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Izturis, Bonifacio might share second base for Jays

The SportsXchange

Outside of the battles for a few bullpen spots, the biggest competition at the Toronto Blue Jays' spring training camp is for second base.

However, whether Maicer Izturis or Emilio Bonifacio starts at second on Opening Day, the competition won't necessarily be over. It could last the whole season.

"One guy might not win the job," manager John Gibbons said. "I mean, they're both going to be on the team. It might be one of those things where if we feel we need a little shot in the arm offensively, then we put Bonifacio in there. Then again, if it's consistent defense that's important, Izturis might be our choice. I don't think anyone is going to base it off of numbers."

Both are switch hitters, and both are versatile. Bonifacio brings speed to the lineup and can play outfield. Izturis is the better defender and can play short and third as well as second.

"It's probably going to come down to a feel thing," Gibbons said. "What does your gut tell you? And when it comes right down to it, we might not come out and say, 'Hey, this is our guy.' Maybe they'll split it and we'll just base it on matchups or what we need on a given night."

Izturis was signed as a free agent before the Blue Jays made the blockbuster, 12-player deal with the Marlins in November that brought Bonifacio, among others.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos likes what Izturis brings.

"We were attracted to his ability to play shortstop," Anthopoulos said. "There are guys who can play second and third, but they can't play short, and if you look around, the guys who can play short into their 30s, like John McDonald, like Willie Bloomquist, like Marco Scutaro, just seem to play on and on and on. (Izturis) has been a guy who has had 400 at-bats, put up good stats, makes contact, can run a little bit, and is just a valuable player to have. ... He can draw a walk, he can put the ball in play. We struck out a lot last year, and we wanted more contact in the lineup."

Fighting for a spot is nothing new for Izturis.

"I've been in this situation in Anaheim," he said. "That team always had a lot of players and talent, but I'd still get 300, maybe 400 at-bats. One year, 500.

"I like this team. I will help this team wherever I can. This team, to me, is a lot like the 2005 Angels with Garret Anderson, Vlady (Vladimir Guerrero), a mix of so many good young and older players."

A clue as to how the second base playing time might work out possibly could be found in the players' career splits.

As a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitching, Izturis has a career .268 average and a .664 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, and Bonifacio has a .290 average and a .707 OPS. As a left-handed hitter against right-handed pitching, Izturis has a .275 average and a .726 OPS, Bonifacio has a .258 average and a .658 OPS.

Perhaps the solution will be a platoon.
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