Bautista tentatively to return Monday

Slugger slated to begin rehab assignment Wednesday

Bautista tentatively to return Monday

PHOENIX -- Jose Bautista is nearing a return from a hyperextended big toe on his left foot and is tentatively scheduled to rejoin the Blue Jays on Monday.

Bautista will begin a rehab assignment with Class A Dunedin on Wednesday. He will remain there for just one day before traveling Buffalo to continue his progression in anticipation of a return.

The veteran slugger is expected to play three games for the Bisons before possibly being activated from the 15-day disabled list in time for a series opener against the Padres on Monday. Bautista has been out since June 16 with turf toe.

"He'll play a few innings tomorrow and then he's traveling to Buffalo on Thursday," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Tuesday afternoon. "He'll play there Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I think is the plan. If all's good, you'll probably see him Monday I would guess."

Bautista sustained the injury while crashing into the right-field wall during a game against the Phillies. He was placed in a walking boot for several weeks and has since been making gradual progress on his way back to the big leagues.

The injury came with the serious danger of derailing the Blue Jays' season, but they managed to survive during his absence. Toronto entered play on Tuesday with a 14-11 record since his departure and averaged 5.88 runs per game over that span.

Bautista likely will return on Monday, but that's not necessarily written into stone. If Bautista needs another day of rest along the way or experiences any kind of minor setback, then his arrival date will be adjusted.

"We'll see how he's going each day," Blue Jays trainer George Poulis said. "We really don't want to set a date, 'You're coming back on this day.' ... If a guy feels like he needs an extra day, then we'll just give it to him. But he's doing great, [and] we're very optimistic that he's very close."

Bautista will play right field for Dunedin on Wednesday and he'll have that position upon his return, but it might not be every day until he's completely up to speed. Toronto has the option of periodically using Bautista at designated hitter with Edwin Encarnacion sliding over to first base.

"If the toe holds up, his body is healthy," Gibbons said. "He has been swinging. He's a big part of this team."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. 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.