TORONTO -- Outfielder Jose Bautista is expected to make his return from the disabled list when first eligible on Thursday, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Bautista has been sidelined since Aug. 9 with a left knee sprain after twisting it on a throw from right field. According to Gibbons, the 35-year-old is expected to see plenty of time as the designated hitter down the stretch.
"I mean he's going to need to DH a lot with his knee," Gibbons said, adding Bautista likely won't require a rehab assignment. "It feels good, but the smart thing to do will be to let him DH quite a bit."
Bautista has been working out at the team's Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla. General manager Ross Atkins said the Blue Jays will allow Bautista to determine the rehabilitation process. Bautista did take part in a simulated game on Tuesday and is expected to do so again on Wednesday.
"It's going to be based on how he feels and how many at-bats he would like to get," Atkins said. "So as of now, it's likely going to be in a simulated game, just because our confidence in him and his ability to return at this pace, better than most."
Bautista missed six weeks earlier in the season with turf toe on his left big toe. Entering Tuesday's action, the Blue Jays had gone 23-17 without him in the lineup. In 80 games this season, Bautista has hit .222 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs.
Using Bautista at DH will likely mean continued playing time for outfielder Melvin Upton Jr., and Gibbons said the 32-year-old is expected to "play a lot" down the stretch. Acquired from the San Diego Padres prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Upton Jr. has seen an increase in playing time with injuries to Bautista and Kevin Pillar.
Entering play Tuesday, Upton Jr. had hit .320 with three home runs and seven RBIs since Aug. 14, after a rough start to his Blue Jays career.
"He's settled in here, he's comfortable here," Gibbons said. "And like I've said before, when guys go to a new environment, you naturally want things to get off to a great start and try to make things happen. In baseball that works against you."
Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.