DUNEDIN, Fla. – The Toronto Blue Jays are likely searching for some minor-league depth at first base after losing David Cooper for an extended period with a back injury.
Cooper, who was invited to big-league camp but now won’t be attending, was slated to be the starting first baseman at triple-A Buffalo. Instead, he’ll be visiting specialists in search of treatment for what manager John Gibbons described as a disc problem in the middle of his back.
“It’s going to be longer than we were hoping,” he said Sunday. “It’s serious.”
The loss of Mike McDade on waivers to the Cleveland Indians over the winter depleted the club’s depth, leaving non-roster invites like Adam Loewen, Luis Jimenez, Andy LaRoche, Ryan Langerhans, Jim Negrych and Ryan Schimpf as the likeliest in-camp candidates to help out at first base for the Bisons.
Edwin Encarnacion, primarily, and Adam Lind will handle the position for the Blue Jays, with Jose Bautista able to slide over if needed. Mark DeRosa can also play first, but Cooper would have been an obvious call-up should someone go down.
“He’s a good player in the organization, sooner or later you’d figure he was going to help us out one way or another,” said Gibbons. “You always look at the guy’s career, too. A guy’s back, that threw a wrench in it for him personally now. Hopefully he heals quickly.”
WHO’S ON SECOND: At the beginning of the month at the club’s State of Franchise event for season-ticket holders, manager John Gibbons called Maicer Izturis the front-runner for the second base job over Emilio Bonifacio.
On Sunday, he described the position as “up for grabs.” Has something changed?
“(Izturis) probably has got the edge, that’s what he does, he’s a regular middle infielder,” explained Gibbons. “The other guy plays everywhere. We’ll let it play out, I haven’t changed my way of thinking.”
In some ways the competition may very well come down to how much offence Izturis can provide alongside his steady glove, versus how much defence Bonifacio can play to go with his blistering speed and on-base ability.
“In this particular year, it’s a bonus what (offence) that guy is going to give us,” said Gibbons. “You look around the field and the way our offence stacks up, you really don’t need as much, if any, in a lot of ways. You want defence. But an extra productive bat makes you that much better and they’ve both done that.
“They both bring a different element to the game. Bonifacio brings an extreme speed element to the game, but Izturis can do some things with his legs, too, he always has. Somebody’s got to catch it out there, that’s definitely a priority.”
DON’T BLAME JOHN: Adam Lind’s comments Saturday suggesting that former manager John Farrell confused him by preaching patience while hitting coach Dwayne Murphy urged him to attack the pitches he was looking for didn’t sit well with GM Alex Anthopoulos.
“Murph will tell you, when you get a pitch to hit, a strike, you swing and you attack it and you look for that pitch and if you don’t get it, obviously at that point you lay off and that’s where your walks will come from,” Anthopoulos said Sunday. “Guys like Jose Bautista obviously have a gift and do a great job with it.
“But at the same time, saying John preached patience and so on, I did too. I’m part of that, and I don’t like seeing two walks and a 120 strikeouts or whatever it is. He’s too good of a hitter to have an on-base percentage under .300, and he was told that as well by me. If he was confused overall and he wasn’t sure, then I’d say it’s on him to go and communicate that. …
“Adam’s always honest, you always respect that, he speaks from the heart all of the time but for me I always try to stress, if something doesn’t work for you, if you’re confused, if you’re not sure, it’s on you to say something. We can’t do anything to help you if you don’t express how you’re feeling.”