Navarro begins Minor League rehab assignment

Navarro begins Minor League rehab assignment

TORONTO -- Dioner Navarro is one step closer to re-joining the Blue Jays after he began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday night.

Navarro has been out since April 21 with a tear in his left hamstring. The injury took a little bit longer to heal than originally anticipated, but he is now pain free and could return early next week.

The 31-year-old appeared in eight games for the Blue Jays earlier this season and had eight hits in 30 at-bats with four RBIs and a pair of doubles.

"He's progressing, it was a pretty good injury," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Originally we didn't think it was much but it turned out [otherwise]. Those things can be a little bit dicey, especially for a catcher, he's doing all that squatting up and down, up and down."

Navarro is expected to take the spot of backup catcher Josh Thole when he is activated from the disabled list. That will give Toronto more depth off the bench, but it does eliminate the luxury of being able to pair Thole with veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Russell Martin began the year as Dickey's catcher and likely will assume those duties once again in the near future. The added stress and workload that comes with catching a knuckleballer could eventually take a toll on Martin, but it's a scenario that can't really be avoided.

Navarro likely will be paired with left-hander Mark Buehrle while also occasionally getting some starts at designated hitter when Jose Bautista is fully recovered from his right shoulder injury. That should help make Toronto's lineup even more potent considering Navarro provides a lot more value with the bat than Thole.

"What you want to do, is you want to put your best 25 out there, however that stacks up," Gibbons said. "That gives you the best chance to win. No doubt, it's not an easy thing to do but [Martin] has handled it really well I think."

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