McDonald odd man out lately for Jays
Rolen's return from DL makes infield playing time scarcer
TORONTO -- Filling out the lineup card hasn't been an easy task of late for Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. He has a surplus of infielders, and on any given day, there's always going to be an odd man out.
Lately, that has been the case for shortstop John McDonald -- Toronto's regular at the position throughout August. Since Scott Rolen returned from the disabled list last week, Gaston has been juggling the playing time to find starts for McDonald, Marco Scutaro, Joe Inglett and Jose Bautista.
On Thursday, McDonald began on the bench for the fourth time in the past six games, following a stretch of 23 consecutive starts as the Blue Jays' shortstop. Gaston said it's nothing against McDonald -- sorting out the starting lineup has just been a bit more tricky lately.
"Who am I going to take out?" Gaston said. "Do you take Scutaro out? Do you take Joe out? It's kind of a tough decision. When we didn't have Rolen here, it was a little bit easier."
Rolen missed 13 games from Aug. 10-26 due to a fatigued left shoulder, but he returned to the lineup for the Blue Jays on Friday. While Rolen recovered on the DL, Scutaro garnered the majority of the playing time at third, creating an opportunity for McDonald to see everyday action at short.
Once Rolen was activated, McDonald's string of sporadic starts began. Gaston said the slick-fielding shortstop would likely be back in the lineup on Friday, when the Jays open a three-game series against the Rays. With McDonald back in the lineup, Scutaro will likely have the day off.
That's the kind of rotation that Gaston intends to use down the stretch. The manager also plans on mixing up the lineup against left-handed starters, giving more starts to Bautista -- at third base, as the designated hitter or at first base -- in those games and likely leaving the left-handed-hitting Inglett on the bench.
It's one way for Gaston to try to place more offense in his starting nine. In his 23 straight starts at short, McDonald hit just .224 and he owns a .217 average on the season. Scutaro has hit .264 with six homers and 50 RBIs in 124 games, while Inglett has batted .301 in 92 games for Toronto.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.