PHILADELPHIA - With first baseman Edwin Encarnacion back in the cleanup spot for the past two games, the Toronto Blue Jays lineup has started to take on a regular-season look.
Encarnacion played in his second consecutive game Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies and was 0-for-2 with a lineout to third, a strikeout and a walk.
The Blue Jays defeated the Phillies 1-0 on the strength of a fifth-inning home run by catcher J.P. Arencibia, his fifth of spring training, against right-hander Phillippe Aumont of Gatineau, Que.
Left-hander Mark Buehrle allowed two hits and struck out five in five innings before a crowd of 32,184 at Citizens Bank Park on a chilly night. The game was played in a brisk two hours and five minutes.
Encarnacion had not played since March 19 when he jarred his right index finger as he hit a ball off the end of his bat in his final plate appearance of the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic championship. X-rays were negative but the finger swelled and he did not play until Thursday.
"He looked fine," Gibbons said. "It was a big concern when it first happened, it swelled up on him. But he's good to go, he says he's ready, the swelling is all gone."
"It feels great," Encarnacion said. "I'm ready to go on opening day."
Encarnacion was 1 for 3 with a single in his first game back Thursday, also against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla.
The Blue Jays and Phillies conclude their spring training with another game in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.
"We're ready. It's kind of nice to get a big-league game feel, a night game here, it's a little cool, I think it energizes everybody a little bit," Gibbons said. "On the map we're headed in the right direction."
Buehrle as usual worked quickly and had his best outing of spring training as he made 58 pitches, with 34 strikes.
"I was kind of disappointed that I felt too good," Buehrle said. "I wish I had saved it for a different game when it counted. But I think with the lights and a big-league stadium and the fans, there's something about it. It's easy to flick that switch. Even though it didn't count it's a totally different feeling. It's hard to explain."
Buehrle said that he felt good enough to go another one or two innings, but said he felt that he had done enough to be ready for his first start of the season next Thursday.
"He's a veteran guy and he got hit around a bit in spring training," Gibbons said. "But you turn the lights on, he knows it's his last start before the season and he turned it up a notch. It was our first game under the lights so that was a bit of an adjustment. I'm glad we had that because we didn't have a night game at spring training."
Encarnacion should be an important hitter on a Blue Jays team that has been rebuilt to contend for a spot in post-season.
Last season he put together a career year, batting .280 with 42 home runs and 110 RBIs.
With a couple of changes, Friday's lineup looked similar to the one that will be used Tuesday in Toronto on opening night against the Cleveland Indians.
Jose Reyes led off followed by Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Encarnacion. Arencibia batted fifth on Friday against the left-hander Cliff Lee as the left-handed Adam Lind did not start. Lee held the Blue Jays to one hit while striking out five in four innings.
Lind will bat fifth as designated hitter on Tuesday followed by Arencibia, centre-fielder Colby Rasmus, third baseman Maicer Izturis and second baseman Emilio Bonifacio.
Gibbons said Lind will not start against certain left-handers and he will use a right-handed hitter instead. "But (he won't sit) against them all, against some we'll let him hit, we'll give it a try," Gibbons said.
Right-handed hitting Rajai Davis started as DH on Friday. Izturis and Mark DeRosa will platoon at third base while Brett Lawrie remains on the disabled list with a rib-cage injury.
Arencibia will get a chance to bat fifth or sixth with Lawrie out.
"He's at that point in his career where it's all going to come together for him," Gibbons said of Arencibia. "He's always been a good RBI guy. I know his average in the past has been down a little bit but everybody tells me he drives when it counts so I like him there sitting in the middle behind those guys and he should get a lot of RBI opportunities."
Notes: Lawrie won't resume baseball activities until Monday or Tuesday. He has not played since March 6 when he injured his left rib-cage in an exhibition game with Team Canada to prepare for the WBC. "It really wasn't a setback where he started hurting or anything but didn't feel right," Gibbons said. "Maybe we were rushing it anyway." ... Right-hander Josh Johnson will start for the Blue Jays Saturday in their final spring training game. He will face right-hander Kyle Kendrick.