Notes: Hill moves to top of the order
Second baseman leads off for first time in career
CLEVELAND -- Aaron Hill is consistently cool and collected. So, it came as no surprise on Thursday when Toronto's second baseman offered little more than a shrug of the shoulders upon seeing his name listed in the leadoff spot.
"It's no big deal," Hill said with a smile. "The only thing it changes is maybe the first pitch of the game. I haven't asked if I can swing at it yet."
It marked the first time in the California native's two-plus years in the big leagues that he started in the first spot of the batting order. This year, that job has been primarily been filled by right fielder Alex Rios, who moved into the leadoff slot when left fielder Reed Johnson landed on the disabled list with a back injury in early April.
Toronto manager John Gibbons wanted to make a change, though. Through 27 games, Rios had only managed a .295 on-base percentage, which is lower than Gibbons would like from his leadoff man. Hill, on the other hand, has been off to an impressive start at the plate, posting a .368 on-base average, entering Thursday.
"It's just a little adjustment," said Gibbons, who wouldn't indicate whether it may be a long-term move. "I'm going to give Aaron a little shot up there. He's doing a little better at getting on base."
Hill's been doing more than just reaching base -- he's frequently been trotting around them. Dating back to last Septemeber, Hill has launched 10 home runs in his last 53 games for the Blue Jays.
The 25-year-old has also already matched a career high with six blasts this season. Hill didn't reach six homers until game No. 158 a year ago. Through 27 games, he also led Toronto's regulars with a .311 batting average and 22 RBIs.
"I don't try to get too high or low with whatever I'm doing," Hill said. "Obviously, you want to get off to a good start, and I'll take it right now. I'm feeling good and I'm comfortable with where I'm at. We'll see where it ends up at the end of the season."
Undecided: If there was one positive for Blue Jays pitcher Victor Zambrano to draw from his 2 2/3-inning start on Wednesday night, it was that he was able to top 60 pitches without any issues. Zambrano had been in Toronto's bullpen, but recently replaced Josh Towers as the new fifth starter.
"I threw a lot of pitches, and I feel like I can go more than I threw," said Zambrano, who is roughly a year removed from reconstructive right elbow surgery. "That's a good thing for me. To throw 65 pitches, that's going to help me a lot for my next start."
Gibbons said it hasn't been decided when Zambrano's next start might be, though. Zambrano's next scheduled turn falls on Monday, which is an off-day for Toronto. The next turn for right-hander Dustin McGowan, who started in place of injured lefty Gustavo Chacin on Thursday, would be on Tuesday, when the Jays host the rival Red Sox.
"We don't know, yet, what we're going to do [on Tuesday]," said Gibbons, who wouldn't say whether or not McGowan's performance on Thursday might play a role in the decision.
Under the weather: For the second time in the last four games, Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells sat out with flu-like symptoms. Wells was checked out by a doctor in Cleveland prior to Thursday's game, and then returned to the ballpark before the first pitch. Gibbons said it's similar to the ailment that recently sidelined first baseman Lyle Overbay and catcher Jason Phillips.
Minor matters: Outfielder Travis Snider, who was Toronto's first selection in last year's First-Year Player Draft, was named the Blue Jays Minor League Player of the Month for April. Snider hit .405 with one homer, eight doubles, four triples and 13 RBIs in 20 games for Class A Lansing. ... Starter David Purcey was named the organization's Pitcher of the Month. The left-hander went 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA, 28 strikeouts and four walks in 25 2/3 innings for Double-A New Hampshire.
Pain relief: Toronto's bullpen has yielded 16 earned runs on 20 hits, including four home runs, with 10 walks in 16 2/3 innings over the last five games. As a result, the Blue Jays bullpen's ERA as a group has risen to 4.05 from 2.84.
Did you know? The Blue Jays have not won a season series against the Indians since 2003. Prior to this season, Toronto has been swept on the road by Cleveland in two of the last three years.
Quotable: "I think it just comes with feeling more comfortable with where you're at in your career. We tinkered with my swing a little bit last year, but I'm just a little more comfortable with what we're doing." --Hill, on his recent power surge
Coming up: Toronto right-hander Tomo Ohka (2-2, 5.02 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound when the Blue Jays face the Rangers at 8:05 p.m. ET on Friday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Texas will counter with righty Brandon McCarthy (1-4, 9.90 ERA).
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.