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Mired in mediocrity, lack of consistent pitching hurting Jays

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brad Lincoln is calmed by catcher J.P. Arencibia after a passed ball with the bases loaded allowed Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman to score in the seventh inning of an interleague baseball game at Turner Field in Atlanta, Thursday, May 30, 2013. Atlanta won 11-3.

Dave Tulis/AP

The second month of the season's has gone by with the Blue Jays residing in the AL East basement, still desperately seeking a sustained run to get back into the race.

Up the coast from here, the Los Angeles Angels had an equally disappointing start to the season before getting on a roll in these past two weeks, winning 10 of 12 games before losing to Houston on Friday.

For Friday's game against the Padres at Petco Park, Gibbons moved Edwin Encarnacion across the diamond to third base from his usual post at first, in order to get designated hitter Adam Lind's bat into the lineup for an interleague game.

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With third baseman Brett Lawrie on the disabled list, Gibbons plans to continue using the setup through the two-game series in San Francisco on Tuesday and Wednesday. Whether he might consider the setup more permanently, with Lawrie hitting .209 and averaging one strikeout per game, wasn't discussed.

Hitting, though, isn't the Jays problem. The offence has come around after a slow start, enabling the Jays to enter Friday's game with a chance to go .500 in the month with a 13-14 record entering the game.

There's no secret to the sauce.

".500 months aren't going to make up a lot of ground," Gibbons said. "We've got to pitch."

The starting rotation ranked 28th out of 30 Major League teams with a 5.53 earned run average and an overall record of 12-21. It also ranked 28th in innings pitched, stressing the bullpen to the point that the Jays might have chartered a limousine service to transport relief back and forth from Triple-A Buffalo.

Is there light? Right-hander Josh Johnson (triceps strain) is scheduled to return in San Francisco after a rehab stint at Buffalo. He was expected to contribute 15-20 wins, after being obtained from Miami in the off-season, but started the season with an 0-1 record and 6.86 ERA in four games.

"We need Josh to be good when he comes back," Gibbons said. "We've got to stabilize some things."

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Meanwhile, it was uncertain whether right-hander Brandon Morrow will take his start on Sunday night. Morrow, slowed by back and forearm strains to date, is 2-3 with a 5.63 ERA.

Mark Buehrle, pitching Saturday, has returned to form but he's the only reliably effective starter at the moment. R.A. Dickey, hit hard in Atlanta for a loss on Thursday, is having trouble getting the requisite velocity on his knuckleball. With J.A. Happ on the 60-day disabled list, the No. 5 starter is Chad Jenkins.

The solution has to come from within, at least for now.

"This time of year, you can't make trades [for a top starter] because everybody still thinks they have a shot," Gibbons said. Else, they're holding on to their talent to leverage a better price in July.

In May, the Blue Jays ranked in the top-five or six among Major League teams for batting average, on-base-percentage, slugging percentage and runs scored. Entering Friday's game, Lind was hitting .338 in the month, with a .407 on-base percentage and .606 slugging percentage. Jose Bautista was at .361/.472/.588, Encarnacion .290/.361/.486. J.P. Arencibia is tied for sixth in the AL with 12 homers.

Colby Rasmus ranked second in home runs among centre fielders in the AL. Emilio Bonficacio, who's taken over second base, had raised his average toward the .220 mark by hitting .302 over a 16-game stretch.

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