Blue Jays' batting order seemingly set

Blue Jays' batting order seemingly set

Blue Jays' batting order seemingly set
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays appear to have settled on the formation of their batting order for the upcoming season.

Toronto initially unveiled the lineup during an intrasquad game on Friday afternoon and maintained the status quo for the first game of the Grapefruit League season the following day.

Shortstop Yunel Escobar will once again bat in the leadoff spot and will be followed by Kelly Johnson, Jose Bautista and Adam Lind in the heart of Toronto's order.

Edwin Encarnacion appears to be the No. 5 hitter, followed by Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie, Eric Thames or Travis Snider -- depending on who wins the job in left field -- and last but not least, J.P. Arencibia.

The biggest question mark heading into camp was who would hit in front of Bautista. Last year, Toronto posted just a .268 average with a .311 on-base percentage out of the two hole, and manager John Farrell would like to see more production to give Bautista a better chance to drive in runs.

That responsibility will go to Johnson, who has a career on-base percentage of .343 and spent some time in that role with the D-backs in 2011.

"The way we construct a lineup, on-base percentage is the No. 1 criteria," Farrell said. "Kelly has that in his past. When we met -- as we have with every player one on one here -- he felt like the year in Arizona where he hit 26 home runs, he started to sacrifice some of that approach for more power.

"He recognizes what makes him a better player and one that fits into a lineup in that two-hole slot. I think after last year, where the average settled in on the low end for his career, he's back to the focus of what he did well a couple of years ago."

One of the biggest debates in baseball these days is whether teams should bat their best hitter in the No. 3 hole or the cleanup spot. Some critics believe that each team's best hitter should be guaranteed an at-bat in the first inning, while others feel that hitter should be situated in the fourth spot with the potential to possibly drive in more runs.

Farrell made it clear on Saturday which camp he belongs to.

"I think your best hitter should be in the three hole," Farrell said. "You want him coming to the plate in the first inning. It's going to give him a few more at-bats throughout the course of the season. Why wouldn't you want him more times than not in that spot?

"Jose is in scoring position at the plate. I'd rather him come up in the first inning with two outs rather than not come up at all."