PHOENIX -- A year removed from a second career-threatening Tommy John surgery, Kyle Drabek was back in the Blue Jays' clubhouse Tuesday as a September callup, donning the Toronto blue and white for the first time since June 13, 2012.
"I'm definitely happy to be back, and with some of the old teammates," Drabek said. "My arm feels good, just real happy I didn't have any setbacks. I was fortunate for that."
The 25-year-old worked a combined 43 innings at three different levels in the Blue Jays' farm system this year, compiling a 3.14 ERA and tallying 35 strikeouts. For now, Drabek will work out of the Toronto bullpen as he continues to strengthen his arm.
"I'll just be ready for when they call down and tell me that I got the next inning," he said. "I know I won't be coming in the middle of the inning, because I know my elbow probably won't be able to take the 'get hot real quick' type of thing."
That, though, does not mean the right-hander isn't aiming for a return to a starter's role. Drabek will keep up with his rehab and exercises in the offseason, then report to camp next February with the goal of jumping in the rotation in 2014. He believes all he has been through will make him stronger in the long run.
"I've definitely learned more about myself and the game," he said. "I've grown up baseball-wise. I'm starting to figure out things I either was or wasn't doing. When things aren't going my way on the mound, I've learned to slow it down and calm myself quicker than I was able to in past years."
Acquired in the blockbuster 2009 deal that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies, Drabek knows he will always be connected to the eight-time All-Star, but he is not concerned about proving anything to anyone. That sort of mentality, he said, does nothing but harm.
"You can't really replace a guy like him, and that's definitely not what I'm trying for," he said. "I'm not going to try to be Roy Halladay; I'm going to try to be myself and focus on what I can do. I just have to make sure I can stay healthy to do that."
Romero ready, waiting to contribute in '13
PHOENIX -- Hoping for redemption from his disappointing 2012 campaign, veteran left-hander Ricky Romero joined the Blue Jays in Arizona on Tuesday following nearly a full season in the Minors trying to return to old form.
"It's been a little bit of a long year, but I'm glad I'm here and surrounded by these guys," Romero said. "I'm just going to come out here and work. Just go out there and compete and do what I know how to do. I think that's the biggest thing, taking advantage of the opportunity."
Romero was an All-Star in 2011, finishing the season 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA. In 2012, however, the southpaw struggled in 32 starts, going 9-14 with a 5.77 ERA. He has appeared in two games for the Blue Jays this year, giving up a combined six runs in 4 1/3 innings, but every other outing Romero has made has been in the Minors. Although the 28-year-old was just 5-8 with a 5.78 ERA in 22 starts for Triple-A Buffalo, he feels confident that whatever caused the problems that plagued him in 2012 is behind him.
"It's tough to see the little victories, but sometimes the box score doesn't say it all," Romero said. "I've always been my toughest critic, but if you see a six- or seven-inning outing and you give up eight hits and five runs, sometimes there is some bad luck. That's just the way baseball is. My last few starts in Buffalo, I was satisfied. I was competing."
Despite being in the Minors only a year removed from a stellar season in 2011, Romero said he never got down on himself, instead focusing on how he could get back with the Blue Jays.
"As tough as the road has been, I never stopped believing," he said. "I've been a fighter my whole life, and I've overcome so many things. I knew I was going to keep fighting, and I came out with the right attitude every time I was pitching. I wanted to do whatever it took."
Now that Romero is back with Toronto, the club has not defined how he will be used in September, only saying that he will get work whenever the situation calls for it. That is just fine with him; his only goal is to show he can get batters out and take some confidence with him into next spring.
"After the tough year I had, you're looking to rebound from a personal standpoint," he said. "We'll see. My arm, late in the year, is probably the best it's felt in a long time."
Homer puts Encarnacion in good company
PHOENIX -- When Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion homered in the ninth inning Monday at Chase Field, he not only provided his club a couple of insurance runs in a tight game, but he also entered rarified air alongside an elite group of sluggers in Toronto franchise history. The long ball, his 35th, helped Encarnacion join Carlos Delgado, Jose Bautista, Fred McGriff and Shawn Green as the only Blue Jays to hit as many as 35 home runs in consecutive seasons.
"It means a lot; I've been working hard always for a good thing like this," Encarnacion said. "As I've said before, when you retire, you want to be remembered in the game."
Across the Majors, Encarnacion and Detroit's Miguel Cabrera are the only two players to hit 35 homers in each of the last two years. With a little less than a month left in the regular season, only Texas' Adrian Beltre has a chance to join that brief list, but he needs seven more long balls to reach 35 in 2013.
"He's definitely one of the better ones in the league," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Encarnacion. "Eddie is not just a slugger, though; he goes up there with a plan. He's really a student of hitting. He spends a lot of time in the video room studying pitchers. He doesn't say a lot of things -- he stays to himself -- but he's really a student of hitting."
• To make room for Romero, Jeremy Jeffress and Mike Nickeas on the 40-man roster Tuesday, the Blue Jays transferred Josh Johnson and Melky Cabrera to the 60-day disabled list and designated Mauro Gomez for assignment.
• After adding five players to the roster Tuesday, Gibbons said he did not expect the Blue Jays to call up any more Minor Leaguers this month, barring any unforeseen trouble.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.