Bautista out for opener, but expected back this weekend

Bautista out for opener, but expected back this weekend

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jose Bautista missed his third consecutive game on Friday night because of a sore right shoulder, but the Blue Jays remain optimistic that he will return at some point this weekend.

Bautista is expected to start at designated hitter for at least a few games upon his return. By the middle of next week, the hope is that the five-time All-Star will be back in right field.

The 34-year-old Bautista had been dealing with a sore shoulder for the past couple of weeks, and he aggravated it while making a throw during Tuesday's 13-6 victory over the Orioles.

"He's going to take some swings today," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said late Friday afternoon. "He's going to go in the cage and see how it feels. The second day after it happened, he didn't feel real good, and then yesterday, he came in and felt a lot better."

Toronto also is expected to welcome outfielder Michael Saunders back to its lineup this weekend. Saunders could have been activated from the 15-day disabled list for Friday's game, but with lefty Drew Smyly on the mound for the Rays, the club decided to wait another day.

Saunders missed Toronto's first 17 games while he was recovering from left knee surgery. He made a lengthy rehab appearance with Class A Advanced Dunedin and appears set to make the short drive to St. Petersburg on Saturday afternoon.

"There's a good chance he'll be here this weekend," said Gibbons, who added he wanted to start Danny Valencia and Steve Tolleson against Smyly. "Another day's not going to kill him or kill us."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.