By Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
TORONTO - Blue Jays manager John Gibbons will have a new option out of his taxed bullpen as the club has called up RHP Chris Smith ahead of Tuesday's series opener against the Baltimore Orioles. The team will also activate Ezequiel Carrera from the 10-day disabled list.
To make room on the Blue Jays' 25-man roster, RHP Jason Grilli has been designated for assignment, and Dwight Smith Jr. was optioned back to triple-A Buffalo.
Chris Smith, 28, has appeared in 14 games with the Bisons in 2017, notching 15 strikeouts against only two walks.
Spending parts of three seasons touring various independent circuits after going undrafted out of college, the journeyman hurler has pitched to an overall ERA of 2.45 with a WHIP of 1.016 through 184 innings of affiliated ball dating back to 2014.
Although he earned his first big league call-up last fall, the native of Louisville, Ky., has yet to appear in a major league game. One of only three pitchers listed on the team's 40-man roster who is either not already up with the big league club or currently eligible for a major league promotion, Smith last pitched on June 25 and earned a save after tossing a scoreless ninth inning against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders.
Over his last 10 games, Smith has allowed eight earned runs on 14 hits while striking out 10 batters through 13 frames.
Carerra rejoins the Blue Jays after missing 11 games since being diagnosed with a right foot fracture on June 13. Through 56 games, the 30-year-old outfielder has hit .297 with five home runs, one shy of his career-high set after appearing in 110 games in 2016.
Despite slashing .370/.414/.444 with a pair of doubles over 29 plate appearances dating back his MLB debut on May 18, Smith Jr. became the odd man out when Carerra was deemed clear for action on Tuesday.
Having posted a FIP of 7.89 through 26 relief assignments in 2017, Grilli has struggled to recapture the form that made him a potent force in the back end of the Blue Jays' bullpen after being acquired from the Atlanta Braves in 2016.
With the Blue Jays exercising a one-year, $3-million deal in the offseason, it's hard to imagine another club making a play for the 15-year veteran given both his guaranteed salary and inflated peripherals thus far in 2017. Should he clear, it's likely that Grilli will wind up pitching in triple-A Buffalo as the well-travelled veteran will look to sort things out in the minors.
Entering Tuesday's action, the Blue Jays bullpen has accounted for a total of 265 1/3 innings in 2017, which is good enough for seventh most among all major league clubs. The group also ranks fourth in overall appearances with 259 on the year.
Despite an increased workload, the Blue Jays' relief staff owns the ninth-lowest ERA (3.90) in the majors.
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