OAKLAND, California - Emilio Bonifacio was in the Blue Jays' lineup, playing left field, for Tuesday's game against the Athletics.
The start was Bonifacio's first since the All-Star break and fuelled speculation he was being showcased in a final push to deal him before Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline.
Toronto won 5-0 and Bonifacio contributed, hitting his third home run of the season.
"We want to get him a game," said manager John Gibbons. "You know what, Melky's still not running very good. In the game, when you get fly ball guys, we're looking for wins and they've got to flag them down out there. That's the thinking behind that, plus Boni hasn't played in a while. He got a big hit the other day, you know, throw him a bone."
Bonifacio has struggled in his first season with the Blue Jays. A part of the blockbuster deal which brought Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to Toronto, the speedster's best asset – his speed – has hardly been utilized thanks to a paltry .254 on-base percentage.
Back in spring training, most pundits thought the Blue Jays would be looking to add for a pennant run at the end of July. Instead, the club has stumbled to a 49-57 record and is caught in a deadline no man's land, certainly not a buyer but, for a variety of different reasons, also not a seller.
Like Bonifacio, outfielder Rajai Davis is a speedster, a specific skill which can be a difference maker in crucial games. An impending free-agent, Davis knows his contract status makes him a candidate for trade.
Players are commodities, of that there's no doubt in the business of baseball, but matters of life enter the equation. In Davis' case, he and his wife are expecting their first child in September. A native of Norwich, Connecticut who still makes his home in the state, Davis prefers to tune out the chatter.
"I just go about my business," said Davis. "(Keep to) my daily routine, staying focused on what I need to do on the field and off the field to help me stay competitive every day."
General manager Alex Anthopoulos has received inquiries on a number of his relievers. Not a surprise, given the season put together by the Blue Jays' bullpen.
Darren Oliver, 42, pitched the ninth on Tuesday and surpassed the 1,900 inning mark for his career. It may have been his final outing for Toronto.
"I take it as it comes," said Oliver. "I would think most guys shouldn't think about it. It's out of our control anyway. All we're here to do is play baseball, play the game. If something happens it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. It's not going to stop me from doing what I do."
The Rangers have had scouts at Jays games and there are reports Texas has sniffed around on Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, although it's hard to imagine Anthopoulos subtracting from the club's core after going for broke in the offseason.
"To me it's just something to talk about today and not necessarily concrete," said Bautista. "Until something comes of it I don't think there's any need to be giving your opinion about it."
What continues to confound, so deep into the season, is why this superstar roster hasn't been able to get on the same page.
"We hate to blame one another because we're a team so we all have to pull for one another," said Davis. "We have to play as a team, we have to do our part, we have to play better defense. We can't just blame it all on the pitchers. If we play good defense we'd be out of a lot of the jams we get into. That's tough. Pitching is one thing. Good defense is another."
"We still have the potential for sure," said Bautista. "We have the same bodies. Unfortunately we haven't been playing up to our capabilities. We've had some injuries and some inconsistencies but other than that I feel strongly about our group and our chances and just the ability that we have of playing better as a team. We haven't shown that."
BUEHRLE RUNS SCORELESS STREAK TO 20 INNINGS
Mark Buehrle is pitching his best baseball of the season. With seven innings of shutout ball on Tuesday, he's now gone 20-consecutive without allowing a run.
The stretch dates back to the third inning of his start on July 20 against Tampa Bay.
"Got lucky pitching in this park," said Buehrle. "Putting the ball in play, (I) gave up a lot of fly balls, which isn't like me. Outs are outs and I made pitches, I made some outs. I made mistakes. I think in the first inning I didn't make too many quality pitches and I got three outs."
Buehrle's ERA has dropped to 4.27 for the season.
DELABAR IS EFFICIENT
Steve Delabar pitched the eighth inning on Tuesday, striking out the side on only nine pitches.
"It's pretty cool to do," said Delabar. "I don't think I've ever done that in my life and I just did it in a big league game."
Two other current Blue Jays, Esmil Rogers and Juan Perez, also have accomplished the feat.