TORONTO -- It remains unclear how the Blue Jays plan on handling the upcoming return of third baseman Edwin Encarnacion. One thing appears certain when breaking down the situation: Fred Lewis would have to play himself out of a starting job.
"I would say that," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said on Sunday.
When Encarnacion landed on the 15-day disabled list with a sore right shoulder on April 15, that created a chain reaction that led to Lewis taking over as the everyday left fielder. Former left fielder Travis Snider shifted to right and right fielder Jose Bautista replaced Encarnacion at third base.
Lewis has thrived since stepping into a regular role, hitting .299 overall and .305 as Toronto's leadoff man. If healthy, Snider will remain in an everyday role with the Blue Jays upon Encarnacion's return. That means the Jays will likely need to decide between Encarnacion and Bautista as the primary third baseman.
Gaston noted earlier this week that Encarnacion would "probably" return to the starting job at third base when he is activated. On Sunday, Gaston maintained that the Blue Jays do not have a target date established for Encarnacion's return to the lineup. The third baseman is still working through Minor League rehab games.
"It depends on him," Gaston said. "He's pretty healthy, but we want him to get some at-bats at Double-A and Triple-A. ... It certainly gives us more time to let him take his time and get himself back right, because things are going well. We want him back healthy this time."
Snider again out of lineup Sunday
TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston has never seen Travis Snider locked in at the plate like he has been for the past two weeks. Now, Toronto can only hope Snider's current wrist injury does not take a toll on his timing in the batter's box.
On Sunday, Snider was out of the Blue Jays' lineup for the second game in a row due to an ailing right wrist -- hurt during a swing on Friday night. Gaston said he was hopeful that the young outfielder would return to action on Monday, but the manager still expressed concern.
"I don't know what this is going to do to him by missing a couple days," Gaston said. "If he's not fully recovered, that might hurt him, too. I don't know. We're going to try to do the best thing for him. I don't know if he's going to be 100 percent, it's hard to hit when your wrist is bothering you."
Over his past 14 games, dating back to April 29, the 22-year-old Snider has hit . 385 (20-for-52) with four home runs, eight doubles, 11 runs scored and 11 RBIs for the Jays. Snider hit .395 over Toronto's recent 10-game road trip. During Friday's 16-10 win over the Rangers, he went 2-for-4 with a homer, but tweaked his wrist during a swing.
"He had a great road trip," Gaston said. "A lot of balls he hit on that road trip, a lot of them were fastballs and changeups, breaking balls, knuckleballs. He did it all. ... I'd like to get him back as soon as I can. Then again, we're going to be cautious with it, too."
If Snider returns healthy and continues to perform well at the plate on a consistent basis, Gaston said he would not rule out moving him up in the batting order. Gaston said the left-handed-hitting Snider, who has mainly hit out of the eighth or ninth spot this season, could possibly see time in the fifth hole later this year.
"The only spot he would move up to would probably be fifth," Gaston said. "Somewhere there if [first baseman Lyle] Overbay is not doing what he'd like to do or what we'd like to see him do. I don't see any other spot than that."
Entering Sunday, Overbay -- a free agent after this season -- was batting .191 with three homers and 14 RBIs over 37 games. Gaston said he does not want to move Alex Gonzalez or Jose Bautista out of the sixth and seventh spots, respectively, adding that he prefers to alternative left- and right-handed hitters in the lineup when possible.
Jays using Lewis' speed wisely
TORONTO -- One thing that Fred Lewis has brought to the Blue Jays' lineup is the element of speed. That does not mean the fleet-footed outfielder has been given the go-ahead to steal bases at will for Toronto.
"He's got the green light," Gaston said. "But he can't go any time he wants."
Gaston noted that the only player who has a pure green light -- the ability to steal bases on his own terms -- is center fielder Vernon Wells. The Blue Jays pick their spots with Lewis, who has swiped three bases and been caught stealing twice in 26 games.
"Even though you give guys the green light, you have to know which ones you can really leave on their own. Vernon's a guy you can leave on his own. He's not going to make bad choices," Gaston said.
Third baseman Jose Bautista has been a streaky hitter this season for the Blue Jays. Entering Sunday, Bautista had hit .545 (6-for-11) with two home runs and five RBIs. That followed an 18-game stretch during which Bautista hit at a .185 clip. Through Saturday, Bautista's average had not climbed higher than .238 this year, but he's maintained a respectable .341 on-base percentage throughout. "As far as his hitting, yeah, it's up and down sometimes," manager Cito Gaston said. "He gets hot, gets cold, but he never stops fighting." ... Center fielder Vernon Wells entered Sunday one home run shy of matching Joe Carter (203) for second place on the club's all-time list. ... Outfielder Fred Lewis entered Sunday leading the American League in the month of May in hits (23), doubles (nine), total bases (38) and extra-base hits (11). ... Catcher Jon Buck carried a seven-game hitting streak into Sunday's game, batting .435 over that stretch.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.