Blue Jays struggling Emilio Bonifacio finds seat on the bench: Griffin
And on the third day, he rested.
The Blue Jays' struggling Emilio Bonifacio has had a tough time mastering the nuances of his new position, second base. The problem came to a head in Game 2 of the Tigers series on Wednesday at Comerica Park, failing to turn a double play with Prince Fielder trundling down the line, booting a grounder by Matt Tuiasosopo, being one of three fielders surrounding a short RBI popup by Jhonny Peralta and allowing a rare infield single to Fielder. No one could argue that a day off in the series finale would not do him good.
“I'm not saying it's a mental thing," manager John Gibbons said. "He's had a couple of games where it's a tough go. I don't know him well enough and I'm not in his head, but he's showed no signs of it really affecting him because he's getting after it. He's playing hard. I don't think he has that personality to really get him down. We'll give him a day off, but I'm not worried about Emilio."
It was another dark, overcast, threatening day with temperatures just above freezing in the Motor City as the tarp covered the infield with a forecast for heavy rain around 3:00 p.m. Twenty hours earlier in the Jays' energizing come-from-behind 8-6 victory on Wednesday, Mark DeRosa had contributed a pinch-hit two-run double and then drew a key bases-loaded walk in the seventh. His reward was a Thursday start at third-base, with Maicer Izturis moving over to his more natural second base position, replacing Bonifacio behind starter Josh Johnson.
“I want to be out there for my teammates," Bonifacio said, refusing to use cold weather or an unfamiliar position as excuses. "I'm going to be available when Gibby wants to use me. It's worse when you put your head down and something happens for that reason. The game's going to continue so you're going to have another chance. That next one can be worse if you let it. So you just have to keep your head up and keep going."
The former Marlins' utility man has made four errors, including a natural hat trick of miscues the first time Johnson started at the Rogers Centre. In addition, the Jays have turned just four double plays, even with the slick fielding Jose Reyes at shortstop. That low total of DP's is tied for 13th with the Red Sox in the AL, just ahead of the Angels.
"He's playing a position now that he played once in a while,' infield coach Luis Rivera said. "He's moved around but now he's in one spot. I think he just needs to relax. I don't think there's anything wrong with him. I cannot say his hands are like rocks. He's got soft hands. He's got good feel. Maybe it's a little lack of concentration, I don't know what it is. He's got plenty of arm to throw. Sometimes he's just goes back and forth from the outfield to the infield, he throws long, short. I think sometimes he's too short (arm) when he throws."
Gibbons refused to indicate whether this was simply a one-and-done day off for Bonifacio or if the defensive alignment might remain this way with Izturis and DeRosa until Brett Lawrie is ready to return. Lawrie was scheduled to play an extended spring training game at the Jays' minor-league complex in Dunedin on Thursday.
“You get DeRosa in, he had a nice game yesterday," Gibbons said. "He's a good defender over there and you get Maicer in at second base. It'll probably do Bonny a little bit of good to get away from it for a day. Nothing jumps out at me. He doesn't quit playing hard. He doesn't drop his head. But he's got to be feeling it. It's been a tough go for him lately. He's going to be a big part of this team and we're going to need him if we're going to be successful. A day off's not going to hurt."
Or perhaps a few days off. Barring any physical setback, Lawrie should be back with the Jays sometime on the next homestand at the Rogers Centre, before the end of April.