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MacArthur: Lawrie's return brings roster changes for Jays

Scott MacArthur
4/16/2013 12:13:03 PM
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TORONTO - Brett Lawrie will make his much-anticipated season debut on Tuesday night against the White Sox.

To make room for Lawrie on the active roster, the Blue Jays placed reliever Sergio Santos on the 15-day disabled list with a right triceps strain; an injury that's plagued the former closer since spring training.

It's time for Lawrie to make his return. He's healthy, he's been hitting well in Single-A games as part of his rehab assignment from a strained ribcage muscle, and he'll go some way toward replacing the irreplaceable Jose Reyes in the lineup.

Lawrie, 23, is expected to be at third base on Tuesday. Jose Bautista will miss a second straight game with back spasms, but manager John Gibbons says he hopes that Bautista will be ready to return on Wednesday.

The minor league experiment with Lawrie at second yielded positive results, the Blue Jays say, but they've invested years in Lawrie at third and Bautista considers himself an outfielder first.

"We never committed to that, I think even when we talked about it on the road," said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. "Right now, when he's back, the plan is still for him to play third and for Jose to play right. It does give John more options; he obviously knows he can bring Bautista in to play third. Now Brett, knowing that he can play the other position…it does give you a little more comfort that we could do that.

"He's always been pretty adamant about (being an outfielder first) but at the same time he's always said 'I'll do whatever the team wants,'" Anthopoulos continued. "And he's always told me the same thing; if you ask Jose, he thinks he's a better right fielder than third baseman. I remember I told him, I don't think he gives himself enough credit. I think he's a great defensive third baseman and I joke with him, one of the most confident players I've ever been around. It's almost like he doesn't realize how good he is at third base."

In a Reyes-less perfect world - an oxymoron if ever there was one - manager John Gibbons would go with Lawrie at third, Maicer Izturis at shortstop and Emilio Bonifacio at second base.

It's clear, however, the club isn't comfortable with that arrangement. Bonifacio has struggled at second base, making four errors, and hasn't been getting on base enough (.229 OBP through 13 games) to solidify himself as an everyday player.

Anthopoulos is attempting to acquire a shortstop to bridge the gap to Reyes' return but he isn't willing to overpay.

For now it's fine; we'll watch it," he said. "We're still actively talking to some teams. As of right now I don't think we're going to do anything just off of what the asks have been on some of the players. Again, that could change at any time but I would expect right now it's going to stay the way it is."

"The way it is" is Munenori Kawasaki, who has fit the bill in the short term, reaching base in each of his three games and scoring two runs. He also has an RBI and to this point has played flawless defense.

"Obviously we like what Kawasaki has done," said Anthopoulos. "I don't think we have any illusions about what the batting average is going to be. I think the energy level he brings has been outstanding; his teammates absolutely adore him…The one thing you like about him, he'll give you good at-bat…He grinds at-bats and the fact that he's a contact bat, I think it allows you to do a lot of things. He can get a guy over, he can hit a sac fly, he can bunt and obviously he can run."

Meantime, Reyes went to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a second opinion on his ankle. Anthopoulos downplayed a report by Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, which suggested doctors had told Reyes he could return to game action in two months instead of three.

Reyes will be in a cast for two weeks, followed by two more in a walking boot, at which point he'll have to build strength in the ankle before starting baseball-related activities. Throw in a possible minor league rehab assignment and Anthopoulos doesn't think the three month target is far off the mark.

After Monday's victory, the Blue Jays have won three of four. Three consecutive quality starts from the top three in the rotation have set the tone. Mark Buehrle did give up two first inning runs but the offense immediately responded with two of its own.

The Blue Jays didn't trail in the game again.

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