4/21/2013 7:20 P.M. ET
Despite issues, Gibbons sees defense as strength
By Gregor Chisholm and Evan Peaslee / MLB.com
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' early defensive woes have been well documented, highlighted by a couple of lapses in Saturday's contest that cost the team a victory, but manager John Gibbons believes that team defense is a strength.
"I think when it's all said and done in the end, that'll be one of our strengths," Gibbons said.
However there are no delusions about the team's issues defensively to begin the season.
"No doubt about it [we've had poor execution on defense]," Gibbons said. "And it's got to get better."
The defense on Saturday allowed the Yankees to score four of their runs, and an additional two in Friday's contest that proved to be the turning point.
"To be honest, I don't think it's a big concern; it's cost us, but we've got a good defensive team," Gibbons said.
Certainly 18 games into the year doesn't tell the tale of a long season, but the impact that it's having is what's concerning. Coupled with Toronto's slow start, the significance of these mistakes is exaggerated.
Eleven errors isn't overly alarming -- Toronto's on pace to best last season's total -- but the manner in which they are happening, in key situations, is.
Before Sunday's series finale against the Yankees, Gibbons couldn't classify whether his team's defensive woes were the result of physical errors or mental lapses, simply referring to them as "just mistakes."
The Blue Jays haven't been doing any additional work in the field outside of taking grounders during batting practice, nor are there any plans to. Gibbons believes that everything will eventually progress to the mean.
"Mistakes happen in baseball," Gibbons said. "Things are just magnified right now."
Kawasaki moves to leadoff spot, provides lift
TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons unveiled a new-look lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Yankees as shortstop Munenori Kawasaki was promoted to the leadoff spot.
Kawasaki spent his first eight games in a Blue Jays uniform hitting out of the No. 9 hole. He moved up in the order on Sunday as Jose Bautista made his return to right field, which relegated Rajai Davis to the bench.
The 31-year-old Kawasaki has been a surprise contributor since Jose Reyes went down with a severe ankle sprain earlier this month and appears to have solidified his spot on the roster.
"I think he's the perfect choice with Rajai not in there," Gibbons said before Sunday afternoon's game.
"He's playing good, he gives you a great at-bat every time. He gets on base. With Raj out, give him a shot in there. Getting on base, spark plug, I think he'll do great up there."
Kawasaki is known as a relatively light-hitting infielder, but one that has the ability to work the count. He entered Sunday hitting .263 (5-for-19) with a pair of RBIs while providing reliable defense up the middle.
In Sunday's 8-4 victory, he went 1-for-4 with a sacrifice fly and a run scored, setting the tone for the Blue Jays atop their lineup.
"He was in the middle of the action all day again," Gibbons said. "You look at him and [Brett] Lawrie, they give you that kind of boost… they give you some energy. He's done a tremendous job for us, he really has."
Bautista's return in right came one day earlier than originally expected. Toronto's slugger missed four games earlier in the week with back spasms before getting back into the lineup at designated hitter on Friday and Saturday.
The ability to put Bautista back in right field meant the Blue Jays could once again find a spot for Adam Lind. The veteran first baseman/DH had been relegated to the bench in recent games despite entering Sunday with five hits in his previous 11 at-bats.
The goal is to get as much offense in the lineup as possible with the club struggling to generate runs.
"That way we can get Lind in there, too," Gibbons said of starting Bautista in right. "He was the guy that was getting short-changed. He was swinging it pretty good before."
Gibbons: Players not feeling pressure despite struggles
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are off to a less than ideal start, but manager John Gibbons doesn't see the need for a closed-door meeting with all his players to discuss the current state of affairs.
Toronto entered play on Sunday having lost four of its previous five games. That dropped the club's record to four games below .500 as the Blue Jays have not yet lived up to the offseason hype.
Fans in the Toronto area are beginning to get restless, but Gibbons says the pressure hasn't invaded his clubhouse and the Blue Jays aren't about to panic just because they've hit a few bumps on the road.
"I don't think there's any need for that," Gibbons said of a team meeting. "They know what's at stake. They're all giving it their best, we just haven't performed the way we hoped. That doesn't mean we're going to, and to be honest, we've run into some good pitching along the way, too."
The offense has been a particular area of concern through the first three weeks despite the fact it was supposed to be a major strength. Toronto prepared to face New York with a lineup that ranked 10th in the American League with 64 runs scored.
Toronto has scored three runs or less in 11 of its 18 games. The problem in a lot of cases has been an overly aggressive team that is often seen swinging at the first pitch or two and making quick outs.
That's something that will need to change if the Blue Jays want to stop pressing at the plate and settle into any type of groove.
"There have been times when we've been over-aggressive," Gibbons admitted. "The key is, it's one thing to be aggressive, but make sure it's a pitch you want to hit. Go chasing out of the zone early in the count, that's what will get you in trouble. If it's something you like, something you're looking for, get after it."
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.