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MacArthur: Early spring hot potato at second base

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Scott MacArthur
3/2/2013 3:19:25 PM
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DUNEDIN, Florida - Hands off the panic button. The old refrain "It's early" gets uttered when disconcerting trends develop in early March.

One of the few battles in Blue Jays' camp is for the starting job at second base. So far, defensively, Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis are playing hot potato with the position. They've made three and two errors, respectively, in the first week of Grapefruit League action. Most have been throwing errors.

"We're not concerned about it," said manager John Gibbons before Saturday's game against the Phillies. "It's so early, they've done it before and they've gotten to the big leagues doing it. It's not going to just disappear on them. It never fails, in baseball, when an out's presented to you and you don't get it, at this level if you don't take advantage when they give it you (runs against) are the kind of things that happen. That's hurt us all spring. We haven't turned a double play or gotten an out when we need to."

Adhering to the "It's early" theory, let's examine Bonifacio's and Izturis' career numbers playing second base.

Bonifacio: 75 career games, 12 errors, a fielding percentage of .960.

Izturis: 246 games, 10 errors, a fielding percentage of .990.

Advantage, Izturis.

Both players' versatility will come in handy as Gibbons works each in to the lineup. Bonifacio has played the infield, save first base, and each outfield spot during his six big league seasons. Bonifacio says, at the moment, centrefield is where he's most comfortable.

Offensively, the 27-year-old's speed makes it difficult for Gibbons to keep him on the bench. Bonifacio's advantage is his speed; he stole 30 bases in just 64 games during an injury-plagued 2012 and 70 combined in the last two seasons.

Izturis, 32, can play second, shortstop and third base. His offensive numbers are comparable, in fact slightly better, than Bonifacio's in career batting average (.273 to .267) and on-base percentage (.337 to .329.) Neither player is a home run threat.

"We've already talked about (playing time,)" said Bonifacio. "Me and Maicer talked one-on-one and we both say we want to start but we know it's not our decision so the only thing we can control is giving 100-percent everyday."

Jose Reyes leaves the Blue Jays after Saturday's game, creating a void at shortstop, to join the Dominican Republic entry to the World Baseball Classic. Gibbons' plan is to get Bonifacio and Izturis plenty of reps at both second base and shortstop.

Emilio Bonifacio (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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