Game 56: Los Angeles at Toronto pregame

It isn’t hard to decipher the key to success for Blue Jays reliever Shawn Camp. When he has his slider biting through the strike zone, he is tough on hitters. When he doesn’t have command of that pitch? It can be ugly at times.

On Wednesday night, Camp had his slider working in a big way and he turned in three strong shutout innings of relief that could easily go unnoticed in an 8-1 loss to the Angels. When Camp entered, the Jays trailed 5-1, and his three innings at least gave the offense a chance to make a comeback.

That didn’t happen, but manager Cito Gaston liked what he saw from Camp.

“He got his breaking ball over, which he hasn’t been doing in the past,” Gaston said. “He threw strikes. He was really having trouble with his breaking ball — getting it over. That’s pretty much the kind of pitcher he is. He doesn’t throw hard, so he’s got to spot his fastball and get his breaking ball over.

“Otherwise, he gets in trouble. Last night, he did that. It sounds simple, right?”

Over his last two appearances, Camp has looked sharper, piling up five strikeouts and allowing no runs on three scattered hits over four innings. Last night, Camp dropped his ERA from 5.29 to 4.50. In his previous seven games, the righty had allowed 10 runs on 15 hits with four strikeouts over 9 1/3 innings.

So, what exactly did Camp do against L.A.?

In the fifth, he struck out Vlad Guerrero, Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera in order, and Camp allowed one hit, one walk with one strikeout over the next two frames. In all, Camp threw 37 pitches (25 strikes). Camp used his slider 17 times (12 strikes), and six of his nine outs came via the slider. All four of his strikeouts were ended with the slider as well.

SWITCH IT UP: Gaston finally decided to give a day off to slumping center fielder Vernon Wells (one hit in his last 18 at-bats) on Thursday afternoon. Gaston said he hopes the move can breathe some life into Wells’ bat, similar to how right fielder Alex Rios heated up at the plate after a day off in Baltimore.

Gaston added that he might give a day off to shortstop Marco Scutaro (1 H in last 10 ABs) and second baseman Aaron Hill (0-for-15) this weekend. Said Gaston: “Those guys can’t play every day, so I’m just going to have to suck it up and do it.” Scutaro and Hill are first in the Majors with 56 games played apiece. Scutaro has played every game in the field and Hill has one start as the designated hitter.

BIRDS-EYE VIEW: Prior to joining the Blue Jays’ bullpen, reliever Dirk Hayhurst was put up in the hotel at Rogers Centre for a night. He stayed in a room overlooking the field and was able to watch Doc Halladay strike out 14 Angels on Tuesday night. Gaston couldn’t believe Hayhurst was able to get such a great view.

“I was teasing him,” Gaston said. “He watched it from a room in the hotel. I asked him, ‘How the hell did you get that room?’ I can’t get that room. They won’t give me that room when I’m in that hotel. He said, “I kind of sweet-talked the girl at the desk.’ So, he’s already moved up. That’s pretty good.”

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for Angels.gifLOS ANGELES ANGELS (26-25)

1. Chone Figgins, 3B
2. Erick Aybar, SS
3. Vlad Guerrero, DH
4. Torii Hunter, CF
5. Juan Rivera, RF
6. Kendry Morales, 1B
7. Mike Napoli, C
8. Robb Quinlan, LF
9. Howie Kendrick, 2B

Starter: RHP John Lackey (1-1)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (30-25)

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Alex Rios, CF
4. Adam Lind, LF
5. Kevin Millar, DH
6. Lyle Overbay, 1B
7. Jose Bautista, 3B
8. Raul Chavez, C
9. Joe Inglett, RF

Starter: LHP Brian Tallet (3-3)

Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter: @MLBastian

~JB

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