The Blue Jays options if Edwin Encarnacion needs DL stint

Feb 29, 2016; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Junior Lake (48) smiles during the second inning at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 29, 2016; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Junior Lake (48) smiles during the second inning at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Blue Jays could turn to several positions for the 25th roster spot if their designated hitter needs a delayed start to 2016

Buried by the story of his contract negotiations is the minor oblique injury that currently has Edwin Encarnacion sidelined.

The injury, suffered in batting practice, was supposed to sideline Encarnacion for approximately one week. That was approximately one week ago.

This comes after Encarnacion missed the early weeks of spring training with an abscessed tooth, and manager John Gibbons has said that he will need to get into some spring games soon to avoid a delayed start to his season. Encarnacion has proven repeatedly that he can find his rhythm quickly, but his spring at-bat total still rests at zero.

Given the presence of Justin Smoak and Chris Colabello in the 1B/DH picture, the Blue Jays would not need to roster a direct positional replacement. Especially given that Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista, or Russell Martin could DH on an off-day during the opening weeks.

Here are a few names to consider for that 25th spot on the roster, should it become necessary.

OF Ezequiel Carrera and/or Junior Lake

If Encarnacion needs an extra week or two, that could easily extend the battle of the out-of-options outfielders. Both Carrera and Lake would need to pass through waivers should they miss the cut, a factor that gives them an edge on Darrell Ceciliani and Domonic Brown.

Sharing duties as the fourth outfielder in the short term, Carrera and Lake could both be given a narrow opportunity to showcase their value in real games.

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Carrera’s ticket to success could be maximizing his speed tool, which didn’t always surface in 2015, and playing a stronger brand of defence. Lake, on the other hand, could benefit from his ability to cover centre-field and his platoon splits. While he’s struggled against right-handed arms, he’s hit lefties to a career MLB line of .280 / .325 / .446. His career pinch-hitting line of 5-for-42 is worrying, though.

Ceciliani could stick, too, but his remaining options make him a more attractive option to slip down to triple-A Buffalo.

UTIL Andy Burns

The quiet darling of spring training, Burns has grabbed the attention of manager John Gibbons with his strong play and versatility. The 25-year-old is 7-for-21 this spring, and with the Buffalo Bisons last season he appeared at every position except for pitcher, catcher, and centre-field.

Burns could use that versatility to keep multiple positions on the field afloat, but just like with Ceciliani, him making the opening day 25-man roster would necessitate exposing Carrera or Lake to waivers sooner rather than later.

RHPs Arnold Leon, Joe Biagini, or Steve Delabar

Both Leon and Delabar are out of options, so this would be a similar situation to the one with Carrera and Lake. Delaying their demotion would only briefly delay their exposure to waivers, but if another pitcher is required to hit the DL between opening day and when Encarnacion returns, having both of these arms on the 25-man roster already would be good fortune.

In Joe Biagini’s case, this would push back the Blue Jays needing to offer him back to the San Francisco Giants as a Rule 5 pick (or work out a minor deal to keep him). Again, this could just be delaying the inevitable, but it extends the time that Toronto would have to be flexible.

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1B Casey Kotchman

The veteran first baseman would be the next logical option should the Jays look for a positional match or bench bat. Kotchman could give the Blue Jays a handful of professional at-bats should they be needed, but behind Colabello and Smoak, he may be limited to pinch-hitting. Which, in this lineup, is a rare necessity.

Last season for triple-A Omaha in the Kansas City Royals organization, Kotchman hit .290 / .374 / .426 in 90 games with 20 doubles and seven home runs.