ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Everyone on the Toronto Blue Jays knows a roster move is coming to clear space for the return of Jose Reyes, and that can lead to some tense moments for players on the bubble awaiting word on their fate.
So, how does manager John Gibbons handle guys awaiting word on their fate?
“If there’s a guy that I definitely know is not going down, I might say something to him, I might say, ‘Lighten up,’ or something,” he said Tuesday. “We’re not dead set on exactly what’s going to happen, either. But what we do is going to be what’s best for the team, that’s the bottom line.”
Popular shortstop Munenori Kawasaki and out-of-options reliever Juan Perez appear to be the likeliest candidates to be shipped out for Reyes.
Neil Wagner is apparently safe as when asked if the right-hander had gotten such a message about his status, Gibbons replied: “He’s got nothing to worry about, trust me.”
While Reyes’ return will provide a major boost for the Blue Jays – “He’s one of the better players in the game, he’s been our leadoff guy, this team is built around bringing him here … and he was playing pretty darn good when he got injured,” Gibbons said – the possibility of watching Kawasaki go has many with mixed feelings.
With his boisterous personality and dogged style of play, Kawasaki has become a favourite both within the Blue Jays clubhouse and among the fan-base despite his limited skill-set. Many will be sad to see him go if it ends up being him, although the logic behind such decisions aren’t always shared with players.
“You don’t consult them,” Gibbons said. “They probably don’t always understand the moves you make, a lot of times there’s more that goes into it, there are contracts, who has options, who doesn’t, a lot of those things factor in. They don’t always understand, but I think in the end they also realize we always do what’s best to make the team stronger, put us in a better position, things like that.”
Kawasaki would be somewhat of a redundancy on the bench because the Blue Jays have utility infielders and he doesn’t have an extreme skill like Rajai Davis’ speed, although when asked whether Kawasaki could handle second base, Gibbons said, “I think he’d be very good over there, to be honest with you … I think it would a great spot for him.”
For now, file that under food for thought rather than imminent possibility, as once Reyes and Brett Lawrie (due to start a rehab assignment Wednesday and roughly two weeks away) are both in the lineup, the original plan to have Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio share second base can be realized.
And with Lawrie and Sergio Santos both due back in the coming weeks, any reprieve for the bubble players will be a brief one.
“I’ve seen it over and over in this business, things tend to happen,” Gibbons said. “Sometimes the baseball gods interfere to save people. I don’t know why it happens, but it happens a lot.”