ARLINGTON -- The Blue Jays are hopeful that J.P. Arencibia could be on the verge of breaking out of a slump after he homered during Friday night's 8-0 victory over the Rangers.
Arencibia entered that game mired in a 3-for-45 stretch, which brought his average down to .211. He's a notoriously streaky hitter, though, and it's possible the fourth-inning solo homer will spark another run of success.
That would be welcome news for a team that is looking to lengthen out its lineup with better overall production in an attempt to get back to .500 before the All-Star Break.
"Hopefully it gets him going. He's overdue," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "But he lined out to right with a good swing and then the home run.
"It just adds another big-time threat in there, and he can hit. He's going to have a good career, he's going to hit a lot of home runs. We just want to not be strictly known as a home run hitter but be a good hitter and he's fully capable of that."
Arencibia is at his best when he is driving balls up the middle and to the gap in right-center field. He runs into a bit of trouble when he attempts to pull every pitch and Gibbons thinks that might have been part of his recent struggles at the plate.
The 27-year-old Arencibia entered play on Saturday with just a .233 on-base percentage in 61 games this season. He does rank second in the Major Leagues among catchers with 13 homers, which trails only Atlanta's Evan Gattis.
Eight of those homers came in April, and if Arencibia gets back to his approach from earlier this year, Gibbons believes he can have that type of success again.
"When you get into some of those smaller ballparks, that's naturally the way it is," Gibbons said of attempting to pull everything. "But you're always a better hitter when you go gap to gap. You can still pull from that approach but what it does is allow you to stay on the ball for the offspeed stuff as well."
For his part, Arencibia isn't overly concerned about the recent struggles. His primary responsibility is handling the pitching staff, and that's most of his focus.
Toronto's pitchers appeared to have turned a corner of late. The bullpen has consistently been one of the best in baseball this year, while the starters are beginning to come around and entered play against Texas having thrown at least seven innings in three consecutive games for the first time all year.
Those are the numbers Arencibia is worried about the most.
"You try to stay confident in your abilities," Arencibia said. "I think good or bad, you try to stay as even-keeled as possible. Whatever the outcome would be, if I hit a home run or I strike out, I come into the dugout, sit down and put on my catcher's gear right away.
"That's part of the position that I think is a plus. I don't have to stand out there in the outfield and have time to think. As soon as I put on my catcher's gear, I become somebody else."
Reyes feels 'great' after simulated game
ARLINGTON -- Jose Reyes had a pair of hits and two walks in a simulated game at the Blue Jays' Spring Training complex on Saturday morning.
Toronto's shortstop singled and tripled during his second rehab game as he continues to make progress from a sprained left ankle.
Reyes also fielded one groundball, turned a double play and felt "great," according to Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. Reyes remains on schedule to appear in his first official rehab game for Class A Dunedin on Monday night.
The 30-year-old Reyes is expected to be out until the end of June, but his timeline could be moved up depending on how he feels over the next week or so. He'll likely be back for a series against the Red Sox in late June, but he could potentially be activated in time to join the Blue Jays in Tampa Bay from June 24-26.
Gibbons said that Reyes will reclaim his spot at the top of the Blue Jays' batting order when he returns, but he has yet to make any final determinations on what the rest of the lineup will look like.
Toronto has been using Melky Cabrera in the leadoff spot during Reyes' absence, with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion batting second and third, respectively.
The alignment has proved effective, and it's likely Bautista and Encarnacion will stay put with Cabrera moving down in the order, but it's something Gibbons will think about over the next week or so.
"He'll definitely be the leadoff guy, but we haven't looked at it whether we'd like to slide Melky to two and move those other two back, or leave them in their spot and move Melky down a little bit," Gibbons said. "Not sure yet, but I don't think we want to tinker too much. Bautista and Encarnacion have been good in their spots."
Reyes was batting .395 with a homer, five RBIs and five stolen bases before he sprained his ankle while stealing second base during a game in Kansas City on April 12.
Izturis improving at plate and in field
ARLINGTON -- Blue Jays infielder Maicer Izturis is finally starting to show some signs of life at the plate after struggling for most of the year.
The sample size is very small, but Izturis entered play on Saturday riding a four-game hitting streak. He is 7-for-18 over that span with a pair of doubles and two RBIs.
Izturis will have to continue that production for an extended period of time before any conclusions can be drawn, but the Blue Jays will take it after he struggled for almost two months.
"Free-agent signing, we have a few of those guys, and sometimes it takes a little while to settle in," manager John Gibbons said of Izturis, who signed a three-year deal in the offseason. "He's had a good career, he's always been a productive player; we knew that wasn't gone.
"Some things just take time, and when you struggle early and you're the new guy in town, the focus is on you and sometimes it's tough to fight that."
Izturis is a career .270 hitter, but he's batting just .221 this season. He's also experienced more than his fair share of struggles in the field at third base, shortstop and second base. He has just two errors, but there have been a lot of makeable plays that he hasn't been able to convert.
That's also changed in recent weeks, as he has assumed the starting job at third base while Brett Lawrie is on the disabled list. Gibbons believes the improved defensive play is directly tied to the increased confidence Izturis has experienced at the plate.
"It goes back to the confidence thing," Gibbons said. "Guys who have had great careers and been around a long time, they still battle that like anybody else."