09/21/08 2:53 PM ET
Scutaro has been Jays' favorite sub
Utilityman a proven asset after filling in for injured starters
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
"I don't even have a first base or outfield glove," Scutaro said with a slight laugh. "I just borrow them from someone."
No matter what glove Scutaro has worn, he's proved to be a valuable asset for Toronto this season. The versatile utilityman has patrolled five different positions for the Blue Jays, essentially becoming an everyday player in the process -- just not at one spot in particular.
Scutaro has lived up to his reputation as a super sub, filling in for a variety of injured Blue Jays at various points throughout the year. In the process, he's provided a decent bat on offense and has established multiple career highs in light of the unexpected surplus of playing time.
Scutaro certainly didn't anticipate seeing the field as often as he has this season after joining Toronto over the offseason. The Blue Jays acquired him from the A's in exchange for a pair of pitching prospects in November and promptly signed Scutaro to a two-year contract in January.
"They told me I was going to be the utility guy," Scutaro said. "I had no clue how much playing time I was going to have. I've had a lot so far. It's good. I like it."
Entering Sunday, the 32-year-old Scutaro -- a native of Venezuela -- had already set personal bests in games played (139), at-bats (492), plate appearances (566), walks (56), RBIs (58), runs (73), and hits (131). He's also hit .266 with a .343 on-base percentage and a .358 slugging percentage -- each mark near his career average.
In a season filled with disappoints for the Jays, Scutaro turned out to be a blessing.
"He's a guy we've liked for a long time," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "I remember a couple times he came through waivers and we tried to get him, and it didn't work out that way.
"He's done a good job for us. He's a good hitter. He's just a good baseball player all the way around. Third, short, and second -- he can play them all."
Scutaro has, too.
He began the season filling in for injured third baseman Scott Rolen, and has manned the hot corner in 41 games. Scutaro spent time at short after Toronto lost both David Eckstein and John McDonald to injury earlier this season, piling up 51 games at the position. The Jays also lost second baseman Aaron Hill to a concussion in May, opening the door for 49 appearances at that spot for Scutaro.
It's been a similar situation to Scutaro's last four seasons with Oakland, where he also filled in for a variety of injured players around the infield. Scutaro, who has been sound defensively for Toronto, credited former A's infield instructor, and current Texas manager, Ron Washington for working with him on defense.
"Whenever someone got hurt, I was playing all over the infield," Scutaro said. "I used to work a lot, taking ground balls at different positions. [Washington] helped me a lot -- taught me a lot of stuff about how to play defense and positioning. That's what I think helped me."
With starts in left field and at first base this year as well, Scutaro easily surpassed the 400 plate appearances he needed to tack $25,000 on to his $1.55 million salary for this season. Next year, Scutaro's salary actually drops to $1.1 million for the Blue Jays, who aren't sure what his role will be when Opening Day 2009 arrives.
"I think it's too early right now," said Ricciardi, when asked if Scutaro could see as much playing time next year. "As you saw this year ... without enough bench guys, you can get caught short. We'll hopefully find a spot to play him.
"If we don't get a shortstop, obviously, he'll play a lot of short next year and we'd be comfortable with that."
Scutaro said he's not worrying about next year just yet. He also laughed when asked if he had a favorite position in the field.
"Yeah," he said. "Being in the lineup."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.