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Blue Jays designate Santos for assignment, hope reliever can work out problems

Toronto Blue Jays reliever Sergio Santos follows through on a pitch to the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Friday, April 11, 2014, in Baltimore. The Jays have designated right-handed reliever Santos for assignment and recalled left-hander Rob Rasmussen from triple-A Buffalo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Patrick Semansky

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Toronto Blue Jays reliever Sergio Santos follows through on a pitch to the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Friday, April 11, 2014, in Baltimore. The Jays have designated right-handed reliever Santos for assignment and recalled left-hander Rob Rasmussen from triple-A Buffalo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Patrick Semansky

TORONTO - Sergio Santos is leaving Toronto, but the Blue Jays hope his absence is temporary.

The Blue Jays designated the right-handed former closer for assignment Monday, which meant putting him on waivers because he was out of minor league options.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos hopes the 31-year-old can get back into major-league form while pitching for triple-A Buffalo, provided he clears waivers Wednesday.

"The way to get things worked out is to go throw some innings," Anthopoulos said. "We hope this is a quick move, get some innings, get hot and come back because we certainly could use the help."

Santos hadn't been helping the Blue Jays much lately, giving up five earned runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings over his past four appearances. He issued four walks in that time, and Anthopoulos singled out a lack of command as the biggest issue.

Because of that, and because Toronto is chasing down the American League East-leading Baltimore Orioles, there haven't been many opportunities for manager John Gibbons to help Santos out by putting him into games.

"It's tough to find spots to find that groove a little bit," Gibbons said. "He's a little out of whack right now, but it's tough to find him work."

Santos is making US$3.75 million, which could deter other teams, even those searching for bullpen help, from claiming him off waivers. Anthopoulos didn't want to discuss the odds of Santos making it through.

What the Blue Jays' GM made clear was that Santos was still very much wanted, adding that he wouldn't explore trade options. Anthopoulos also said Santos, who has a 7.78 earned-run average in 24 appearances this season and briefly filled in for injured closer Casey Janssen, had not asked to be traded.

"He's a very accountable guy, he knows he hasn't pitched to his ability," Anthopoulos said. "He knows he can be a dominant closer, setup guy, whatever is needed. I think like anybody he's got all the belief in the world in himself and he'll be fine. He'll get it back."

In his place, the Blue Jays recalled left-handed reliever Rob Rasmussen from Buffalo. In two previous call-ups this season, the 25-year-old allowed four earned runs in six innings while striking out seven.

With Rasmussen on the 25-man roster in place of Santos, the Jays have just two right-handed relievers ahead of Janssen in Dustin McGowan and Todd Redmond. They have four lefties in Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Brad Mills and now Rasmussen, but Anthopoulos said he was not concerned about the lack of balance there.

"We don't look at it that way," Anthopoulos said. "We're looking at just guys that can get outs for us. Right, left, submarine, whatever it is: If you can get three outs, it's fine."

Santos hadn't been able to do that effectively, which led to Monday's move. After a strong September that saw him post a 0.90 ERA in 10 appearances, Santos couldn't locate his fastball well enough to get ahead of hitters.

"There's no doubt it starts there. His slider's his out pitch, but you can't get to the slider if you don't get the fastball over," Anthopoulos said. "There's very few guys ... that can just go slider, slider, slider the entire time."

Anthopoulos said Santos would be a "priority guy" with the Bisons if he clears waivers so that he can throw a lot of innings and get his command back. Anthopoulos added there was no doubt Santos was healthy enough and that command problems were not a result of injury, even though Santos has some history of arm troubles.

If it's a matter of confidence, Gibbons isn't worried about Santos.

"Everybody battles (a lack of confidence) when things get tough," he said. "But I think it's more just putting it together again."

Notes — Workouts continued Monday for injured players Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie. Encarnacion and Lind are in Dunedin, Fla., and Gibbons said each player took batting practice on the field while Encarnacion also fielded some ground balls. Lawrie, who is in Toronto, did throwing and agility drills.

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