Kawasaki moves to leadoff spot, provides lift

Kawasaki moves to leadoff spot, provides lift

TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons unveiled a new-look lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Yankees as shortstop Munenori Kawasaki was promoted to the leadoff spot.

Kawasaki spent his first eight games in a Blue Jays uniform hitting out of the No. 9 hole. He moved up in the order on Sunday as Jose Bautista made his return to right field, which relegated Rajai Davis to the bench.

The 31-year-old Kawasaki has been a surprise contributor since Jose Reyes went down with a severe ankle sprain earlier this month and appears to have solidified his spot on the roster.

"I think he's the perfect choice with Rajai not in there," Gibbons said before Sunday afternoon's game.

"He's playing good, he gives you a great at-bat every time. He gets on base. With Raj out, give him a shot in there. Getting on base, spark plug, I think he'll do great up there."

Kawasaki is known as a relatively light-hitting infielder, but one that has the ability to work the count. He entered Sunday hitting .263 (5-for-19) with a pair of RBIs while providing reliable defense up the middle.

In Sunday's 8-4 victory, he went 1-for-4 with a sacrifice fly and a run scored, setting the tone for the Blue Jays atop their lineup.

"He was in the middle of the action all day again," Gibbons said. "You look at him and [Brett] Lawrie, they give you that kind of boost… they give you some energy. He's done a tremendous job for us, he really has."

Bautista's return in right came one day earlier than originally expected. Toronto's slugger missed four games earlier in the week with back spasms before getting back into the lineup at designated hitter on Friday and Saturday.

The ability to put Bautista back in right field meant the Blue Jays could once again find a spot for Adam Lind. The veteran first baseman/DH had been relegated to the bench in recent games despite entering Sunday with five hits in his previous 11 at-bats.

The goal is to get as much offense in the lineup as possible with the club struggling to generate runs.

"That way we can get Lind in there, too," Gibbons said of starting Bautista in right. "He was the guy that was getting short-changed. He was swinging it pretty good before."

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