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Bautista cleared to play right field

All-Star had been relegated to DH role with shoulder injury

WASHINGTON -- The Blue Jays' outfield defense received a major boost on Monday afternoon with word that Jose Bautista has been cleared to play right field.

Bautista had been limited to getting his at-bats out of the designated hitter spot since April 21 because of a strain and an impingement in his right shoulder.

With Michael Saunders on the disabled list, the combined loss of those two players took its toll on Toronto's outfield. The team had to resort to using infielders at the corner spots but it finally has one of its regulars back.

"I can't say it's 100 percent but I'm good to be playing defense and if there are plays that need to be made I expect to be able to make them," Bautista said before Monday night's game against the Nationals was postponed because of rain.

Chris Colabello, who is a natural first baseman, is still expected to get a lot of playing time in left field at least until Saunders returns, but the Blue Jays now have the luxury of having a late-inning defensive replacement available off the bench.

Ezequiel Carrera was scheduled to start in center field on Monday night prior to the game getting postponed, but more often than not he'll serve as the fourth outfielder. He can enter games late to replace Colabello and the hope is that will result in fewer defensive miscues.

Bautista's injury started out as a strain but he later developed an impingement. That could help explain why the shoulder has taken so long to heal, and the fact that Bautista admitted he's still not fully healthy means the Blue Jays might have to deal with this situation again if he suffers a setback at any point.

"Just wait, keep waiting until it heals some more," Bautista said. "I do have to maintain the strength and flexibility so I'll have to stay on top of that a little more than normal. Nothing that is going to take too much time away from me."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Toronto Blue Jays, Jose Bautista