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Jays carry on with shorthanded outfield

Jays work with shorthanded outfield

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays will be forced to plod along with a patchwork outfield, making for a depleted lineup, for the remainder of this weekend series against the Yankees.

Heading into the set against New York, Toronto was already without the services of center fielder Vernon Wells, who is sidelined for four to six weeks with a strained left hamstring. Wells' replacement in center, right fielder Alex Rios, is also temporarily out of the mix.

On Friday, Rios headed home to Puerto Rico to be with his fiancee, who was set to give birth to their first child. As a result, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston was left scrambling to fill in his lineup card, which will continue to be one man short until Rios returns.

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"It's going to be tough on us," Gaston said. "But this game here, you never know. We're hopeful that we can get something good out of the guys we have here. That's who we have and that's who we're going to go with. That's all we can do."

In Friday's opener against the Yankees, Gaston started Brad Wilkerson in center field and gave utility man Joe Inglett the nod in right. Gaston said that'll likely remain the combination, unless the right-handed-hitting Kevin Mench starts on Sunday to counter Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte.

Gaston also has veteran Matt Stairs, who has primarily served as Toronto's designated hitter, but can also man the corner outfield spots. Helping matters is the fact that young outfielder Adam Lind has won the regular role in left, leaving Gaston one spot he doesn't have to worry about.

The defensive alignment aside, losing Wells and Rios -- even for just one series in Rios' case -- puts some unwanted strain on Toronto's lineup. Since Gaston took over as the Toronto's manager on June 20, Wells and Rios had started to perform better for the struggling Jays.

In 18 games over that span, Rios was batting .338 with one home run, eight doubles, eight stolen bases, 11 runs and 12 RBIs, producing a .370 on-base percentage and a .570 slugging percentage in the process. In 17 games since Gaston's arrival, Wells was batting .310 with two homers, five doubles and 14 RBIs.

"Two guys that just started swinging the bat," Gaston said. "Actually, Rios has been swinging the bat good for a while, even before I got here, but even better since I've been here. Vernon was starting to really get going, too."

Pitching matchup
TOR: RHP Jesse Litsch (8-5, 4.01 ERA)
Litsch is 1-2 with a 6.27 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees.

NYY: RHP Darrell Rasner (4-7, 4.94 ERA)
Rasner is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in one career outing vs. the Blue Jays.

Bird seed
Second baseman Aaron Hill, who has been sidelined since May 29 with post-concussion syndrome, has started to field ground balls and hit off a tee at Toronto's complex in Dunedin, Fla., but there's still no timetable for his return from the DL. ... The Jays recalled Mench from Triple-A Syracuse after placing Wells on the 15-day DL. ... Wells will head home to Texas during the upcoming All-Star break and is scheduled to rejoin the club for its road series against the Rays on July 18-20. While in Florida, Wells can continue his rehab work at the Jays' complex in Dunedin. ... Right-hander Jeremy Accardo (strained right forearm) is scheduled to throw around 30 pitches off a mound on Saturday. ... Right-hander Shaun Marcum (right elbow) began pitching off a mound earlier this week and is on pace to come off the DL shortly after the All-Star break.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• CBC

On radio
• FAN 590

Up next
• Sunday: Blue Jays (A.J. Burnett, 9-8, 5.23) vs. Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 10-6, 3.93), 1:07 p.m. ET
• Monday-Thursday: All-Star break

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

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