Expected to play Tuesday, but club may alter defensive plans
TORONTO -- Jose Bautista was held out of the Blue Jays lineup on Monday night because of back spasms.
Toronto's slugger initially felt discomfort on Sunday and was deemed unable to go when he arrived at Rogers Centre on Monday. The club remains optimistic it will be a short-term injury and the expectation is that Bautista will play against Chicago on Tuesday.
The Blue Jays are unsure if the injury has anything to do with Bautista's recent transition to third base, but they are considering the symptoms to be relatively minor.
"I asked him if he thought he overdid it with the ground balls. He said he isn't sure," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "He's going to be fine and obviously we've seen him do [the transition to third], we did it two years ago. He was an everyday third baseman with the Pirates, this is just an isolated thing."
Bautista's injury likely will give the Blue Jays some pause before they make a final decision on the configuration of their infield and outfield in the coming weeks.
Brett Lawrie is set to return from a strained left oblique muscle on Tuesday. He has been the club's everyday third baseman since 2011, but he began working out at second during his current rehab assignment with Class A Dunedin.
There was at least the possibility that Lawrie would see some time up the middle while Bautista moved from right field to third. In theory, the goal was to improve the Blue Jays' defense while All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes is on the disabled list with a severe right ankle sprain, but manager John Gibbons seemed less than enthused about the idea.
"We heard he played great, but you also run the risk," Gibbons explained of Lawrie. "You move some guys around here and there -- everything I've heard, Jose is a good third baseman -- but you get so many guys out of position of what their norms are and that can cause some problems, too."
Lawrie was drafted by the Brewers as a catcher in 2008, but he came up through their Minor League system as a second baseman. He then began the transition to third base in 2011 following an offseason deal with the Blue Jays and since then has strictly been used as a corner infielder.
Anthopoulos said the rehab assignment enabled the club to get a feel for whether Lawrie could still handle the position when called upon. The native of Langley, British Columbia, reportedly received raving reviews from roving infield instructor Mike Mordecai, but that doesn't mean any permanent changes are imminent.
The move was made more to increase the club's versatility when various situations arise this season.
"We never committed to that," Anthopoulos said of the transition. "Even when we talked about it on the road, I think my quote was we were going to look at that at second just to know we have that as an option.
"He played a game last night, they said he looked great, he's going to play there again today. But when he comes back, the plan is still for him to play third and Jose to play right. But it does give John more options."
The Blue Jays also seem less inclined than they were a few days to ago to find Reyes' replacement through trade. Reyes is expected to miss the next three months and when the injury first happened on Friday night, Anthopoulos began searching the trade market for alternatives.
Toronto's GM continues to explore every avenue, but the asking prices from other clubs have not been to his liking. For now, the Blue Jays will go with recent callup Munenori Kawasaki at shortstop while occasionally using Maicer Izturis at the position as well.
"Obviously, we like what Kawasaki has done," Anthopoulos said. "We don't have any illusions about what the batting average is going to be, but I think the energy level he brings has been outstanding. ... The one thing you like about him, is that he'll give you a good at-bat. I don't know that he's going to be hitting any balls over the wall, but he grinds at-bats.
"The fact that he is a contact bat, I think it allows you to do a lot of things. He can get a guy over, he can hit a sac fly, he can bunt and obviously he can run. For now, it's fine, we'll watch it. We're still actively talking with some teams but as of right now, I don't think we're going to do anything."