TORONTO -- The return of Jose Reyes is imminent, and when it eventually happens. the Blue Jays will be faced with a tough decision regarding their 25-man roster.
Reyes went 1-for-4 with a double for Triple-A Buffalo on Friday night. He's expected to play for the Bisons on Saturday and again on Sunday, but could rejoin Toronto the following day for the start of a three-game series at Tampa Bay.
The big question surrounding this team is who will be sent down when Reyes' rehab from a severely sprained left ankle comes to an end. The odds-on favorite for quite some time has been infielder Munenori Kawasaki, but he has become a favorite of manager John Gibbons and those inside the Blue Jays' clubhouse.
"I think the first thing is his personality, what he brings every day," Gibbons said when asked what makes Kawasaki so unique. "He's someone that makes you feel good. Reyes is a lot like that, too -- upbeat, loves what he's doing.
"But there's just something about Kawasaki that's different. It's a great story. We signed him in Spring Training, didn't know much about him, but he came in and stepped up to replace one of our top guys and did a great job of it."
When Reyes initially went down on April 12, general manager Alex Anthopoulos publicly stated that he was in the market for help from outside the organization. To the surprise of just about everyone, that changed in the coming days when Kawasaki proved to be a relatively admirable fill-in after being called up from Buffalo.
The numbers certainly aren't spectacular. Kawasaki entered play on Saturday hitting just .229 but he does have a .341 on-base percentage, while playing consistent defense at shortstop despite somewhat limited range and a below-average arm.
It's pretty much impossible to gauge the impact a player like Kawasaki can have inside of a clubhouse. But for those who believe chemistry is important, the native of Japan has been a valuable component. That likely won't play a factor in the club's decision, but there's no question Kawasaki will be missed if he's optioned to Triple-A.
"Basically, the game comes down to numbers," Gibbons said. "Who you can send out, who you can't send out, what's going to help your team. That's usually the bottom line. But he's a big part of this, I'll tell you that, right now."
One option the Blue Jays do have at their disposal is returning to an eight-man bullpen. Toronto has been carrying an extra reliever for most of the season because of some inconsistent starting pitching. But with the staff having turned things around, it's possible the club could go back to a four-man bench.
Toronto had a streak of seven games of allowing two earned runs or fewer snapped on Friday night. It's a sign that the Blue Jays are getting what they need from the rotation, and opens up the possibility that relievers Dustin McGowan, Neil Wagner or Juan Perez could be on the way out. McGowan and Perez are both out of options, while Wagner has the ability to be sent down without being exposed to waivers.
"No doubt, we'll see how that shapes up," Gibbons said of going back to seven relievers. "We're not really sure what we're going to do. It's going to have to happen pretty soon, because Reyes isn't that far off. But we have guys down in that 'pen right now that we're looking to get into games because they haven't pitched in awhile.
"That won't be easy, either, because we have guys out of options and everyone is pitching really well, too. So whatever happens, it's not going to be easy."