COMMENTARY | How important is the return of star shortstop Jose Reyes to the Toronto Blue Jays lineup?
When the 11-year veteran went down from an ankle injury in April and put on the 60-day disabled list, it looked to be a catastrophic loss for the Jays. For a while it was.
Toronto won only five of 16 games for the remainder of the month and while Reyes' absence was one of many troubles for the club, losing someone of his calibre was a definite blow.
Yet here we are nearing the end of June. The Blue Jays are winners of eight straight and have nearly crawled back to the .500 mark.
A large part of that success comes via the bat where Toronto is now ranked 11th overall in runs and 15th in batting average.
Japanese import Munenori Kawasaki smoothly stepped in at shortstop as Reyes rehabbed and has held the fort in 55 appearances to date. Kawasaki's solid .979 fielding percentage and some sporadic clutch performances at the plate made the loss of No. 7 slightly more tolerable.
If the hitting remains on fire is there a chance that Reyes would not return in his famiar leadoff role? Melky Cabrera is looking pretty good atop of the batting order as of late with a combined .295 average in May and June.
Having to squeeze in a career .292 hitter that can deliver power is a nice problem to have for manager John Gibbons.
However, the importance of the Dominican Republic native's return may actually be away from the shortstop position itself.
The Jays could now explore moving Kawasaki over to second base and put the struggling Emilio Bonifacio (.206 average and 46 strikeouts) back on the bench where he is better suited as a utility depth type of player.
All of a sudden Toronto's middle infield is sturdy with a far more reliable combination.
Before any of these possibilities can occur the 30-year old switch hitter must first go through a quick stint in Triple-A Buffalo and then shake off any major league rust in a hurry.
Jays fans are salivating at the thought of Reyes' extra-base offense blended into the streaking Melky Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Jose Bautista.
As long as the starting pitching steadily improves then Reyes' comeback could very well be the final piece that launches Toronto back into playoff contention.
Follow Andy McNamara on Twitter @AndyMc81
Andy is a sports journalist and broadcaster with over 8-years experience covering professional, collegiate and minor league sports.
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