CHICAGO -- Edwin Encarnacion is back and the Blue Jays can only hope that his return helps jump-start a strong push for the postseason.
Toronto's chances for the playoffs were greatly diminished in the days leading up to Encarnacion's return from the disabled list. The Blue Jays began August with a 3-9 record, and a lack of offense was the main reason why.
The Blue Jays were outscored, 60-30, over that span and have clearly missed Encarnacion's presence in the heart of the order. Encarnacion might have some signs of rust during his first week back, but he feels more ready to contribute than he was expecting.
"I was surprised the way I was seeing the pitches, I've been seing the pitches good in the four games in the Minor Leagues," Encarnacion said in reference to his brief rehab stint.
"I was thinking it was going to be different with my timing and I saw the ball good right now and my timing is good. We'll see now, here."
Encarnacion combined to hit 3-for-12 with a grand slam in his rehab assignment for Class A Dunedin and Triple-A Buffalo. His final game came at first base, but he's expected to start his first couple of games in Toronto at designated hitter. Encarnacion went 0-for-4 with strikeout as the DH in Friday night's 11-5 loss to the White Sox.
Toronto's veteran slugger admitted his right leg still isn't 100 percent healthy, but it's improved enough to the point where he can play. The Blue Jays couldn't afford to wait any longer and if Encarnacion takes it easy on the basepaths, and has limited time at first, the rest of the healing can take place over the next week.
With Toronto still within striking distance of the second American League Wild Card, Encarnacion felt he had to come back.
"It was hard for me," Encarnacion admitted. "I've never in my career been out for more than a month and now I have six weeks out and [had to watch] the team from my home where I was in Florida.
"It's very hard for me and a little frustrating, but I just have to keep working hard and get ready to come back here. I'm here right now and glad to be here again with my team and I'm going to try to do the best that I can do to help my team win games."
Outfielder Anthony Gose was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo to make room for Encarnacion on the 25-man roster. The decision on the odd man out came down to Gose or infielder Juan Francisco, but the 24-year-old outfielder was chosen because he had an option remaining on his contract.
Toronto didn't have the same luxury with Francisco, who would have to pass through waivers before getting sent to the Minors. Gose is expected to return when the rosters are expanded on Sept. 1.
"It wasn't an easy decision," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons admitted. "Gose helps you win in different ways."