Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | 2:10 a.m.
Bryan Bullington said before the season started that he knew that earning a seat the Toronto Blue Jays' crowded bullpen would probably require catching a break.
He got one last week, and the former No. 1 overall pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates has delivered so far.
B.J. Ryan, the Jays' high-priced closer who missed the entire 2007 season following Tommy John surgery, was placed on the 15-day disabled list, identifying a problem with his trapezius muscle following his second blown save of the season.
Bullington, a converted starter who was 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA in 4 relief appearances early on this season for the 51s, has impressed so far with the big club.
Toronto took two of three in a series this weekend in Chicago, with Bullington throwing a pair of scoreless innings.
Granted, his two appearances didn't come in the most pressure-packed of situations -- throwing the eighth inning of a 10-2 loss on Saturday and the ninth inning of Friday's 14-0 win -- but he validated the call-up.
In two innings over the weekend, he surrendered four hits and a walk, but struck out five batters.
He threw another scoreless inning in a 7-1 loss to the Royals on Monday night, allowing just one walk.
Whether Bullington keeps his spot when Ryan returns, however, is an unknown.
Last season, Toronto's bullpen led the majors with a 2.94 ERA. This season, they rank seventh so far at 3.39.
As for the other pitching call-up ...
Brian Burres was brought up last week, also, after Ricky Romero's impressive start to his rookie season was halted with a trip to the 15-day DL with a strained oblique muscle on his right side.
The 24-year-old Romero -- who the Blue Jays took sixth overall in 2005 out of Cal State Fullerton -- is 2-0 so far in 3 starts with a 1.71 ERA.
Burres, who went 13-18 over the past two seasons in 39 starts for Baltimore, struggled in his first start for the Jays on Saturday evening in Chicago.
Burres dueled with White Sox ace Mark Buehrle into the fifth inning, with the game knotted up at 2-2.
Then, Burres began to unravel a bit, leaving the game with the bases loaded and down 4-2. Reliever Shawn Camp then allowed a few more earned runs to go to Burres's credit, surrendering a grand slam to Chicago shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
Burres finished the night with 6 earned runs on his line through 4.1 innings thrown. He allowed 7 hits, 4 walks and recorded 2 strikeouts.
"He gave us four innings, he hung in there," manager Cito Gaston told the Toronto Star. "We had some pitches we'd like to have back."
He's scheduled to start again for the Jays on Thursday night as they wrap up a four-game series in Kansas City.
A powerful heart ...
Despite some inconsistency surrounding them, first basemen Brett Harper and Randy Ruiz -- who rotate between playing first and the designated hitter role -- so far have formed one of the Pacific Coast League's most formidable power duos.
Hitting in the heart of the lineup, Harper leads the 51s with a .338 average, clubbing 4 home runs and 17 RBI in 65 at-bats.
Ruiz is the only 51 to have played in all 18 games so far, hitting .315. His 5 homers, 22 RBI and 44 total bases are all team-highs.
Relief is on the way ...
Following today's conclusion of a four-game series at Sacramento, the 51s will have their first day off since April 14, when a game at Salt Lake was postponed due to rain.
Salt Lake, however, is in town for a weekend series starting Thursday night at 7:05 p.m.