By Mike Harrington
Some big news out of the Blue Jays' pregame media briefing tonight in Seattle as Toronto first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion is leaving his injury rehab work at Class A Dunedin and coming to Buffalo to play for the Bisons, starting Tuesday night against Norfolk.
(Of course, that's weather permitting since the forecast here for Tuesday is pretty terrible).
Encarnacion hasn't played since July 5, when he suffered a right quad strain while running out a groundball in Oakland, and had a setback during his rehab while swinging last week at the Blue Jays' spring complex. He is batting .277 with 26 home runs and 70 RBIs -- and was tied for the major-league lead in the latter two categories when he was injured. He set a franchise record for any month with 16 home runs in May.
Even though he has been out more than a month, Encarnacion is still fourth in the American League in home runs. Entering Monday's play, Chicago rookie Jose Abreu was the leader with 31, Baltimore's Nelson Cruz had 30 and Los Angeles' Mike Trout had 27.
Encarnacion left Monday's game in Dunedin after one at-bat due to poor field conditions. He was 1 for 4 in two games there. The Blue Jays are 16-15 in his absence.
Encarnacion, 31, has been one of baseball's top sluggers the last three seasons. He had 42 home runs and 110 RBIs in 2012 and followed that up with 36 homers and 104 RBIs last year.
The Bisons are slated to play Norfolk, a Baltimore affiliate, in games here Tuesday and Wednesday night at 7 and Thursday afternoon at 1. They then return to the road, with Encarnacion expected to join the Blue Jays at that point in Chicago if he remains healthy.
Some big-name sluggers who have previously rehabbed with the Bisons include Ron Kittle of the Chicago White Sox (1985) and two Cleveland-era stars: Jim Thome (1998) and Manny Ramirez (2001). Juan Gonzalez played five games for the Herd in 2005 at the very end of his career when he was well past his prime -- and a couple of his games were against rehabbing White Sox slugger and future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, then playing with Charlotte.