TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are paying their respects to longtime employee Howard Starkman by creating an annual award in his honor.
Toronto has introduced the Howard Starkman Award which will be presented annually to the employee of the year. Starkman is set to officially retire on Friday and is the longest serving employee in the organization.
Starkman joined the Blue Jays in 1976 and was one of the first employees ever hired by the organization. He was the longtime director of public relations before eventually moving on to become the vice president of media relations and later the vice president of special projects.
The Blue Jays also honored Starkman by placing a small plaque inscribed "Howard Starkman #38" on the side of the bases that were used during Thursday night's game. The number 38 represents the total amount of years that Starkman worked in the organization.
The award will be displayed at Rogers Centre and will include the following:
"The Howard Starkman Award was established in April 2014 to honour the career of long-time Blue Jays employee Howard Starkman. It is granted annually to the Employee of the Year for the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club, who best exemplifies the values of integrity, innovation, accountability, team work and a passion for winning. At the inception of this award, Howard was the longest standing Blue Jays employee having started with the club in 1976.
"In a career with the Blue Jays that spanned five decades, Howard was the recipient of numerous accolades. The prestigious Robert O. Fishel Award for excellence in Public Relations was bestowed upon Howard in 1995, he was twice recognized by the Toronto Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America with the Good Guy Award, he won the Sports Media Canada President's Award in 2012 and he was part of the World Champion Toronto Blue Jays organizations of 1992 and 1993.
"Over the years, Howard mentored and guided the careers of many within the sports business, a gift that is looked back on with sincere and heartfelt gratitude."
Izturis earns extra playing time
TORONTO -- Maicer Izturis has started to earn some additional playing time but the Blue Jays aren't quite prepared to name him the everyday second baseman.
Izturis began the year in a platoon at second base with Ryan Goins. The plan was for Izturis to start games against left-handers while Goins got the playing time when a right-hander was on the mound.
The strategy now appears to be changing two weeks into the season as Izturis has been one of the Blue Jays' most productive hitters. Izturis got the start vs a righty on Wednesday night but manager John Gibbons doesn't want to say the Blue Jays have made any final determinations on future playing time.
"I'm not ready to say that," Gibbons said when asked if Izturis was his starting second baseman. "Izturis gives you some offense and some defense, Goins is a defensive specialist and we think he's going to hit enough. He's off to a slow start but I expect him to improve on that. Right now we're just playing the hot hand."
Izturis entered play on Thursday night with multiple hits in five of his seven games this season. He leads the club with a .455 (10-for-22) batting average and has been promoted to the No. 2 spot of the batting order while Jose Reyes is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring.
Goins has seen his 2014 season get off to a rocky start at the plate. He has just one hit in 19 at-bats and at times has looked lost in the batter's box. The Blue Jays were never expecting a whole lot of offensive production out of Goins, but they also need more than they've been getting so far.
Gibbons insists they expect Goins to eventually turn things around so the starting job doesn't necessarily belong to Izturis. But, for now, Toronto will go with the hot bat and when there's a need for better defense up the middle that's when the club will turn to Goins.
"If we had more guys in the lineup that were swinging it a little bit more, if we were hot as a team, we might go the other way just for the defense," Gibbons said. "Kind of figure, at this particular time, what does the team need."
Delabar not expected to miss much time
TORONTO -- Right-hander Steve Delabar is not expected to miss much time after he was struck on the right leg by a line drive during the ninth inning of Wednesday's game against the Astros.
Delabar was hit by a scorching line drive off the bat of Houston's Jose Altuve. The incident looked a lot worse than it was and Delabar came away without a major injury because the ball went off his calf muscle and not a bone.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Delabar wasn't available to pitch on Thursday night against the Astros, but it's very likely the hard-throwing reliever will be cleared for the upcoming weekend series against Baltimore.
"I could go tonight but I think they're going to be cautious," Delabar said Thursday afternoon.
Delabar didn't need to go for an X-ray after the game and instead was told to apply a lot of ice and to keep his leg elevated. He walked around the clubhouse on Thursday with his calf muscle heavily wrapped and while there obviously was quite a bit of soreness, it's expected to subside within the next day or two.
That's very good news for the Blue Jays because Delabar is a key contributor in middle relief. Toronto is already without Casey Janssen because of a strained lower back, but the veteran closer is expected to return at some point next week.
Delabar is coming off an All-Star season with the Blue Jays and so far in 2014 he has allowed two runs during four innings of work. He has struck out three and walked one in his five appearances.
"They call it the RICE method," Delabar said of his treatment. "Rest, ice, compression, elevation they do all that kind of stuff. Just normal therapy."