05/06/12 9:18 PM ET
Escobar given day off to double-up on rest
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
Toronto's shortstop had appeared in every game this year, but with an off-day looming on Monday, manager John Farrell felt it was an appropriate time to give Escobar an extended period of rest. In his place, Farrell deployed 45-year-old Omar Vizquel, who became the oldest player to appear at shortstop in a Major League game.
"I think the need to give him a day off, in combination with tomorrow, so he has two days down," Farrell said of Escobar. "It became pretty apparent on the schedule, he has played every inning of the season so far and while he is swinging the bat better of late I still think the overriding thing was an additional day of rest."
Escobar finished Sunday hitting just .254 with one home run and 12 RBIs this season but has been playing much better since being moved into the No. 2 spot of the lineup.
The native of Cuba was batting .500 (8-for-16) with three extra-base hits in six games leading up to Sunday and appeared to be settling into a groove that made him one of the club's best hitters in 2011.
Escobar's absence also prompted left fielder Eric Thames to move up to second in the batting order, which is where he spent the majority of his rookie campaign last season. Farrell wanted to get another lefty in the lineup against Angels right-hander Jerome Williams.
"When you look at how Williams has pitched against both righties and lefties, [I] wanted to get another left-handed bat towards the top of the lineup," Farrell said of the Angels starting pitcher. "With Yunel being down, it was a natural fit for Eric to fit into that spot."
Vizquel sets mark as oldest to play shortstop
ANAHEIM -- Blue Jays infielder Omar Vizquel became the oldest player in Major League history to take the field at shortstop on Sunday afternoon against the Angels.
The 45-year-old Vizquel broke a record that has stood since 1918. The previous mark belonged to Bobby Wallace, who appeared in 12 games at the position for the St. Louis Cardinals at age 44.
"When you go back 100 years to look for a record, it is pretty amazing, actually," Vizquel said after Toronto fell, 4-3. "I can't believe that I'm still jumping around and playing shortstop at this age. I feel pretty good about myself, I feel pretty good about my physical condition.
"It hasn't been a year of work, it has been constantly working out every year, trying to improve your speed or your flexibility. It has been really hard work."
Vizquel signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training during the offseason and officially won the utility-infielder spot late in camp. But with Brett Lawrie, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar firmly entrenched as everyday players, there hasn't been much playing time to go around.
The native of Venezuela has appeared in just seven games this season, while posting a .133 average.
"It has been hard, but I think I'm used to this kind of situation right now, where you can just come from the bench and play once a week or try to give somebody a day off," Vizquel said. "It is tough, but that's what the guys that are utility or have backup roles have to think about, have to concentrate and have to do.
"Sometimes, your timing is a little off, and the fastball that's 95 mph, you see it at 98. Sometimes, the breaking balls look very tough, so it's hard to keep the timing, but you just have to keep working in batting practice and try to slow down the game a little bit."
Cash paying dividends as advance scout
ANAHEIM -- The Blue Jays didn't make a lot of moves during the offseason, but at least one addition flew under the radar.
Toronto hired former Major Leaguer Kevin Cash to act as a full-time advance scout. It's a position that had been vacant in recent seasons, but according to manager John Farrell, it is already paying big dividends this year.
Cash gets a firsthand look at opposing teams before the two sides meet. That allows the Blue Jays to not have to rely solely on video and also provides the club with the inside knowledge of a player who spent eight seasons behind the plate in the big leagues.
"He has done a very good job, because he has recently been a player and has caught in games and called pitches against a lot of the guys he's now seeing," Farrell said. "An updated view of what a player is currently doing, from a hitting standpoint, is very helpful in combination with the information that we generate internally. We feel like he gives us the best available information going into a series."
Cash also has worked closely with third-base coach Brian Butterfield to help the organization with defensive alignments. The Blue Jays have become one of the most aggressive teams in the Majors at the shifting of their infielders to better cover parts of the field.
"You can really start to identify some trends or some areas to cover," Farrell said. "The information is there but I think it's most important that the person who is interpreting it, and then implementing it, and the communication that we have as a staff.
"There's buy-in by the players, so when a pitcher might not know a shift or a subtle movement behind him is going on, they give up a hard-hit ball and turn around and see an infielder standing there. You gain a lot of confidence in that."
Johnson shows no signs of soreness in legs
ANAHEIM -- Second baseman Kelly Johnson was back in Toronto's lineup one day after being removed from Saturday night's game against the Angels because of soreness in his legs.
Johnson, who went 2-for-4 in a 4-3 loss to the Angels on Sunday, experienced cramping in both legs in recent days, and when the discomfort intensified, the club took a precautionary approach by removing him in the seventh inning of Saturday's 6-2 loss to Los Angeles. Johnson looked fine in the first inning Sunday, when he legged out an infield single.
"He has a history of some dehydration things that he has to maintain," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "He was cramping up the day before, and because of those cramps on Friday night, he felt a little bit sore coming into yesterday, and it was kind of hanging around late in the game. When he got through that last at-bat, we were going to get him off his feet."
Johnson finished Sunday's game with the Major League lead in home runs (six) among second basemen. He also ranked second in walks (18), third in runs (20) and fourth in RBIs with 14.
The 30-year-old veteran began the year as Toronto's No. 2 hitter but was recently promoted to the leadoff spot. It was an alignment that Farrell experimented with in Spring Training and one he plans on sticking with for the foreseeable future.
Triple-A Las Vegas left fielder Travis Snider is listed as day to day with a right wrist issue. Snider is currently on the seven-day disabled list but was eligible to be activated on Saturday. He went through batting practice but when he soreness resurfaced the club opted to hold him out of action for at least one more day.