Liriano feeling better, expects to play in ALCS

Blue Jays lefty must pass concussion tests before being cleared

October 11th, 2016

TORONTO -- Blue Jays left-hander says he is feeling much better after last week's concussion and expects to be ready for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.

Liriano sustained a concussion when he was struck by a liner off the bat of the Rangers' in Game 2 of the AL Division Series. He was removed from the 25-man roster but is eligible to return following a seven-day absence, pending the approval of Major League Baseball.

The veteran lefty still has to pass a series of concussion tests before he can be cleared. Liriano said Tuesday that he experienced some dizziness Sunday, but has been symptom-free since then. The Blue Jays and Indians open the ALCS in Cleveland on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS and, in Canada, Sportsnet and RDS.

:: ALCS: Blue Jays vs. Indians coverage ::

"Right now, I don't feel anything," Liriano said when asked about the symptoms on Tuesday. "Everything is good, everything is back to normal. I don't feel anything weird. I played catch today, and everything felt fine."

Liriano is expected to play catch on Wednesday as well. He'll also be put through a series of exertion tests, and once everything is cleared by Toronto's medical staff, it will submit a return-to-play form that must be approved by the league.

The latest development came as positive news not only for Liriano's personal health but also the state of Toronto's bullpen. Liriano had been expected to become a primary piece of the Blue Jays 'pen after he transitioned from the starting rotation at the end of the regular season.

Liriano picked up the win in Toronto's 5-2 victory over the Orioles in the AL Wild Card Game, tossing 1 2/3 innings. His versatility out of the bullpen is a major asset for a team that struggled to close games at times this year. Liriano would join a late-inning relief group that also includes , , and closer .

"[Liriano] potentially has a chance to be a big swing guy for us, too, but that's still up in the air," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He wouldn't be available until that second game. But if we feel in the next couple of days that he's going to be good to go -- after throwing a little bit and making sure he's right -- then a lot of things will take shape around him. If he's not [good to go], then we may have to make some other plans."

Liriano's availability for the ALCS will have an impact on the entire roster, not just the bullpen. Right-hander replaced Liriano during the ALDS, and he's the likely backup for the ALCS as well. But if Liriano's versatility in the bullpen is missing, Toronto may choose to stick with an eight-man bullpen instead of using seven relievers.

Toronto went with eight relievers in the ALDS instead of carrying pinch-runner on the roster. If Liriano is there to eat up a lot of innings, then it's possible the Blue Jays could drop or in favor of adding some speed to the bench. If Liriano is not going to be there, the club will likely want the extra arms.

"It's always nice having [Pompey] sitting over on the bench when you're down a run, because we don't have great team speed anyway on our team," Gibbons said. "It's part of the discussion right now. We ended up not needing a couple relievers [against Texas]. But for the most part, we had the lead in all of those games. If it swings the other way and you're down a bunch, the thought was, we want to stay away from our top relievers who were grinding it pretty good."