Blue Jays option struggling 3B Encarnacion to minors

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Blue Jays third baseman Edwin Encarnacion went hitless in four at-bats and made a throwing error during Sunday’s 9-6 loss to the Giants.  After the game, he was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas, according to Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star.

The move, of course, had little to do with his performance Sunday.  He has struggled mightily since the start of June and the Jays have watched his batting line plummet from .254/.329/.678 (on May 26) to .200/.298/.467 as of Sunday evening.  That’s an OPS drop of nearly 250 points.

“We
told him this wasn’t permanent,” Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos said. “If he goes down
there, plays well, starts to get his swing going a little bit, he
should be able to find his way back here. We explained to him Jose
Bautista went through the same thing with the Pirates when we acquired
him.”

Jarrett Hoffpauir has been recalled from Las Vegas in a corresponding move and is expected to start at third base until Encarnacion regains his confidence.  The 27-year-old Hoffpauir has hit .332 with a 922 OPS, nine home runs and 43 RBI in 56 games this season at Triple-A.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.