TORONTO -- Blue Jays outfielder José Bautista is headed back to the 15-day disabled list after suffering a sprain of his left knee during Tuesday's 9-2 loss to the Rays.
Bautista sustained the injury in the third inning, stumbling after a single by Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier. The veteran Toronto outfielder woke up Wednesday feeling discomfort in his knee, and an MRI exam revealed a Grade 1 sprain. Bautista was optimistic he would only have to miss the mandatory 15-day period. The Blue Jays selected the contract of Junior Lake from Triple-A Buffalo to take Bautista's spot on the roster.
"My cleat got caught in the turf, and the knee got a little jerk there, and then I landed on it, too," Bautista said. "I can't really tell if it was when my cleat got caught or when I landed on it. But it's a sprained knee nonetheless, and I'm on the DL."
The 35-year-old missed 30 games earlier in the season after a turf toe injury on his left foot he sustained in mid-June. While the two injuries are not related, Bautista did echo disappointment in not being able to contribute while Toronto makes its push toward a second consecutive American League East title.
"It is, it's really frustrating, especially after an offseason that a lot of hard work went into just getting my body ready and hopefully avoiding these types of situations," Bautista said. "And then having it happen on two freak injuries or freak accidents, it's pretty disappointing."
Bautista is expected to head to the team's Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla., to receive treatment and strengthen his knee. The Chipola College alum hopes to avoid a rehab assignment and return to the lineup as soon as possible.
"If there's time, those at-bats are not going to be wasted away in the Minor Leagues," Bautista said. "I don't know if I will or not -- I don't think so. Two weeks is much different than five or six weeks. I feel I was starting to get into the groove of things. I was seeing the ball pretty good and making solid contact in the last 5-6 games. I know that, hopefully, if it's just two weeks, I don't think it's a necessity to get at-bats. We'll see how I feel."
A free agent at season's end, Bautista has hit .222 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs in 80 games this season. Bautista is the second Blue Jays outfielder to hit the DL this week, joining center fielder Kevin Pillar.
While Melvin Upton Jr. takes over in center field for Pillar, the Blue Jays will use Darrell Ceciliani as the primary right fielder against right-handed pitchers for the short term, with Lake seeing time against lefties. Lake has one home run and two RBIs in 34 at-bats with the Blue Jays this season.
The Blue Jays do expect to receive some outfield help early next week, as Ezequiel Carrera is expected to be activated from the DL. Carrera, who was placed on the DL with a left Achilles strain on Aug. 1, is expected to join Triple-A Buffalo for a rehab assignment this weekend. The 29-year-old has hit .258 with four home runs and 15 RBIs this season, and he was the primary right fielder during Bautista's initial absence.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons announced the team would keep its six-man starting rotation intact after Thursday's off-day. Francisco Liriano gets the ball for Friday's opener against the Astros, with Aaron Sanchez starting Saturday and Marcus Stroman on Sunday.
The Blue Jays recalled right-handed reliever Ryan Tepera from Buffalo on Wednesday in an effort to add a fresh arm to their depleted bullpen. Tepera has a 5.79 ERA in five games with Toronto this season. The team sent down fellow righty Danny Barnes after Tuesday's loss.