TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Farrell has been trying to get Rajai Davis more at-bats, and there was no greater proof of that than Thursday's series finale against the Yankees.
Davis, who has primarily started in place of Eric Thames in left field when a left-hander is on the mound, was given his first start of the season against a righty when Farrell penciled him into the lineup against the Yankees' Phil Hughes.
Farrell said he will start rotating Davis through the outfield more, and that's exactly what he chose to do for Friday's game against the Mets. Davis got the start in center field, while Colby Rasmus received a day off. In the third inning, Davis drilled a two-run homer off Mets starter Jon Niese.
"He brings a different element to our lineup," Farrell said about Davis, who entered Friday tied for the team lead with six stolen bases. "The ability to manufacture runs, create a little bit, hopefully, some uneasiness when he does get on base, and because he's swinging the bat well of late, there's more there than just holding him back for a potential pinch-run. ... He's made an impact in the games that he's started. He's certainly earned the additional at-bats.
Farrell wanted to get Davis more time not just because of his speed, but because he is seeing a different player at the plate.
After a slow start, hitting just .185 with a .290 on-base percentage during the first month, Davis is heating up. The speedster, who stole 34 bases last year after going 40-plus in both 2009 and '10, is batting .400 with a .400 OBP in May,
"A lot of things are just turning around with all the work we've put in," Davis said. "Just staying committed to our routine, early batting practice whenever we get the opportunity. Just keeping my head focused, my mind. Just be ready to play when I get in there and take advantage."
Davis knows the team relies on his speed on the bases, and he relishes the opportunity to utilize that skill when he gets on.
"What I bring to the team is some energy, some life. I just bring a little bit of panic for defenders and a lot of times they don't know what to do. If they focus on the hitter, then I might steal the bag. If they focus on me, then the hitter has the advantage. So that's the type of thing I like to bring and am capable of bringing by just being a threat to steal bases. I'm just trying to get 90 feet closer."
Davis has played all three outfield positions this season, proving he can do more than just spell Thames in left. Friday marked the fourth time he has played center field this year and he has also spent one game in right.
"We get our early work in during batting practice, take reads off the bat," Davis said about preparing for each position. "I just try to stay as alert and focused and as tuned in as possible with what position I'm at each day."
Arencibia in No. 5 slot for second straight game
TORONTO -- Thursday marked the first time this season that J.P. Arencibia hit above No. 7 in the batting order when he hit out of the five-hole against the Yankees. It's a place he might want to start getting used to.
For the second straight game, Arencibia found himself in the five spot, hitting behind slugger Edwin Encarnacion to kick off the first of a three-game set with the Mets. In the first inning, he hit a three-run homer off Jon Niese. He added a solo shot off Niese in the third.
"Against certain matchups, yes," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said when asked if Arencibia would see more time in the middle of the order. "He's in a solid run right now with overall production."
The Toronto catcher is starting to find his groove.
Entering play Friday, Arencibia was batting .356 with 10 RBIs and a 1.030 OPS in May. With Friday's homer, he's belted five of his six homers this year in May and has shown a dramatic turnaround at the plate after hitting just .232 with a .513 OPS in April.
Farrell believes the backstop's recent surge is attributed to a couple of specific factors.
"What he has handled so well are breaking balls," Farrell said. "Not to say he can't turn around a good fastball, but when he's been into some pitchers counts, his swing is such that he has good plate coverage, the bat stays in the zone quite a while compared to other guys that might have a swing that's a little more pull-oriented -- where the bat head might be in and out of the strike zone. He has very good plate coverage and he hasn't missed the breaking balls that have stayed up on the plate."
Bautista heating up after slow start to year
TORONTO -- Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista looks to be putting his slow start behind him, which can only mean good things for his ballclub, as manager John Farrell sees it.
"I think, and not to put so much weight on Jose, but I think when all of us in the dugout see him take borderline pitches, not expand the strike zone, hit with the confidence that he's hitting with, I think it naturally sends a calming effect to everyone in the lineup," Farrell said. "I feel like in the last 7-10 games, that has been there more consistently."
The All-Star outfielder has homered in five of his past seven games and entered Friday ranked tied for sixth in the American League with 10 on the season. Bautista has hit seven of those home runs in May and has slugged .632 in the month after posting a mark of just .313 in April.
Farrell attributed a lot of the struggles Bautista had to timing and was adamant that his right fielder was going to come around sooner than later. There may be more than just timing issues, however, that have plagued the two-time defending home run champion this season.
Bautista's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was the second lowest in the Major Leagues at .178 entering Friday, which could explain why his on-base percentage was just .329, despite being among the league leaders in walks. As Farrell noted, Bautista has had plenty of at-bats where he was perhaps a little unlucky by hitting the ball hard, but right at a defender. The league average BABIP is around .300.
His line-drive percentage of 16.2 percent is above his career mark and higher than what it has been in each of the past two seasons, proving that he has made solid contact despite having a .207 batting average. When the hits start falling, which they should, Bautista should expect a rise in his OBP.
"There have been some of those mixed in, but we're 140 at-bats into the season, and I'm sure there were stretches last year for a period of time where the numbers might be reflective or similar to where they are now, so I'm not overly concerned by it," Farrell said when asked whether he felt Bautista has been unlucky.
Farrell would make a few Interleague changes
TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Farrell enjoys Interleague Play, but wouldn't mind seeing a new wrinkle added to it.
"I know the suggestion box isn't open, but I think the overall record of the American and National League should maybe weigh into what postseason home advantage is opposed than just one game at the All-Star break," Farrell said. "I'd like to see the National League rules played in the AL ballparks and vice versa, so the fans are getting to see a different brand of baseball."
Farrell believes NL teams have a distinct advantage when they are the home club, but he would not use that as an excuse.
Toronto's coaching staff does a lot of work with its pitchers and a lot earlier in the year than what one might expect.
"Our preparation starts roughly five weeks prior to when we go on our road trip to the first NL ballpark, to put a bat in pitchers' hands and start to swing off a tee first and basic progression towards live batting practice," Farrell said. "But we aren't going to replicate 90 mph getting thrown at them too readily. ... We put a little competition in play for all our starters, a little reward system because when it comes to handling a bat, anything above a sacrifice bunt, we're in way positive territory."
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.