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Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay reacts after a throwing error by Edwin Encarcion brings Baltimore Orioles Jake Fox safely into first during second inning action of American league baseball action in Toronto on Friday September 24, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young (Chris Young)
Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay reacts after a throwing error by Edwin Encarcion brings Baltimore Orioles Jake Fox safely into first during second inning action of American league baseball action in Toronto on Friday September 24, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young (Chris Young)

Robert MacLeod

Can Overbay overcome? Add to ...

Over the first couple of months this season, Lyle Overbay sank into a batting slump so horrendous that he thought he would never be able to climb his way back to respectability.

Not a good way to head into his free-agency period, the 33-year-old Toronto Blue Jays first baseman acknowledged.

"I was clueless," the left-handed-hitting Overbay said of his struggles in which he was hitting an embarrassing .119 over his first 16 games with the Blue Jays and struck out 19 times in 68 plate appearances.

To make matters more perilous for Overbay, there was a hot, young first-base prospect tearing it up in Triple A by the name of Brett Wallace and many were calling for his promotion to the big leagues at Overbay's expense.

Not only did Overbay think his five-year association with the Blue Jays was coming to a close at the season's end but perhaps his major-league career as well.

"There were a lot of questions for me earlier in the season," Overbay said. "I literally felt this was almost it. I was getting beat on pitches I don't normally get beat on for a month and a half, two months. That's not me. I'll struggle, but I don't feel I've ever struggled that much."

One of the big decisions facing general manager Alex Anthopoulos heading into the off-season, which for the Blue Jays officially beings on Monday, is who will play first base next season.

And it could very well end up being Overbay, who enjoyed a strong second half in which he was able to pull his batting average above .240 heading into the regular-season finale in Minnesota against the Twins.

Overbay has also hit 20 home runs, the second-highest total of his 10-year career.

"It's got to be the right situation," said Overbay, who is coming off a four-year, $24-million (U.S.) deal. "It's hard to perceive who's going to make what offers.

"I want to be able to win. I want to be able to play. It's kind of one of those things, do you take less money and go win or do you go somewhere where you're going to play more?"

Helping Overbay's cause is the fact that Wallace is no longer in the Blue Jays' organization, being traded at the end of July to the Houston Astros in exchange for speedy outfield prospect Anthony Gose.

Wallace was viewed as the only big-league-ready first baseman in the Blue Jays' minor-league system.

The Blue Jays will audition designated hitter Adam Lind at first base during spring training but other than that, unless Anthopoulos swings some sort of a trade, it is quite possible Overbay will be their man.

"He's a free agent, just like John Buck and Scott Downs and Jason Frasor," Anthopoulos said of Overbay. "Lyle has started out slow and has really bounced back. He's played his usual Gold Glove defence at first base. And he has a good on-base percentage. The batting average is down for him but I think it's tough when you dig yourself the hole that he dug himself.

"Realizing all those things and factoring all that in I like Lyle, I always have. I think the organization does. It's all about what the off-season brings, what trades will present themselves, what other free agents are out there."

Anthopoulos said he has no idea how the experiment with Lind might work out.

"Really, we have to be open-minded," Anthopoulos said. "It's the same way with a guy like Jose Bautista. Do we look at him playing third or look at him playing right? What are the alternatives out there?"



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