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Navarro's offensive production an added plus

CLEVELAND -- The Blue Jays had a very quiet offseason, but the one significant upgrade they made can be found behind the plate.

Veteran catcher Dioner Navarro entered play on Sunday afternoon tied for the team lead with 12 RBIs. He's also struck out just three times in 63 at-bats and has helped provide some additional depth to Toronto's lineup.

There's still some work to be done, as Navarro is hitting .254 on the season with a .597 OPS, but the catching position isn't the same kind of black hole it used to be when J.P. Arencibia was struggling to historic lows in 2013.

"Some people in this game now don't believe in RBIs, but I sure as heck do, and those were two big ones that gave us a little breathing room right there," manager John Gibbons said of a key two-run single Navarro had during Saturday's 5-0 victory.

"He's got some clutch hits for us. He's just a good hitter. He doesn't strike out much, he puts the ball in play, he's a line drive guy. He gives you a great at-bat, either way."

To a certain extent, Navarro's numbers are a byproduct of where he has been hitting in the Blue Jays' lineup. Navarro has split his time this season in the No. 5 and No. 6 spots of the batting order, and he has been presented with plenty of opportunities, with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and the now injured Adam Lind hitting in front of him.

The reason he's hitting in those spots, though, is because he has gained the trust of Gibbons. Last year, Arencibia's .227 on-base percentage was the lowest in the Major Leagues among players with at least 250 at-bats. His production with the Rangers this season is equally as poor, as he has just two hits and one walk in 29 plate appearances.

Navarro's ability to put the ball in play means Gibbons has faith that he'll be able to move the runner or drive somebody in from third base. The main reason the Blue Jays signed Navarro to a two-year contract during the offseason was his ability to handle a pitching staff, but the offensive output is another major boon to his overall value.

"I think I had a pretty good idea about the strike zone," said Navarro, who got a rare day off on Sunday with somebody other than R.A. Dickey pitching. "I don't want to get out of my game plan -- keep swinging at strikes and make things happen."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
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