Since the start of June, the Blue Jays have turned around the scope of their entire season, and on Wednesday, they welcome back shortstop Jose Reyes.
When the four-time All-Star takes the field Wednesday afternoon in Tampa Bay -- where the Blue Jays look to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Rays -- he will be doing so for the first time since severely spraining his left ankle on April 12 in Kansas City.
"He's one of the better players in the game, he's been our leadoff guy, this team is built around bringing him here," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He was a huge addition, and he was playing pretty darn good when he got injured."
Tampa Bay's Roberto Hernandez (4-8, 5.14 ERA) is tasked with stopping Reyes and the Blue Jays, who had their franchise record-tying 11-game winning streak snapped on Monday. They've lost a pair to the Rays, scoring just two total runs in the process, but they're still in the thick of the American League postseason hunt following the recent hot stretch.
Hernandez has allowed at least four runs in five of his last seven starts, but Rays manager Joe Maddon insists he is showing improvement.
"We thought he had a good changeup, and he hadn't been using it enough," Maddon said. "We did talk about that. I can't deny it. I think he's pitching better and has a better understanding of what he can and cannot do. His confidence is slowly creeping up in a good way, and he's doing very well out there."
Opposite Hernandez will be Toronto right-hander R.A. Dickey (6-8, 5.15 ERA), in the midst of a rough season after he won the National League Cy Young Award last year as a member of the Mets. Dickey was roughed up by Baltimore on Friday, allowing six earned runs in six innings. He has made it through the seventh only three times this season after doing so had become a staple of his game in 2012.
Still, hitting knuckleballers will always be a unique challenge, and Maddon is pondering how his club will approach Dickey, who held Toronto to two earned runs in eight innings on May 20.
"Switch-hitters may hit right-handed," Maddon said. "This guy is a little different. He holds runners well and we don't have the same type of speed game we've had in the past. When we faced [fellow knuckler Tim] Wakefield, we wanted to run. They had to stay back to catch him, and it was a good opportunity to run. This guy throws a harder knuckleball, which provides different challenges than Wakefield."
Blue Jays: Lawrie set for rehab
Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie will begin a rehab assignment for Class A Dunedin on Wednesday. A sprained left ankle has kept him out since May 27.
The club expects Lawrie to spend about two weeks in the Minors before he returns to big league action. At some point he'll be promoted to Triple-A Buffalo.
On the season, Lawrie is hitting just .209 with five homers in 37 games.
Rays: Myers a hit in Tampa Bay
He has only spent a week in the Majors, but Wil Myers is already one of the more beloved Rays at Tropicana Field. The club's No. 1 prospect became just the third player in team history to homer in his first home at-bat on Monday.
He has received a healthy applause for each at-bat he's taken at the Trop, and the warm welcome has not been lost on the 22-year-old rookie.
"The fans were great," Myers said. "They were very welcoming and it was really cool to be out there in front of them."
• In 100 total at-bats against Dickey, hitters on the Rays' active roster are batting just .150 against the right-hander. The only players hitting above .200 are Evan Longoria (3-for-9 with two doubles) and Kelly Johnson (2-for-7 with a double).
• The Rays inched ahead of the Blue Jays in their season series with Tuesday's victory. They lead it, 5-4, and haven't dropped a season series to Toronto since 2006.
• Edwin Encarnacion is hitting just .212 in 33 games at Tropicana Field -- his third-lowest mark among all stadiums in which he's played at least 15 games.