Gibbons not tipping hand about leadoff hitter

Tellez impressing Blue Jays; Donaldson throws in outfield

Gibbons not tipping hand about leadoff hitter

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Kevin Pillar led off the first dozen games the Blue Jays played last season ... and then only eight more times the rest of the year.

That's not surprising considering that he walked 24 times in 584 plate appearances and had a .303 on base percentage. Those aren't the kind of numbers associated with a prototypical top-of-the-order guy.

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In Monday's 2-1 loss to the Pirates at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, though, the center fielder batted first for the second straight game. Asked what could be read into that, manager John Gibbons waved his hand dismissively.

"Nothing. Absolutely nothing," he said. "We were just trying to get him as many at-bats as we could." But then he paused and smiled. "Although we are looking for a leadoff guy. I don't know what we're going to do."

Toronto's most-used No. 1 hitter in 2016 was Devon Travis, followed by Jose Bautista, Ezequiel Carrera (36), Pillar, Michael Saunders (18) and Darwin Barney.

Worth noting

Rowdy Tellez, whom Gibbons has referred to numerous times this spring as the organizational prospect who is probably the closest to being big league-ready, is more than just a bat. He showed that in the fifth inning by stealing second base.

"I've always been told I was slow," he said. "But to be a complete player, you have to do everything. You have to steal bases, you have to play defense."

Hall of Famer Tim Raines, who works with the Blue Jay as a roving outfield and baserunning instructor, told Gibbons he's been impressed with his instincts on the bases.

"The guy can hit," Gibbons said of Tellez. "He's not going to steal a lot of bases, but he'll surprise you at times. It's kind of interesting. I was talking to [Raines] the other day and asked him what kind of baserunner Rowdy was. And he said he might be the best in the system. I mean, he's not a fast guy. But that tells you something about him. He's a complete player. He's a talented kid."

• Third baseman Josh Donaldson, who strained his right calf during the first workout of the spring, threw in the outfield before Monday's game. Although he appeared to have a slight limp, it was the first time he's thrown on the field, which can be taken as a sign of progress.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.