CHICAGO -- Junior Lake returned to the Major Leagues in the Windy City on Friday, for a team that wears blue, but the Cubs were an afterthought as he prepared to play for the Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field.Lake, 26, made his Blue Jays debut by starting in right
CHICAGO -- Junior Lake returned to the Major Leagues in the Windy City on Friday, for a team that wears blue, but the Cubs were an afterthought as he prepared to play for the Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field.
Lake, 26, made his Blue Jays debut by starting in right field and hitting ninth in Toronto's 3-2 loss in the series opener against the White Sox. After being traded by the Cubs to the Orioles at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season and then claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays in the offseason, Lake is hoping to take advantage of his latest opportunity in the Majors.
"I'm happy to be back here, excited again," said Lake, whose contract was selected from Triple-A Buffalo on Friday after he hit .244 with six home runs and 27 RBIs in 69 games. "I'll try to do the same as I did down [in Buffalo], take it as I go and try to get better every day."
Lake was once a highly regarded prospect for the Cubs, who signed him as an international free agent in 2007. After making his Major League debut in 2013, he played 193 games in parts of three seasons for them, hitting .241 with 16 home runs and 46 RBIs.
Lake acknowledged the odd coincidence of returning to baseball's top level in the same city, but said that's as far as he let the thought go in his mind. His time with the Cubs is a thing of the past now, as he tries to fulfill his potential with the Blue Jays.
"It's weird," Lake said. "This is like my second home here. I know this city, but I'm happy to be a Toronto Blue Jay. I'm with the Blue Jays now, so I have to think about it like I'm not here to talk about the Cubs."
Lake's bat started to heat up with Buffalo the past couple weeks, which was one of the reasons Toronto made the move. The biggest reason was Jose Bautista being placed on the 15-day disabled list with turf toe, an injury that could require an extended recovery time.
Lake, a right-handed hitter, will take the role of fourth outfielder with the schedule lining up multiple left-handed starting pitchers during a six-game road trip to Chicago and Colorado. Lake is replacing Darrell Ceciliani, a left-handed hitter who was optioned to Buffalo.
"We were looking for a right-handed bat," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "When Bautista went down, that was part of that plan, and we acquired [Lake] to do that, too. He was in Spring Training with us, and was swinging well the last couple weeks down there at Triple-A, so he earned his promotion."
Like many others, Gibbons is impressed with Lake's raw tools. He's got a strong arm, good size at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds and has good speed.
"He's a very athletic kid," Gibbons said. "He can do a lot of things. He's a big, strong guy. He's one of those guys who's waiting for it all to come together and waiting for that big opportunity. Hopefully this is it. Bautista could be down awhile."
• Ezequiel Carrera was back in the lineup, leading off and playing left field, after missing a game Wednesday against the D-backs with Achilles soreness. Gibbons said Carrera was fine and didn't have any lingering issues.
• Justin Smoak, who fouled a ball off his left knee Wednesday, had X-rays done Friday. Gibbons said Smoak is "pretty banged up" from it.
• Michael Saunders was the designated hitter for the Blue Jays because Gibbons wanted to get him a day off from playing the field.
• Left-handers Brett Cecil (torn last muscle) and Franklin Morales (left shoulder fatigue) will each move to Buffalo on Saturday in the next stage of their rehab stints. Gibbons said each is getting closer to returning.
Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago.