HOUSTON -- It seemed odd when Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista exited Saturday's 13-6 win over the Astros after belting a triple in the second inning, but manager Cito Gaston said it was no big deal. Toronto simply wanted to give Mike McCoy some more playing time in the final game of the spring.
Bautista's three-run triple capped off what has been a strong spring showing for Toronto's new leadoff man and starting right fielder. In 18 games this spring, all Bautista did was hit at a .439 clip with five home runs, nine doubles, one triple and 11 RBIs over 57 at-bats.
"He's been great. He sure has," Gaston said. "He's done everything you can ask him to do. Just take it right into the season -- that'd be great for us."
Morrow fine after latest test
HOUSTON -- Brandon Morrow is ready to go. The Blue Jays starter worked through five innings in a 13-6 win over the Astros on Saturday at Minute Maid Park, showing no lingering issues from the right shoulder issue that flared up earlier this spring.
"I got my work in and I think it worked out the way we planned," Morrow said. "I felt good. My arm felt great. My mechanics got better as I went along."
On March 17, Morrow began experiencing soreness in his throwing shoulder, forcing him to miss two scheduled starts. Morrow -- acquired in a trade with the Mariners in December -- indicated that he had dealt with a similar fatigued shoulder problem in the past, but decided against trying to pitch through the discomfort this spring.
By the time Morrow was back on a mound for a bullpen session on March 26, he said the shoulder issue was gone. The right-hander worked through a 55-pitch simulated game on Monday and was able to increase his pitch count to 86 in the outing against Houston on Saturday. Over his five innings, Morrow allowed one run on five hits with six strikeouts and three walks.
"He pitched well," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He looks great."
That is good news for the Blue Jays, who open the regular season on Monday against the Rangers in Arlington. The 25-year-old Morrow -- no longer facing a possible stint on the disabled list -- is penciled in as Toronto's No. 4 starter, meaning he is scheduled to take the hill against the Orioles on Friday in Baltimore. That will provide Morrow with five days of rest between outings.
Encarnacion offers Jays some faith
HOUSTON -- Edwin Encarnacion's first home run of the spring could not have come at a better time. In a game that served as his last chance to convince the Blue Jays not to place him on the disabled list to open the season, Encarnacion launched a three-run homer to help push Toronto to a 13-6 win over the Astros.
"The home run was big for him," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "Hopefully it gets him off and running."
Encarnacion was held out of Grapefruit League games until March 25 due to weakness in his surgically repaired left wrist, which was operated on at the end of October. Baltimore-based hand specialist Dr. Tom Graham shaved a large bone spur off the hamate bone in Encarncion's ailing hand.
The 27-year-old Encarnacion, who was acquired from the Reds in the trade that sent third baseman Scott Rolen to Cincinnati last July 31, indicated that he would only need around 30 at-bats to regain his timing at the plate. With Saturday's 1-for-3 showing, the third baseman received 38 spring at-bats, including 10 during Minor League games.
The Jays had concerns about Encarnacion's ability to get his offense and defense up to speed in time for Opening Day, and the club planned on closely monitoring his progress on Friday and Saturday in Houston. Encarnacion is expected to begin the season as Toronto's everyday third baseman, and Gaston is hoping the wrist issue is in the past.
"I hope so," Gaston said. "The one thing I think I liked more than him hitting the home run is that the last few days he's had some good footwork [in the field]. He's caught the ball and thrown the ball well to first base. We were worried about that a little bit."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.