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OAKLAND, CALIF. — Francisco Liriano will get his second start since coming back from injury here Wednesday afternoon as the Toronto Blue Jays look to avoid being swept by the Oakland Athletics.
The 33-year-old left-hander, who spent more than three weeks on the disabled list in May with shoulder inflammation, pitched five innings in his return last Friday, a 7-5 win over the New York Yankees. He allowed two runs off four hits, while striking out five.
Manager John Gibbons hopes to see more of the same as the Blue Jays search for their first win since Sunday.
“Really we were trying to build him up, but he’s good now,” Gibbons said. “Lirry, he’s been good for us, too. He feels healthy, so kind of like what we’ve been doing with (lefty J.A.) Happ, trying to build him up and then there’s nothing to worry about.”
Liriano threw 81 pitches against the Yankees last week. On Wednesday, he’s expected to be given free rein to climb to a 90-100 count.
“Last time we didn’t take him out because of pitches,” Gibbons said. “He was getting towards the end, then base hit, homer, figured it was time. He could have gone one more. He’s strong. He’s a big, strong dude.”
Liriano (3-2) will face off against righty Jharel Cotton (3-6). First pitch is at 3:35 p.m. ET.
CATCHER COMEBACK: Russell Martin missed three games last weekend with a sore neck, but his omission from the lineup in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the A’s wasn’t related.
Gibbons said Martin felt fine after playing Monday night and the Canadian will be back behind the plate to catch Liriano. Giving Martin, one of the Jays most used players last season, the night off before a day game — or the day off after a night game — has been common practice for Gibbons this year.
“We’ll continue to do that until we get later in the season or something changes. I think that helps him.”
HOMER UN-HAPPY: After notching 49 homers through the month of May and another seven in their first four games in June, the Jays have hit just one long ball this series — courtesy of Justin Smoak in the series opener.
“It’s tough to hit (homers) here,” Gibbons said Tuesday night, after the heavy night air seemed to be a factor in a couple of the Jays’ hits falling short of the wall. “(Oakland’s Ryon) Healy made it look small (Monday) night, but it’s not that easy.”
Gibbons predicted that would change on Wednesday, thanks to the earlier start time.
“Day time’s much different. The sun will be out (Wednesday) and it’ll play totally different.”
TULO TALKS TRAVIS: The big news on Tuesday coming out of the Jays clubhouse was bad news, with Devon Travis becoming its 15th player to hit the disabled list this season. Travis is suffering from a bone bruise on his right knee with a cartilage injury; a timeline for his return it not yet clear, though he is expected to undergo more tests this week.
The hit was a blow to more than just an obviously emotional Travis, said Jays shortshop Troy Tulowitzki.
“It’s unfortunate. You feel for a kid like that. He’s such a good kid, you guys know that. It’s really sad but I am a true believer that things happen for a reason. I think he will learn from this, I think he will get better. He has an uphill battle but if anybody can do it, he definitely can. He’s a special player. We’re going to miss him.”
Travis, who will deal with the same New York-based doctor that helped him with a similar injury at the end of last season, will be hearing from Tulowitzki during the recovery process, with the veteran keen on making sure the 26-year-old remains upbeat.
“It’s easy to shut it down and say, ‘Here we go again,’ but if you have that negative attitude it’ll haunt you your entire career. Be positive, believe you can come back even stronger and you’ll have a nice career and he’ll accomplish what he wants to accomplish in this game.
Leone has been a workhorse in Toronto’s bullpen so far this year, going 25 2/3 innings through 22 games with a 3.86 ERA.
Gibbons said Leone didn’t deserve to go down last week, but his remaining options played a role in the decision. The Jays’ could have brought in a position player for Travis, but the manager believes Leone will benefit the team more.
“We were looking to try to get him back as soon as possible anyways so now with someone on the (disabled list) he can come back. He was doing a good job for us and he’s one guy that can give you more than one inning; we don’t have a lot of those guys. He’s back where he belongs.”
Leone threw one inning, with one strikeout, in his return to the mound on Tuesday.