06/23/2014 05:26 EDT | Updated 08/23/2014 05:59 EDT

Bautista unlikely to go on DL after MRI exam reveals only mild hamstring strain

TORONTO - Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista will likely miss a few days with a mild hamstring strain but is not expected to go on the disabled list.

The all-star right-fielder had an MRI exam done Monday after leaving Sunday's game in Cincinnati.

"It's definitely some of the best news I could have gotten," Bautista said. "I could have got the news of a torn hamstring or a higher-grade strain. But it's the lowest grade strain that there could be — grade one — so it's day by day."

Bautista said there's a "really good chance" he won't have to go on the DL and added he might even be able to return during Toronto's three-game series against the New York Yankees, which began Monday night at Rogers Centre.

"I'm not saying a start but a pinch-hit at-bat here or there, that's a possibility," he said.

The Blue Jays have led the American League East standings for the last month but they won just three games on their recent 10-game road trip. Entering play Monday, Toronto had a 1 1/2-game lead on New York and the Baltimore Orioles.

Toronto lost another key player over the weekend as infielder Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C., will miss three to six weeks with a fractured right index finger. The Blue Jays placed him on the 15-day DL on Monday and recalled outfielders Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar from triple-A Buffalo.

"We need the two extra outfielders to cover while Jose is out," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "When he comes back, I don't necessarily think we need two. But for the time being, we do."

"It's an opportunity for somebody," Gibbons added. "That's what it comes down to."

Lawrie is batting .244 this season with 12 homers and 38 RBIs. The Blue Jays also optioned catcher Erik Kratz to the Bisons on Monday.

Bautista is enjoying another strong season with a .305 average, 15 home runs and 49 RBIs in 77 games. His defensive play has been excellent and he leads all major-league players in fan voting for the July 15 all-star game in Minnesota.

He suffered the injury while trying to leg out a single in the Blue Jays' 4-3 loss to the Reds.

"I was running down to first and I extended my leg to step on the bag and I just felt a little sharp pain," Bautista said. "The usual feeling when you strain a muscle. I've been there before so I knew what was going on. I had a good idea at least. I just didn't know how bad it was.

"I knew I could have made it worse by staying in the game so I came out."

Gibbons was unable to provide a specific return date but was relieved it didn't appear to be a serious injury.

"Hopefully just a couple days," he said. "We'll see."

The Blue Jays opened June with five straight wins but have gone 4-11 since, entering the series opener against the Yankees.

The timing of the injuries and the recent slide have not helped ease concerns from a jittery fanbase that the team's rare first-place run could soon come to an end, especially with New York and Baltimore now so close in the standings.

"I don't think it should be blown out of proportion," Bautista said. "I think we have capable guys that can fill in on a short-term basis and hopefully do a great job.

"Certainly the other guys that are in the lineup that are still regulars, they are plenty good to carry the offence and the team on the field. So I wouldn't blow it out of proportion."

At the end of his five-minute pre-game availability, Bautista was asked what he'd say to the portion of the fanbase who believes the team's strong play last month was an aberration, and that the results from the last two weeks are more the expected norm.

"Well good for them," he said. "I don't have to defend ourselves. If they want to root for the Yankees or the Red Sox, be my guest. They shouldn't be Jays fans if that's how they feel. That's my opinion."

Toronto's lineup card for the opener of the three-game series against the Yankees had a different look. Designated hitter Adam Lind moved into Bautista's No. 3 slot, batting behind shortstop Jose Reyes and left-fielder Melky Cabrera.

First baseman Edwin Encarnacion remained in the cleanup spot and centre-fielder Colby Rasmus batted fifth and catcher Dioner Navarro was in the No. 6 spot.

Third baseman Juan Francisco batted seventh, ahead of second baseman Munenori Kawasaki and right-fielder Gose.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.