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Blue Jays hope Osuna not out with flu long

Absence of closer has impact on Toronto's tired bullpen
MLB.com @gregorMLB

CHICAGO -- When it's not the injury bug impacting the Blue Jays' roster, it's the flu.

Closer Roberto Osuna was sent back to the team hotel Friday morning because of a high fever. He joins Norichika Aoki, Kendrys Morales and J.A. Happ as players who have recently been under the weather. Aoki and Morales each had to miss a pair of games before they were cleared to return.

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CHICAGO -- When it's not the injury bug impacting the Blue Jays' roster, it's the flu.

Closer Roberto Osuna was sent back to the team hotel Friday morning because of a high fever. He joins Norichika Aoki, Kendrys Morales and J.A. Happ as players who have recently been under the weather. Aoki and Morales each had to miss a pair of games before they were cleared to return.

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The absence of Osuna removes Toronto's best reliever from a bullpen that has been overworked lately. Setup men Dominic Leone and Danny Barnes were both unavailable Friday afternoon because they needed rest, which left the club with four available relief arms.

"There's something that's been going around," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Osuna. "Hopefully he'll be all right [Saturday]. He only has to come in for one inning. Maybe we can quarantine him and run him out there."

A tired bullpen is nothing new for the Blue Jays. Toronto entered play on Friday leading the American League with 436 1/3 innings from its relievers. Ryan Tepera ranked third in the AL (61 1/3 innings), Leone ranked 10th (54 2/3), Osuna ranked 15th (52) and Barnes was tied for 19th (51).

Those numbers become even more problematic when other factors are considered as well. Osuna began the year on the disabled list, and he pitched just eight innings in April. Leone has been optioned to the Minors several times, and he made four appearances for Triple-A Buffalo. Barnes didn't even make the big league team out of Spring Training, and he recently spent a couple of weeks on the DL.

Gibbons is well aware that the bullpen cannot continue racking up innings at its current rate. The hope is to survive until the start of September, when rosters expand, so some additional arms can be brought in. That should at least help Gibbons avoid using Osuna, Tepera, Barnes and Leone when the Blue Jays are losing by several runs. That's a luxury the club hasn't experienced very often in 2017.

"We've asked a lot of them," Gibbons said. "They keep holding up, but there's still a month and a half left. That's a lot. They're all getting up there in innings. I don't know. Maybe they can hold up, but I have a hard time believing they can at this pace. It will be important, if you're down a couple of runs, to not use those guys."

Worth mentioning
• Interleague Play at Wrigley Field means the Blue Jays will not be able to use a designated hitter this weekend in Chicago. Earlier this year under similar circumstances, Morales and Justin Smoak shared time at first, but that likely won't happen this time. Morales was held out of the starting lineup on Friday, instead becoming an option off the bench. That's likely how things will stay throughout the three-game series as Gibbons sticks with the better bat.

"Smoaky has been rolling," Gibbons said. "If anything, [Morales] gives us a good bat off the bench. Lefty or righty."

• Right-hander Joe Biagini is nearing a return to the big league roster. He has been getting stretched out at Buffalo in anticipation of seizing a starting role with the Blue Jays. Biagini made his third start for the Bisons on Thursday afternoon, and he didn't allow a run over four innings. The 27-year-old threw 73 pitches, and it sounds like he'll be back in Toronto soon.

"Hopefully he's good to go," Gibbons said.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Roberto Osuna