PORT CHARLOTTE -- Andy Burns never had a chance to crack the Blue Jays' Opening Day roster, but his strong showing during Spring Training has quickly put him on the radar as a possible callup later in the season.Burns is hitting .324 (11-for-34) with six extra-base hits and seven RBIs
PORT CHARLOTTE -- Andy Burns never had a chance to crack the Blue Jays' Opening Day roster, but his strong showing during Spring Training has quickly put him on the radar as a possible callup later in the season.
Burns is hitting .324 (11-for-34) with six extra-base hits and seven RBIs in 21 games this spring, including a game-tying RBI walk with the bases loaded in Sunday's 7-3 Blue Jays win over the Rays. More importantly, he has continued to show value as a super utility player that can be used just about anywhere in the infield and outfield.
The 25-year-old Burns has played all over the field during camp. He can be slotted into the corner outfield spots, possibly even center in a pinch, plus has decent range at third base, shortstop and second base. In other words, he's a valuable commodity to have when it comes to the depth of the organization.
"He has been playing great, better than I thought he would to be honest," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Anywhere we put him, he has done a nice job. We've played him a little bit in the outfield, and he has done a nice job there. Third base, he has been making some unbelievable plays."
Kevin Pillar will be the Blue Jays' leadoff hitter on Opening Day, and what that means for left fielder Michael Saunders is still somewhat unclear. Saunders previously had been mentioned as a possibility to hit in the leadoff spot.
Toronto will go with Pillar, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion (if healthy) and Troy Tulowitzki in the top five spots. Justin Smoak and Saunders likely would then hit sixth and eighth with Russell Martin slotted between them, though Gibbons is still deciding on the exact alignment.
"The middle of our lineup is going to be set," Gibbons said. "He'll be at the tail end of the lineup. I think we're so strong in the middle that I don't think you want to disrupt that at all because we have [right-handed hitters] who can hit righties too. All he is going to do is make our lineup stronger."
Encarnacion cleared for takeoff
Encarnacion remains on schedule to make his first appearance in a Spring Training game on Monday afternoon. Encarnacion will get the start in a Minor League game, and because it's an intrasquad game, he'll have the ability to take one at-bat every inning.
Encarnacion has yet to play this spring because of an abscessed tooth that was pulled early in camp and an oblique injury that followed shortly after his return to the field. Toronto is still optimistic that he will be ready for Opening Day.
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.