Blue Jays' left-field position remains unsettled

Gibbons says he is leaning toward platoon

March 9th, 2017
Melvin Upton Jr. is one of a handful of Blue Jays in the mix for playing left field. (AP)

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- To update the old Abbott and Costello routine, Who's in Left?

When the Blue Jays faced the Phillies in Grapefruit League action Thursday at Spectrum Field, it was Melvin Upton Jr. He's the outfielder who was acquired just before last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

But there's also , starting his third season with the Blue Jays, who played 110 games in 2016. Not to mention Steve Pearce, who was signed to a two-year, $12.5 million contract this offseason. There was some thought earlier this spring that Pearce could win the job outright, although he still hasn't played in the field while recovering from elbow surgery.

and , the 2015 Opening Day center fielder, remain in the picture.

"Right now we're looking at a Carrera-Upton platoon," manager John Gibbons said before the game. "It can be a good option. This could be very beneficial. Melvin has always hit left-handers really well. That's what he did last year for us when we brought him over. And we like what Zeke's doing. He's had some crazy splits where he's actually done better against lefties himself. But he's in there to hit righties. That's kind of what we're looking at right now."

Upton batted .275 with an .874 OPS against left-handers last season compared to .226/.634 against right-handers. For Carrera it was .329/.824 vs. LHPs and .218/.626 against RHPs.

But "right now" may be the key disclaimer of Gibbons' comment. Pearce, who has been getting at-bats as the designated hitter, is scheduled to play in the field for the first time on March 19.

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"Oh, yeah, [Pearce] could be out there, too," the manager said.

Told that Upton believes he'd hit right-handers better if he played against them more regularly, Gibbons added even more wiggle room.

"I can tell you this, if he's playing really good he'll be out there a lot, lefty or righty," he said. "I can tell you that. So he can control that. We'll see. We'll get the best man out there, the guys who are playing the best."

So who's in left?

"We're still trying to figure that out because these guys we've got out there are proven players," Gibbons said. "We'll see how that shakes out. It's still early. They're starting to get at-bats. Upton's got a program put together for him. Zeke, we have a pretty good idea who he is. Pearce has had the arm problem. He's not going to take the field yet, but he's getting his at bats now. So we're just going to let that play out.

"I think competition brings out the best in guys."