Jose Bautista’s cameo at third likely a one-time thing for Blue Jays

Blue Jays comeback, led by Kendrys Morales, falls short in the fifth inning as the Cardinals double down on the Jays in double-header.

ST. LOUIS – A doubleheader played under National League rules prompted the Toronto Blue Jays to use Jose Bautista at third base for the first time since April 14, 2013, a piece of positional creativity manager John Gibbons doesn’t plan to repeat during Josh Donaldson’s ongoing absence.

Bautista pinch-hit for Chris Coghlan in the seventh inning of Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in a twin bill nightcap and then took over at the hot corner in the bottom half when all the other infielders were used up.

The right-fielder, in his 387th career game at third, made a clever defensive play in the bottom of the eighth, cutting down Dexter Fowler at home after fielding a Stephen Piscotty chopper.

But as Donaldson continues to recover, using Bautista at third while playing both Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera in the outfield isn’t something the Blue Jays are kicking around moving forward. Darwin Barney and Coghlan have been covering at third with both Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki on the disabled list, and Russell Martin even got a start there on Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t look too much into that. (Bautista) can do it,” says Gibbons. “It’s not something we’re going to lock into. Donaldson is not too far off, anyway.”

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The Blue Jays feel they’d be taking away from their outfield defence by moving Bautista, who’s played well in right thus far, where he’s more comfortable. But if the team asked, he’s willing to do it, and stays ready by taking ground balls in the infield every few days.

“The situation came up (Thursday), they came to me and said, ‘Are you willing to do it,’ and I said, ‘Of course, no problem,’” says Bautista. “I’ve been throwing a lot from the infield so it’s not completely foreign to me right now, making throws from the infield.”

Does he enjoy it?

“It’s different and it’s a challenge, so that’s always fun for an athlete,” replies Bautista. “But we have very capable guys there that have been playing consistently at that position and I would much rather be contributing from the outfield like I normally can instead of playing the infield. But any time a situation comes up, an emergency type of situation like (Thursday) and they need me, I’ll be ready.”

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Bautista’s been picking up the pace at the plate of late, going 7-for-25 with a homer, four RBIs and five walks against seven strikeouts in his past seven games. He has also looked more comfortable in the batter’s box.

“It’s improving,” he says. “I’d still like to contribute more, in any way, shape or form. I’m focused on that and trusting and having confidence that in the long run, the individual stuff will be taken care of, just trying to help win games. It’s more fun to play when you’re winning and you can deal with the personal stuff as second nature when you’re winning games.”

Bautista looked locked in early in the spring and then with the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic, but has slumped since, making slight adjustments in the batter’s box. At times, it’s looked like his hands are lower, although he’s tried other things, as well.

“That’s not something I’m consciously doing, I’m trying to be comfortable right now,” Bautista says of lowering his hands. “As hitters we change stuff all the time, it goes on feel, sometimes you’re just trying to search for it, sometimes it feels more comfortable and you’re trying to do whatever it takes to see the ball well and hit the ball hard. I felt pretty good in spring training and after the WBC and all that, I got off to a slow start. I’m not too concerned about personal stuff now. I just want to contribute.”

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