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Blue Jays spring training: Izturis and Bonifacio to battle for starting job at second base

Dustin Pollack
Eh Game

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Maicer Izturis (left) and Emilio Bonifacio (right) were both acquired by the Jays in the off-season. (Getty)

When the Toronto Blue Jays open their season against the Cleveland Indians at the Rogers Centre on April 2, R. A. Dickey will be on the mound, Jose Reyes start be at shortstop and Melky Cabreraassuming he doesn’t face any other discipline from the MLB – will take his spot in left field. This much we know forsure.

Dickey, Reyes and Cabrera were arguably the three biggest acquisitions made by Alex Anthopoulos this past off-season – Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson being the other two major additions to the Jays lineup – and while they all fill what were once glaring holes one question still remains with regards to the team’s 2013 opening day lineup: who starts at second base?

Both candidates for the job, Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio could make valid arguments for themselves.

Izturis, 32, is the more experienced of the two having already played 246 of his 791 career games at second base while the 27-year-old Bonifaco has played just 111 career games at the position.

At the plate both players bring little power and have hit for very similar averages over the course of their careers – Bonifacio .267 and Izturis .273 – though Izturis has taken nearly 1,000 more trips to the plate than Bonifacio.

However, where Bonifacio has a legitimate edge is in his ability to steal bases. Over his six-year career he’s stolen 110 bases and in 2011 he tied for the National League in lead that statistic with 40. In 2012 he had 30 stolen bases in only 64 games. Had he played 120-plus games like the majority of the other league leaders he likely would have topped the NL in stolen bases again.

When asked about the second-base job Sunday in Dunedin, Fla., Gibbons told reporters that the position is “up for grabs” and though Izturis was signed by the organization long before Bonifacio Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said he made no promises to Izturis about starting at second base.

“What we will promise is the chance to compete,” Anthopoulos told reporters Sunday. We didn’t foresee bringing in an all-star calibre second baseman. We knew we were going to have to spend our money in the rotation. We weren’t going to guarantee him everyday at-bats, but with the contract and the fact that he can play all of those positions we figured he would get playing time one way or the other.”

The Jays faced a similar positional battle in spring training last season when Eric Thames and Travis Snider fought for the starting job in left field. Thames, who had the edge on Snider heading into the Jays camp, eventually won the job over Snider after both players performed well in spring training, however neither ended the 2012 season as the Jays starting left fielder as both players were traded in late July.

While Gibbons said the infield job is up for grabs he did give the edge Izturis, but how they both perform in spring training may prove to be the deciding factor in who starts on April 2.

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