Bautista on target to return to outfield

Bautista on target to return to outfield

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Blue Jays remain cautiously optimistic that Jose Bautista will make his return to right field for Monday night's game in Washington.

Bautista hasn't played in the field since April 21 because of a strained shoulder. He has been limited to getting his at-bats in the designated hitter spot, but that's a luxury Toronto won't have at its disposal when playing in a National League park.

The series opener against the Nationals has been a target that Bautista has been hoping to hit for the past couple of weeks, and it appears as though he's making some progress in trying to make it a reality.

"Yeah, I think he might be out there this week," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said when asked about Bautista's status for the Nationals series. "[Thursday], before we left, he threw out to 120 feet and felt pretty good. So, he's slowly getting there."

Bautista initially began throwing a couple of weeks ago but was limited to a distance of 40 feet. The discomfort was still lingering and that prompted a cortisone shot on May 24. Since then, there has been continued progress that has raised expectations about his return.

The 34-year-old entered play on Friday hitting .230 with seven homers and 30 RBIs with an .843 OPS in 42 games this season.

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.