Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes moves closer to rejoining the major league roster on Friday. He’s scheduled to play for Triple-A Buffalo on the second step of his rehabilitation assignment, possibly putting him on a path to take the seven-game road trip to Tampa Bay and Boston next week.
Manager John Gibbons wouldn’t commit to the timing of a return date during his pregame media session on Wednesday, as the club will want to assess how Reyes’s injured ankle is responding to playing consecutive games.
Reyes went 1-for-5 on Tuesday in the second game of his rehab stint, with Single-A Dunedin.
So far, he’s on cue with revised timetable to return from a severe sprain injured on April 12, in Kansas City. For the first month, he wore a walking cast followed by a boot. During a road trip to San Diego, San Francisco and Chicago, he performed increasingly strenuous drills, building his strength to the point of running the bases and breaking from side to side.
"I need to be here, not down there," Reyes, 30, said last week. He expects to wear an an ankle brace for the remainder of his career.
He seemed more focused on recovering the timing of his swing than how his ankle would respond.
"When I start to see live pitching and feel ready, then I'll come up. "When I am able to put my best swing on the ball, I will know right away if I am close enough."
When he returns, his position at the top of the batting order is to be restored. In his place for 31 games, Melky Cabrera has hit for a .297 batting average and .345 on-base percentage, numbers closely reflecting Reyes’s production last season in Miami.
Reyes was hitting .395 when hurt and for the New York Mets in 2011, he had a NL-high .337 batting average with a .384 OBP. A health Reyes adds the dimension of speed, with an average of 36 stolen bases over the past three seasons. Meanwhile, Cabrera’s been trying to manage a leg strain for much of the season, often hobbling noticeably while running the bases.
Gibbons hinted Cabrera could move to the five-hole in the batting order, after Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind.
Cabrera has appeared in the five-hole in only 17 career games (eight starts), hitting .176 in 36 plate appearances. He’s been most effective in the third slot, batting .350 in 99 career games.