Stairs could be heading to the DL

Stairs could be heading to the DL

NEW YORK -- One day after expressing optimism that outfielder Matt Stairs could avoid a trip to the disabled list, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons changed his tune. Stairs remained out of Toronto's lineup on Wednesday, and Gibbons isn't sure how much longer the club can proceed short-handed.

Stairs, who has been nursing a sore left hip flexor, ran in the outfield to test his ailing leg prior to the game against the Yankees, but it's uncertain whether the veteran will be able to start on Thursday. Though Stairs could be used as a pinch-hitter, Toronto may be leaning toward temporarily shutting down the left fielder.

"If he doesn't feel good enough to go, we'll probably end up having to DL him," Gibbons said. "It's coming along, but we can't really afford to wait too much longer without an extra spare body. It's not a big deal, but it's to the point where it's still aggravating him."

Gibbons once again mentioned infielder Joe Inglett as a possible callup to fill a spot on Toronto's bench should Stairs wind up on the 15-day DL. For Wednesday's game against New York, Shannon Stewart remained in the lineup as the Jays' left fielder and No. 2 hitter, though Gibbons said Stewart would have started even if Stairs had been ready to go.

"We want to go with Stew against this guy," said Gibbons, citing Stewart's .295 career average against Yankees starter Mike Mussina.

The plan heading into this year was for Stairs, who hit .289 with 21 home runs and 64 RBIs in 125 games for Toronto last season, to platoon with Stewart in left. The 40-year-old Stairs hasn't appeared in a big league game since March 23, and he hasn't had an at-bat in a game since March 20 due to soreness.

Placing Stairs on the DL wouldn't necessarily keep him out of the picture for long, though. Since Stairs hasn't appeared in a game this season, his DL stint could be backdated to March 23. He'd be eligible to be activated in time for Toronto's home series against Oakland, which begins on Tuesday.

Catcher Gregg Zaun was also out of the lineup against the Yankees on Wednesday, but Gibbons said that change was simply a way to get backup Rod Barajas into the order early in the season. For his career, Barajas has gone 4-for-14 with two homers against Mussina, helping convince Gibbons to give the catcher the start.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.