Jose Bautista returned to the Blue Jays lineup on Tuesday as a designated hitter, leaving left-hand hitting Adam Lind on the bench against the right-handed Detroit Tigers starter, Anibal Sanchez.
Bautista missed the three-game series against Boston last weekend with a twisted ankle. With the weather at 8C in Detroit for an afternoon game and rain anticipated, manager John Gibbons relieved Bautista of defensive duties in right field. Rajai Davis got another start in Bautista's place.
"That's part of the thought process," Bautista said, after driving the ball solidly during batting practice at Comerica Park. "More importantly when you first start back, you never know what can happen when you react to a fly ball, break on the ball off the bat. Not risking it is smart and I think I can handle running the bases."
Bautista hurt his ankle legging out a grounder against Cleveland last Thursday. Immediately after the game, he expressed confidence about playing the next day, despite limping away from an interview. In the Indians series, he had three hits including a pair of home runs in 12 at-bats.
"I expect to be back in the field soon," he said. "My ankle hurts on the inside part. As long as I'm not on my toes it doesn't really hurt."
Lind, the regular DH, and Edwin Encarnacion each play first base, and both struggled offensively in the first week of play. Encarnacion, a right-handed hitter, was 3-for-7 against Sanchez entering Tuesday's game, with a home run while Lind hadn't faced him. Through the first six games, Encarnacion was averaging .087 with two hits in 23 at-bats, with Lind at .063 in five games with one hit in 16 at-bats.
Meantime, the news on third baseman Brett Lawrie remained murky. Last season, Lawrie suffered a right oblique strain on Aug. 3 and was out of the lineup until Sept. 7. The same problem recurred on April 6, and the Jays pulled him from the World Baseball Classic as a precautionary measure in order to have him ready for the regular season. The team considered the strain to be minor relative to last year's injury, but Lawrie has now been out of action for a longer period of time.
He's running, throwing and taking batting practice in Dunedin.
"I don't know if it was a surprise, but we just came to our senses," Gibbons said. "We were too overly optimistic."
With Lawrie out, the Jays have used Mark DeRosa and Maicer Izturis at third. Izturis, normally a middle infielder, has struggled defensively at third and Emilio Bonifacio, who shares second with him, had three errors against Boston on Friday.