TORONTO – Jose Bautista will play right field for the first time in more than a week in Sunday afternoon’s finale between the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said before the game that the condition of Bautista’s back has improved and that he now feels “pretty good.”
The 32-year-old was in the lineup as the Blue Jays’ designated hitter Friday and Saturday after missing four games with back spasms. His improved health allows Gibbons to get Adam Lind back in the starting lineup for the first time since Tuesday.
“He’s a guy who was getting shortchanged, and he was swinging pretty good before,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons said Lind could face left-handed pitching depending on the situation. Before Friday’s series opener against the Yankees, Gibbons suggested Lind and Rajai Davis would eventually form a platoon at designated hitter, with Lind starting against right-handers and Davis starting against left-handers.
Bautista said Friday that the tightness in his back had diminished, though the pain hadn’t disappeared completely. He has a home run, a double, and two walks in two weekend games as the team’s DH.
DEFENSIVE ISSUES: The Blue Jays made some significant defensive mistakes in Saturday’s extra-innings loss, but Gibbons believes the team’s defence isn’t a major concern.
“They’re plays you’ve got to make, and they’ve been costly, but today’s a new day,” Gibbons said. “Mistakes happen in baseball it’s just kind of magnified right now.”
The Yankees scored the game-winning runs Saturday when a throw from Aaron Loup went past a charging Brett Lawrie. Though the play led to two runs, Gibbons repeated that Lawrie adds considerable value with his glove.
“There’s not many better fielders out there playing third base than Brett,” Gibbons said. “He’s going to save us a heck of a lot more runs than he’s ever going to cost us.”
NEW LEADOFF MAN: Munenori Kawasaki leads off for the Blue Jays on Sunday after batting ninth in each of his previous eight games with Toronto. Gibbons explained that Kawasaki is fouling off tough pitches and having productive at bats.
“He’s playing good,” Gibbons said. “He gives you a great at bat every time. He gets on base.”
Gibbons has now set 17 different lineups through the team’s first 19 games. Injuries to Bautista and Jose Reyes have forced the manager to adapt on the fly with some unexpected alignments.