Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera to return Friday

The must make a push immediately when the second half of the season starts Friday as they are 8.5 games out of the second wild-card spot. The good news is that the team will welcome back outfielder Melky Cabrera off an injury-rehab start.

Cabrera (knee) went 2-for-4 in his latest minor league rehab game Wednesday with Double-A New Hampshire. He is 5-for-17 (.294) through five rehab games and should be in the Toronto lineup Friday after missing seven combined weeks with left knee tendinitis. He’ll try to move past a forgettable first half that saw him slash .278/.321/.362 with just three home runs, two stolen bases, 34 runs, and 29 RBI in 335 plate appearances.

The Blue Jays open a 10-game homestand Friday against surging Tampa Bay — bet on it at WagerWeb. Toronto is currently four games below .500 (45-49), which is the franchise’s worst record coming out of the break since 2004.

The Jays were preseason American League favorites and the reason they now have such a climb is a terrible first two months. Toronto went 10-17 during April and 15-17 in May. The lowest point came on May 10, when the club found itself 11 games under .500 with seemingly little hope of getting back into the race.

However, the Blue Jays went 17-9 during June to give themselves a fighting chance. An 11-game winning streak put the club two games above .500 for the first time all year and finally there was a glimmer of hope. But in the ensuing 20 games after the streak, the Blue Jays once again fell back down to earth. They went just 7-13 to lose a lot of the ground they made up. Toronto’s rotation has the second-worst ERA (5.07) in the Majors, has thrown the second-fewest innings (515).

The Blue Jays are 25-21 at Rogers Centre this season. The Rays are 34-17 when playing outside the AL East, but only 20-24 against division rivals. They are 5-5 against the Blue Jays. If Toronto doesn’t go something like 7-3 on this homestand, the team might have to start selling right before the July 31 trade deadline.

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