Demotion paid off for Encarnacion
Jays infielder a tough out since humbling move to Triple-A
NEW YORK -- Players can go one of two ways when learning that they have been demoted to the Minor Leagues. As far as Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston is concerned, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion is an example of someone who handled things the right way.
Since his June demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, Encarnacion has shown tremendous progress both in the batter's box and in the field for the Blue Jays. Over the past 25 games, dating back to his return to Toronto on July 2, Encarnacion has hit .295 with two home runs, eight doubles and nine RBIs.
"I talk to guys when they go down," Gaston said, "about going down and burying your head in the sand or going down and getting yourself back up here. You don't know. Next week, you might be right back up here. If you go down and don't perform and feel sorry for yourself, you might not get back up here for a while.
"He went down and did what he was supposed to do, and he got himself back up here."
With his average stuck at .200 at the time, Encarnacion was sent to Triple-A on June 20. Gaston said Encarnacion took the news as well as he could have, even asking if he could report to Las Vegas earlier than required in order to get on the field as soon as possible.
"I appreciated him coming in and asking me that question," Gaston said. "He left in the right frame of mind."
In seven games with Las Vegas, the third baseman hit .438 with three home runs and 13 RBIs, and he has carried that success over to the big leagues since rejoining the Jays. Dating back to July 2, Encarnacion has raised his average to .242.
"He's done a lot of things good," Gaston said. "He's done well since hes been back. He's played really well."
Snider sits atop Gaston's fluid lineup
NEW YORK -- The lineup sheet hanging inside the visitors' clubhouse at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday morning included a surprise: Travis Snider was hitting in the leadoff spot for the Blue Jays.
Snider has led off previously in his life -- it has just been a while.
"I was 11 years old," Snider said with a laugh.
That made Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston chuckle.
"Is that right?" Gaston said. "He must be nervous, then."
The lineup change was simply the result of Gaston's ongoing rotation aimed at spreading the playing time evenly among a handful of players. With left fielder Fred Lewis and shortstop Yunel Escobar receiving a day off, Gaston decided that Snider was the best remaining option to hit atop the order.
When Snider was recalled from a stint at Double-A New Hampshire on Friday, Gaston said he would begin rotating players in and out of the lineup. The Jays currently have a surplus of outfielders with Lewis, Vernon Wells, Jose Bautista and Snider. Bautista can also play third base (Edwin Encarnacion's position), and designated hitter Adam Lind can also play left field or first base.
Snider said he doesn't feel any pressure to perform at a high level to remain in the lineup.
"I don't really think of it like that," Snider said. "I try to look at it as an opportunity to play. Whether I'm in there or the next guy is, we're all going to be pulling for each other on the bench to get hits and to help the team win."
Since rejoining the Blue Jays, Snider entered Wednesday with a .385 average (5-for-13), including two doubles, one home run and three RBIs in five games. In his final 10 days at Double-A, Snider hit .316 with four homers and 12 RBIs, knowing that a strong showing would make it easier to convince Toronto to promote him when he was first eligible.
"It was a little bit of a wake-up call," said Snider, who had to stay at Double-A for at least 10 days after being activated from the disabled list (right wrist issue) and optioned to New Hampshire on July 17. "I didn't want to leave any reason for them to think that I wasn't ready when that time came."
A-Rod hype doesn't sway Jays' pitchers
NEW YORK -- The Yankee Stadium stands have been filled with camera flashes over the past two days during every at-bat for Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez. The Blue Jays' pitchers have not really noticed.
More distracting has been the use of different baseballs in preparation of Rodriguez's 600th career home run.
"It'd be a lot easier to put it out of your mind if they didn't have to give you a new ball every time," said Brandon Morrow, who started for the Jays on Monday.
In the first inning on Wednesday, Jays starter Shaun Marcum surrendered Rodriguez's milestone blast -- a two-run shot to center field. With that home run, Rodriguez joined Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa as the only players with at least 600 homers in their careers.
Morrow did not think that allowing A-Rod's 600th blast would be any worse than surrendering any other home run for the Blue Jays' pitchers.
"I don't really think it's that big of a deal," Morrow said. "I don't know if you could tell me who Bonds hit his 600th off or Sammy Sosa a couple years ago. They used the Sammy Sosa ball in the same situation. I don't think anybody really remembers, so it just ends up being another home run."
Including his home run off Marcum, Rodriguez has launched 51 home runs in his career against the Blue Jays. That ties the most home runs A-Rod has belted against an American League East team; he also has 51 against the Orioles.
Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill was back in the starting lineup's No. 2 spot for Wednesday's game against the Yankees. Manager Cito Gaston said it was not a permanent switch. Shortstop Yunel Escobar, who had a day off Wednesday, will return to the No. 2 spot when he is back in the lineup. ... With Escobar on the bench, John McDonald got the nod at short. It marked McDonald's fourth start at shortstop this season. ... By winning the first two games of the current three-game set in New York, the Blue Jays earned their first series win on the road against the Yankees since Aug. 29-31, 2008. Toronto has not swept New York in a series of three games or more in the Bronx since May 22-25, 2003. ... Entering Wednesday, the Blue Jays led the Majors with 38 home runs on the first pitch. Right fielder Jose Bautista, who leads baseball with 33 homers, was tied for first in the Majors with seven first-pitch blasts. ... Toronto has led the American League with a 2.99 ERA since the All-Star break. ... With his win on Tuesday night, lefty Ricky Romero became the first Blue Jays southpaw to throw a complete-game two-hitter since Ted Lilly accomplished the feat on April 26, 2004. ... Pitching prospect Zach Stewart is 2-0 with a 1.58 ERA in his past six starts for Double-A New Hampshire. ... On Tuesday, outfield prospect Darin Mastroianni went 3-for-4 for Double-A New Hampshire. Mastroianni stole his 37th base of the year, marking the most by a Toronto farmhand this season.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.