The next is­sue might come out of left field

As the Jays get back to health, one po­si­tion stands out as a ques­tion mark


The Toronto Blue Jays’ lineup largely re­turned to its pre­ferred shape this past week­end, with third base­man Josh Don­ald­son and short­stop Troy Tu­low­itzki both back from in­jury.

That meant more dugout time for some of the role play­ers, such as Ryan Goins and Dar­win Bar­ney, who helped this team keep its head above wa­ter dur­ing a pro­longed in­jury cri­sis.

But for Chris Cogh­lan, an­other of the Jays’ util­ity play­ers, the re­turns meant noth­ing more than a move to the out­field.

Cogh­lan made his third start of the sea­son in left field on Sun­day, giv­ing Eze­quiel Car­rera a day off as Steve Pearce con­tin­ues to re­hab a calf strain.

While it’s a new role for Cogh­lan with the Jays — he had his first start at the po­si­tion on Tuesday against Milwaukee — it’s not new to the 31year-old, who has made 484 of his 719 big-league ap­pear­ances in left field.

“That stuff hap­pens,” Cogh­lan said. “I’ve been the in­jured guy that some­body comes in for. I think the game is go­ing to ver­sa­til­ity . . . it’s a huge as­set when you can have some­body that can play mul­ti­ple po­si­tions. That’s why I’ve al­ways been so will­ing to do it.”

Of course, play­ing in one po­si­tion and hon­ing his craft would be much eas­ier than jump­ing around the di­a­mond.

“You have the same amount of time as ev­ery­one else but you’ve got to do five po­si­tions, six po­si­tions. You have to pick and choose, on the days when you play and don’t play, how much work you do, what to do. So that’s why it’s a lot more chal­leng­ing and dif­fi­cult.”

One thing that doesn’t change is the men­tal ap­proach.

“You’ve just got to be fear­less and know that you’re pre­pared, you did ev­ery­thing you could,” he said. “I think the com­mon re­sponse is timid­ity, be­cause you’re like, ‘Man, I don’t play here very of­ten.’ It’s a mind­set to be able to be a util­ity player that plays ev­ery­where.”

It is still un­clear how much time Cogh­lan will spend in the out­field this sea­son. Jays man­ager John Gib­bons said Sun­day that he wasn’t sure where Pearce was at in terms of re­cov­ery.

If Pearce’s time­line is any­thing like that of Don­ald­son, who just re­turned from calf prob­lems, it could be an­other month be­fore he is able to re­turn. Rookie An­thony Al­ford, an­other out­field op­tion, is also fac­ing a lengthy stint on the dis­abled list af­ter break­ing a bone in his left wrist last week.

With Tu­low­itzki and Don­ald­son back and left-handed starters J.A. Happ and Fran­cisco Liri­ano near­ing re­turns, the fo­cus could turn to left field, which was one of the team’s con­cerns in the off-sea­son.

Car­rera, who wasn’t ex­pected to be more than a pla­toon player, has made 23 starts in left, hit­ting .269 over­all. Pearce, who has made 22 starts there, was hit­ting just .205 when he went on the DL. Cogh­lan, three years re­moved from his best sea­son, is hit­ting .219 in his lim­ited ap­pear­ances with the club this sea­son.

Left field is the one po­si­tion that will likely re­main a talk­ing point as the July trade dead­line inches closer.

For now, Gib­bons likes Cogh­lan in his new role, call­ing him a “nat­u­ral out­fielder.”

“You can put him in some dif­fer­ent spots,” the man­ager said. “His strength isn’t the in­field but you can put him there if you need him to. He’s def­i­nitely a bet­ter sec­ond base­man than third base­man but he can play a lot of places.”

Chris Cogh­lan is a nat­u­ral out­fielder, a role he should see more of as the Jays jug­gle play­ers in left.

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