TORONTO -- Kyle Drabek's progression -- both physically and mentally -- is something that has caught the attention of Blue Jays manager John Farrell.
"He's certainly further along," Farrell said about the in-game adjustments Drabek has been able to make so far. "Through his challenges from a year ago, he's learned more about himself, and I think that's what maturity is about -- recognizing certain situations that might cause that emotional spike, when to back off, when to regroup, when to let certain things go that you have no control over. ... He's doing a much better job in all those areas."
Drabek got off to a good start by throwing 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a win against the Red Sox on Tuesday. The Blue Jays are hoping that his well-documented struggles from last season are a thing of the past.
The 24-year-old bounced back and forth between Toronto and Triple-A Las Vegas in 2011, finishing the season with a 4-5 record and 6.06 ERA while issuing 6.29 walks per nine innings.
Drabek, who entered Spring Training battling for a spot in the rotation, worked diligently with Toronto pitching coach Bruce Walton to refine his mechanics and improve his ability to repeat his delivery. Part of that was using yellow lines on the mound to make sure he landed in the same spot consistently. He impressed the Blue Jays' staff enough to earn himself a spot in the rotation.
"A very talented young pitcher," Farrell said. "When he keeps himself under control, he can be as good as anybody we have in our rotation. "He possesses the physical abilities equal to anybody else in our rotation."
Santos nails down first save with Blue Jays
TORONTO -- Sergio Santos collected his first save in a Blue Jays uniform in Wednesday's 3-1 victory over the Red Sox.
Santos entered the game in the ninth with runners on second and third and one out, and he finished the game by striking out Kevin Youkilis and getting David Ortiz to ground out to short to secure the win.
After blowing his first two save opportunities of the season -- and being booed by a packed house at Rogers Centre for Toronto's home opener -- this outing was a relief for Santos.
"It's nice to finally have my first good outing in front of these fans," Santos said. "I know they're passionate. ... They're passionate about their sports and that's good, that's all you ask for."
John Farrell believed Santos' struggles may have been the result of overthrowing his fastball, but the skipper saw something different in his hard-throwing right-hander Wednesday that allowed him to work his way out of the high-leverage situation.
"He threw his slider almost exclusively to Youkilis to get the strikeout, and it's a pitch that he doesn't necessarily overthrow at times," Farrell said. "His fastball, he can get amped up, and that's where we've seen some elevated fastballs. But the slider just allows his fingers to stay on top of the ball and he gets down in the strike zone. That was the difference today."
Santos believes his ability to locate the slider is essential moving forward, as the pitch is a strong complement to his mid-to-upper-90s fastball.
Farrell knows the kind of stuff his closer has, and knew it was only a matter of time before Toronto's big offseason acquisition made a positive impact.
"For a closer, you got to have short-term memory," Farrell said. "The first two appearances for him didn't go as planned. ... We have confidence in him."
It was a nice send-off for Santos, who will temporarily be away from the team until Saturday, as his wife is expected to give birth to the couple's third child Thursday.
Francisco makes first start in series finale
TORONTO -- Ben Francisco made his first start of the season for the Blue Jays in Wednesday's series finale against the Red Sox.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell gave left-handed hitters Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind their first day off of the season, as Toronto faced southpaw Jon Lester.
"We wanted to get right-handers in there against Lester," Farrell said. "[It's] a chance to get Lind a day [off], for no physical reasons -- just day game after a night game -- and to get another right-handed bat in the lineup."
Francisco, who was the designated hitter, was penciled in as the No. 5 hitter behind Edwin Encarnacion, who shifted over to first base.
Farrell chose to stack the middle of the lineup with three right-handed hitters following slugger Jose Bautista, who batted out of his customary No. 3 spot.
Entering Wednesday, Francisco, 30, had logged just one at-bat this year after playing 100-plus games in three of the past four seasons as a member of the Phillies and Indians. He hit .244 with six homers and 34 RBIs with Philadelphia in 2011.
"Just stay ready, put your work in behind the scenes in the weight room and the batting cage and try to keep your timing down, be ready to go," Francisco said about keeping himself prepared. "I'm excited. It's a big series, and I'm gonna be ready to play today."
Rajai Davis took over for Rasmus in center field and hit ninth.
Farrell not fretting Bautista's slow start
TORONTO -- Jose Bautista is off to a slow start this season, hitting just .200 (4-for-20) with one home run and two RBIs entering Wednesday's game against the Red Sox.
Bautista's lone homer and three of his four hits came in the first game of the year against Cleveland. Since then, he's been in the midst of a 1-for-16 slump that included an 0-for-4 night against Boston on Tuesday, when he struck out three times.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell isn't concerned.
"He's struggled to find his timing," Farrell said. "We've all been accustomed to seeing Jose just continue to hit balls in the seats. But there were times last year, and I'm sure the year before, where he goes through some stretches where his timing is off a little bit."
The two-time defending home run champion has hit a combined 97 long balls the past two seasons and also led the Majors with a 1.056 OPS in 2011.
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.