© 2011 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

05/03/11 11:33 PM ET

Blue Jays without Bautista against Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- The MRI on Jose Bautista's sore neck revealed no structural damage, but the slugger will miss at least the three-game series against the Rays.

Bautista has been experiencing discomfort in the area since last week in Texas. He woke up one morning with pain in the area that got worse with throwing and running.

When the condition didn't improve, Bautista opted to undergo a precautionary MRI.

"There is no structural issue," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said following his club's 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. "There is no bulging of a disk. There is no spine issue or anything like that. It is all musculature, so we have to let that subside.

"He will have to go through some baseball-related activity once he is symptom-free. I can't say there is a drastic improvement over the condition, but there is nothing structurally [wrong]."

Bautista was removed from Sunday's game against the Yankees in the seventh inning. He was originally planning to be back in the lineup against the Rays, but that changed when the injury became worse Tuesday morning.

"The spasms seemed to intensify even more," Farrell said. "We felt at the time when he came out of the game -- even the way Jose felt -- this was a chance to get over it. Get out of the game the last couple of innings ... but when he woke up this morning, it was even more intense."

The news comes as an obvious blow to the Blue Jays' lineup. Bautista was named the Budweiser American League Player of the Month on Tuesday after hitting .357 with nine home runs and 16 RBIs while scoring 25 runs and 30 walks.

Without Toronto's main slugger, Farrell had no choice but to shuffle the lineup. Rajai Davis remained in the leadoff spot, but shifted from center field to right. That opened a spot up the middle for veteran Corey Patterson, who hit second while Yunel Escobar took over Bautista's No. 3 spot in the order.

The Blue Jays already were playing without the services of infielders Aaron Hill and Jayson Nix, who are both on the 15-day disabled list with leg injuries. The detriments are easy to spot, but Farrell said there is at least one area the club can take some consolation in.

"I think as we've been faced with challenges from injuries. I think there has been a quicker cohesiveness and a quicker bonding among the group in here," said Farrell.

"Other people see themselves in more prominent roles ... I think intangibly, there can be a little bit of a positive growth from it and that's the cohesiveness and the underdog attitude."

Hill aims to rejoin Blue Jays on Monday

ST. PETERSBURG -- Second baseman Aaron Hill continues to make positive strides in his rehab from a right hamstring injury and expects to be back in the Blue Jays' lineup by Monday.

Hill is on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring strain. He will take live batting practice on Wednesday before appearing in an extended Spring Training game later in the day.

The 29-year-old is then expected to appear in three games for Class A Dunedin. If everything goes well, Hill's plan would be to return to Toronto on Sunday, with the opportunity to be activated in time for the game the following day against Detroit.

Hill was originally planning to be back Thursday, but the organization convinced him to be a little more patient with the injury.

"I was hoping to, but it's probably better," Hill said. "I feel great right now, but another two, three days -- especially the at-bats -- are going to be big just to get the timing down.

"They want to see me go through a full game for a couple days, and they're comfortable with the schedule we kind of lined out for the next few days. If nothing happens, I'll be back Sunday."

Hill suffered the injury while attempting a stolen base against the Yankees on April 19. The native of California already has six stolen bases on the season, which matches his career high from 2009.

He joked on Tuesday that he'd like to get another stolen base out of the way to prove he can handle it.

Toronto's manager isn't quite so sure. John Farrell said it's possible the club would take a cautious approach with the former Silver Slugger Award winner once he gets back to full strength.

"I think we have to be smart about it," Farrell said. "Obviously now there's a pretty clear history of some quad and hamstring issues, and we've got to factor that in."

Hill was hitting .242 with nine RBIs and four runs scored before getting placed on the DL.

Nix stops by the Trop to visit Blue Jays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Injured Blue Jays infielder Jayson Nix paid a visit to the visitors' clubhouse at Tropicana Field on Tuesday afternoon.

Nix is currently rehabbing from a contusion in his left leg at the Blue Jays' Minor League complex in neighboring Dunedin, Fla.

"There's still some soreness in there," said Nix, who added the discomfort is mostly in the bone area on the outside of his knee. "It's gradually getting better, though. I jogged today and took ground balls, and it felt better."

Nix said he was hoping to start appearing in rehab games in approximately seven days. After that, it likely would just take a few games before he is able to return to the Major Leagues.

The 28-year-old suffered the injury during a collision at second base with Tampa Bay's Sean Rodriguez. Nix caught a high throw from third baseman Edwin Encarnacion and was attempting to turn a double play when Rodriguez slid hard into the bag.

Even though Rodriguez's leg appeared to come in at a high angle, Nix said he didn't feel like there was any malicious intent behind the collision.

"I think for the most part, it was a good slide," Nix said. "The throw, and the play in general, I probably shouldn't have tried to turn it, but yeah, I think it was a clean play."

Nix is hitting .244 with two home runs and five RBIs in 17 games this season. He was acquired at the end of Spring Training from Cleveland for future cash considerations.

Worth noting

• Toronto's bullpen entered Tuesday night's game against the Rays having not surrendered a hit over its last 8 2/3 innings. Blue Jays relievers have allowed just two earned runs over their past 22 innings and lead the Major Leagues with a .177 opponents' batting average.

• Over the last 14 series dating back to 2010, the Blue Jays are 13-1 in Game 1. The club is 8-1 in the first game of a series this season.

• Tampa Bay ace David Price will pitch on Thursday in the series finale against Toronto. The left-hander took the place of Jeremy Hellickson and Rays manager Joe Maddon said the decision was made to keep the bulk of his starters on a regular schedule.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.