Gibbons: Expect Encarnacion to play some third

Edwin Encarnacion last spent significant time at third base in 2011.

The Toronto Blue Jays want Adam Lind in the lineup against right-handed pitching, and they’re willing to make some sacrifices on defence to get him in there.

Manager John Gibbons told Jeff Sammut and Dirk Hayhurst on Baseball Central on Sportsnet 590 the FAN that Edwin Encarnacion will likely play third base at times while the Blue Jays are playing on the road against National League teams.

The Blue Jays won’t have a designated hitter for Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Braves or for their upcoming series against the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres. This means there’s no way of getting both Lind and Encarnacion in the starting lineup unless one of them plays a position other than first base.

With Brett Lawrie on the disabled list due to an ankle sprain, third base is in flux for the Blue Jays. Mark DeRosa remains the leading candidate to play third against left-handed starters — he’s expected to start Thursday against Braves southpaw Mike Minor — but Encarnacion will see some time at third against right-handers, opening up first base for Lind.

Encarnacion played just one game at third base in 2012, but last spent significant time at the position in 2011. He made errors on eight of his 74 chances that year and ranked among the league’s worst defenders according to advanced metrics.

Lawrie, meanwhile, will rehab his sprained ankle in Florida. He’s expected to miss at least two weeks, though the timetable for his return remains unclear.

“It’s definitely not as severe as Jose Reyes’ sprain, but guys heal at different paces so we’ll see,” Gibbons said.

PITCHING UPDATES:  Closer Casey Janssen pitched Wednesday, closing out the Blue Jays’ 3-0 win in Atlanta. Gibbons said the team will continue to be careful with Janssen, who has been battling a sore shoulder.

“It’s not ideal but we’ve dealt with it pretty good and well keep an eye on it,” Gibbons said.

Janssen closed out a game started by Esmil Rogers, who came out of the bullpen for a short but effective spot start. The Blue Jays will consider the possibility of asking Rogers to start again.

“He did a great job for us last night he really did,” Gibbons said. “He’s got the great arm to do it. He’s got a durable arm.”

The manager added that the relief work of  Juan Perez and Neil Wagner was “very, very impressive.”

Right-hander Josh Johnson will make another rehab start with the Blue Jays’ triple-A team Thursday, and if all goes well he’ll re-join the big league team next week. The Blue Jays didn’t want to rush Johnson, who will make 80-90 pitches in what’s expected to be his final rehab start.

“He’ll give us a big shot in the arm when he gets back, so we’re looking forward to that,” Gibbons said.

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