ARLINGTON -- Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston has handed first baseman Lyle Overbay an everyday role with the club. Gaston feels strongly that such a decision warrants leaving the left-handed hitter in the lineup during late-game situations for the foreseeable future.
"Let me tell you this right now," Gaston said, "Overbay is going to play against left-handers. So why would I pinch-hit for him? He's going to play against left-handers. So that ends that."
The issue was brought up due to a critical eighth-inning turn in Monday's 5-4 loss to the Rangers on Opening Day. With one out and the bases loaded, Texas called upon left-handed reliever Darren Oliver to face Overbay with the Jays clinging to a 4-3 lead. Gaston left the right-handed-hitting Randy Ruiz on the bench, and Overbay struck out for the inning's second out.
Overbay, who is eligible for free agency next winter, began last season in a platoon situation at first base and finished the season with a .190 average against left-handed pitching. This season, Gaston said he and general manager Alex Anthopoulos sat down with Overbay and informed the first baseman that he would receive regular playing time.
"We sat down and talked with Overbay," Gaston said. "[Suggesting I should pinch-hit for him] is like -- Why don't I pinch-hit for Vernon [Wells]? Why don't I pinch-hit for [Aaron] Hill? Why don't I pinch-hit for somebody like [Edwin] Encarnacion? That's what you're talking about right there.
"[Pinch -hitting] destroys guys. It's easy for you guys to say it or other people to think it, but to be with these guys every day, and every time they're looking over their shoulder, seeing if you're going to pinch hit for them, it just absolutely kills them -- unless it's understood, if it's understood from the start."