TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' top priority this offseason was to revamp their bullpen after last year's collection of relievers tied for an American League-worst 25 blown saves.
Toronto brought in a number of new faces with the hope that its bullpen would turn from a weakness to a strength, but so far, things haven't gone exactly as planned.
For the second straight game Saturday, Toronto's bullpen blew a save and lost when leading after seven innings. In total, Blue Jays relievers have blown four of five save opportunities, the worst mark in the Majors.
Entering Sunday's series finale against the Orioles, the bullpen had issued the most walks (16) in the AL, were tied for the most losses (3), and had the second-worst strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.69).
But manager John Farrell is not about to push the panic button or compare this crop of arms to last year's edition.
"We've put ourselves in a position to win some games late and when we've miss-located some pitches, we've gotten beat," Farrell said. "As a group we are finding our rhythm, and it's a matter of executing in late-inning situations.
"We still view our bullpen as a definite strength of our club, and I think over the course of this season, we'll experience and know that it will be a strength."
The fact that Toronto started the season with back-to-back extra-inning games immediately forced the bullpen to experience a heavy workload and be put to an early test. Blue Jays relievers have thrown 29 1/3 innings, the third-highest mark in the league.
It also meant that they were going to be put under the spotlight, but Farrell doesn't think last year's struggles have contributed to outsiders paying more attention.
"No, but yet we're in every game and every game with a lead late, whether it's one or two runs, and there's been obvious games that we haven't converted completely," Farrell said when asked if he thought this group was under the microscope more because of last year's struggles. "There's always going to be a focal point on late-inning relievers. That's the nature of the beast."
Crawford fans one in Major League debut
TORONTO -- Evan Crawford made his Major League debut in Toronto's 9-2 victory over the Orioles on Sunday afternoon with one scoreless inning of work.
Crawford, who was promoted to the big leagues on Friday, struck out one and allowed one hit in the ninth inning.
"Just getting to come out on the field is a euphoric feeling," said Crawford, who was selected in the eighth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. "It's one of those things that you've always looked forward to, and you're not sure if it's real when it happens, but it was awesome."
Crawford was called up while Sergio Santos was away on paternity leave to attend the birth of his third child. At the time, Crawford wasn't sure how long his stint in Toronto would last, but he found out on Saturday it likely will be for at least one more week.
Santos officially returned on Sunday, but to make room on the 25-man roster, left-hander Aaron Laffey was sent back to the Minors. That kept Crawford in Toronto for now, and while he likely will be sent down on April 21 -- when the Blue Jays need another starter -- he's going to enjoy the moment.
"I guess I don't think too much, because I just come to the yard to pitch and I'll keep doing that until they tell me not to," Crawford said with a big smile.
"It's exciting, just to be able to go out there and compete on any given day is exciting."
Cecil off to a bumpy start in the Minors
TORONTO -- Brett Cecil has struggled out of the gate this season at Double-A New Hampshire.
The southpaw is 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA after two starts, and opposing batters are hitting .333 against him.
Manager John Farrell was given a report on how Cecil fared in his latest outing Saturday, when he lasted five innings and surrendered six runs.
"Last night, a little bit more power to his stuff," Farrell said. "He did get hurt a couple times when he was trying to generate more velocity and missed some balls up in the strike zone. Seems like he's been a little bit quick out of the set position with men on base, and his arm hasn't fully caught up in the timing of his delivery. Out of the windup, he's been more consistent."
Toronto will need a fifth starter for April 21, the second of a three-game set against Kansas City. Based on Cecil's first two starts with New Hampshire, he's an unlikely candidate.
Farrell wouldn't say how many arms are in the mix for that start, but Aaron Laffey, Joel Carreno and Drew Hutchison are all considered to be options.
"I don't have an exact number, but you've seen them all in Spring Training," Farrell said. "The guys who started Opening Day or first or second game, kind of fall in line, just counting out five days from the Minor League Opening Day."
Blue Jays, O's pay tribute to Jackie Robinson
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays and Orioles participated in a pregame ceremony before Sunday's finale to honor the late Jackie Robinson.
April 15 has been designated as Jackie Robinson Day since 2004, and beginning in 2009, every player across the Majors has donned Robinson's No. 42.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell believes Major League Baseball has done the right thing by honoring the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Famer on a yearly basis.
"Certainly a pioneer for the obvious reasons, and I think it's a great tribute that the entire game wears his number in honor of him," Farrell said. "Anytime the game can highlight a key member of the sport, I think it's a great celebration."
On April 15, 1947, Robinson broke the color barrier and became the first African-American to play in the Majors.
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.