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Blue Jays prepared to be flexible with Bautista

Blue Jays prepared to be flexible with Bautista

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Blue Jays prepared to be flexible with Bautista
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays officially begin Spring Training in just over a month, but there is still no official decision on what position slugger Jose Bautista will play in 2011.

The 30-year-old Bautista is currently penciled in as the club's third baseman, but it's possible his role could change before the season begins on April 1.

That decision may hinge on whether Toronto is able to sign free agent Eric Chavez. Toronto manager John Farrell, who appeared at a charity event in Boston on Friday night, confirmed reports the Blue Jays recently held a private workout for the 33-year-old.

Farrell said the initial feedback he received on the six-time Gold Glove third baseman was positive, but it remains to seen whether the Blue Jays will sign him and how that will affect where Bautista plays this season.

"It's probably not even to the point of having that type of conversation yet -- who plays what position on the field," Farrell told MLB.com at the Hot Stove Cool Music roundtable on pitching in the Major Leagues. "There's a lot that's still yet to be determined with Chavez.

"Right now, if we were to start tomorrow, [Bautista] would be our third baseman. But we're fortunate to have such an outstanding athlete and offensive player. He has the flexibility to move back to right field if someone emerges at third base."

Chavez has only played 64 games in the Major Leagues during the past three seasons because of a wide variety of injuries. He has undergone five surgeries since 2007, with three procedures on his shoulder and two on his back.

Over his 13-year career, Chavez is batting .267 with 230 home runs and 787 RBIs. The native of California likely will have to settle for a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Farrell also indicated the Blue Jays are still looking at ways to improve the back end of their bullpen.

When Toronto signed right-hander Octavio Dotel to a one-year contract earlier this month, it was expected he would begin the season as the club's closer.

The Blue Jays' first-year manager suggested that Dotel is the early favorite for the role, but he stopped short of declaring the veteran righty the clear-cut favorite. It's still possible another player will be added to the mix that could affect Farrell's decision.

"It'll be open competition, but [Dotel's] a guy that's got some closing experience," Farrell said. "When [Kevin] Gregg and [Scott] Downs left, we knew we had to address the back end of the bullpen. Dotel's been one of those and we're not done yet.

"We've got a couple slots on this roster to fill, and you know, four, five weeks yet to Spring Training. There will be some other names that come into the mix."

Farrell didn't mention any specific relievers that the Blue Jays are considering, but in recent weeks, the club has been linked to right-hander Jon Rauch and left-hander Brian Fuentes.

The 32-year-old Rauch went 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA and 21 saves with Minnesota last year, having taken over the closer's role after right-hander Joe Nathan suffered an injury during Spring Training. Rauch struck out 46 batters while walking just 14, but he eventually lost the job when the Twins traded for Matt Capps prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Fuentes, who spent last season with the Angels and Twins, is reportedly about to be off the market. According to multiple reports published online Sunday night, the 35-year-old Fuentes has agreed to a two-year contract with the Athletics that includes an option for a third season. Terms of the deal were not immediately available, and the A's have not yet commented.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. MLB.com reporter Evan Drellich contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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