-low .200s, definitely not below .200. Power has always been there, and he's not a guy that's going to walk much.
"But the OPS, you'd expect it to be .700-.720 and now [where he's at] is out of character. Obviously he's in a prolonged funk ... looks like he's late getting his foot down, but like anything else, I think he has handled his struggles the last month as well as he can."
The one thing Arencibia won't have to worry about is an internal candidate taking over his job. Catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud was dealt to the Mets last offseason, while A.J. Jimenez is expected to begin 2014 at Triple-A Buffalo.
That means if the Blue Jays plan to go with someone else, it would have to be a catcher from outside the organization. It remains to be seen whether that will happen, but Anthopoulos was steadfast in at least one thing about the catcher position.
"We need to upgrade the production," Anthopoulos said.
Blue Jays honour employees for scouting, development
BALTIMORE -- The Blue Jays recognized a number of employees Wednesday afternoon with their annual awards for excellence in amateur scouting, professional scouting, player development and community service.
Ryan Fox was selected as the 2013 recipient of the Al LaMacchia Award, which is given annually to the amateur scout who best exemplifies the work ethic and perseverance demonstrated by the longtime Blue Jays executive for whom the award is named.
Fox has served as an amateur scout in the Blue Jays' system for the past four years. He previously worked for the Nationals, and during his career has been responsible for signing the likes of Sean West, Drew Storen, Derek Norris, Ross Detwiler and Jeff Kobernus.
David May picked up the pro scout of the year award and has been with the Blue Jays organzation since 2010. He previously worked for Atlanta, Arizona and Seattle, and is the son of former Major Leaguer Dave May Sr.
Mike Mordecai was recognized as this year's recipient of the Bobby Mattick Award for excellence in player development. The former Major Leaguer is best known to Blue Jays fans for his work in aiding the transition of Brett Lawrie to third base. Mordecai has worked closely with a lot of the club's Minor League infielders to help craft their overall defensive game.
The final award went to Kevin Nolan, who was named the winner of the community service award. The 25-year-old was a shortstop with Double-A New Hampshire and received the honor because of his efforts in the community. His work included visits to the Boys & Girls Club and the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and appearing at a local sporting-goods store in Nashua, N.H., for the spring registrations for Nashua Little League.
• Moises Sierra is still listed as day to day after he suffered a sprained left ankle during Tuesday night's game against the Orioles. Gibbons said it was possible Sierra could be used in an emergency situation Wednesday, but should be ready to play on Thursday.
Gibbons also said it was possible that Toronto would add another outfielder to the roster to give the club additional depth, as Rajai Davis is expected to depart the team in the near future to attend the birth of his first child.