Notes: Hudson progressing steadily
Second basemen taking small steps as he works toward return
TORONTO -- Four steps either way.
That's the extent of Orlando Hudson's range as he makes his way back from a severe ankle sprain. Toronto's second baseman took infield practice for the second time in nearly two weeks on Sunday, and he steadily increased the amount of ground he covered over the length of the 10-minute session.
"We didn't stretch him out too far," said Brian Butterfield, Toronto's infield coach. "Every time I stretched him out a little bit further than his comfort zone, you could see there was a little bit of a limp. ... We're still a ways away, just because of the nature of the position where you stop and start so much."
It's more than just the nature of the position -- it's also the nature of the player. Hudson missed some time earlier in the season with a balky hamstring, and he spent three weeks on the disabled list with a similar ailment in 2004. Those are both nuisance injuries more than anything else, but they're also problems that can get worse if they're not treated correctly.
"Ankles and hamstrings, for me, are very tough to gauge," said Butterfield. "I think he's a day-to-day thing. As he can tolerate more stuff, the stronger his ankle will get and the quicker he'll be back."
Toward that end, the Jays will expand his duties a little bit every day. Hudson took batting practice in addition to the glovework on Sunday, and he'll likely repeat the process on Monday. Toronto wants to get him back as soon as possible, but there's still one other practical consideration: As long as Hudson's out, the Jays can evaluate Aaron Hill at his position.
The rookie has handled the keystone well in limited duty, but it's clear that Toronto takes a big defensive hit when Hudson's on the bench. Now, it's all on his shoulders. The Jays won't push him until they determine he's ready to take the next step,
"That's another thing, too," said Butterfield. "I think a lot of it is just being tentative, not wanting to put too much weight on it. You know your body. You know what you can and can't do, and I don't think he wants to have any type of setback."
For what it's worth: The Blue Jays haven't played all that well over the last month, but they've played better than their record might suggest. J.P. Ricciardi, the team's general manager, said he sees things starting to turn the corner.
"This week was like a microcosm of our season. We lost three one-run games," he said. "Bad teams don't even get in one-run games. The more you're in, it shows you're competing. And once you're competing, it's usually one or two guys that get you over the hump."
The Jays are 15-28 in one-run games this season, and they're 25-39 in games decided by two runs or less. Ricciardi has said several times that he expects to add some offense in the offseason, and he thinks that may make a difference in close games.
"We can get better everywhere. In the last month, you've seen all our deficiencies," he said. "We knew we needed a couple more bats. We definitely know that now. And without [Roy] Halladay, we know we can't win 2-1."
Closing time: Toronto reliever Miguel Batista has declined to offer postgame comments at times this season, but now he's taken the next logical step. The closer has announced he won't talk to the media for the rest of the season, a reaction at least partially attributable to a recent article in a local newspaper.
"It's posted in my locker, why I won't talk," he said on Sunday.
Quotable: "We're really close. We just have to find a way to turn these one-run games into wins." -- Ricciardi, on the organization's next step.
Coming up: The Blue Jays will welcome the Seattle Mariners for a four-game set that starts on Monday. Toronto's Scott Downs (3-3, 4.25 ERA) gets the ball in the series opener, and he'll be matched up against Seattle's Jamie Moyer (12-6, 4.38 ERA).
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.