Cleaning up

When the Toronto Blue Jays gave in to Scott Rolen’s trade request, the club didn’t just lose the best defensive third baseman the franchise has ever known. They also lost their cleanup hitter.

Rolen, after all, had found a lot of success in the No. 4 spot in the lineup since being moved there in June. In 34 games, the veteran batted .319 (45-for-141) with five homers, 24 RBIs, a .504 slugging percentage and an OPS of .850.

Those numbers were a significant improvement over what the Jays received from Vernon Wells for the first two and a half months of the season. In 61 contests, Wells batted just .250 (62-for-248) with a .307 OBP, a .387 slugging mark and an OPS of .694.

With the loss of Rolen, manager Cito Gaston has been forced to pencil in a different player into that cleanup position. That player has been — for the most part — Lyle Overbay. And the first baseman has had success in the early going. In 10 games, Overbay has hit .414 (12-for-29) with three homers,seven RBI, eight runs scored and 10 walks. In addition, he’s posted a .564 on-base percentage, a .759 slugging mark and an OPS of 1.323. It’s obviously a small sample size, but Overbay has answered the call thus far.

Perhaps the unfortunate thing is that Overbay doesn’t play every day, which would certainly help maintain a hot bat. His platoon partner, Kevin Millar, was in action Saturday night and held down the cleanup spot in Overbay’s absence. The result? 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a pair of men left on base.

Editor’s note: Things didn’t go so smoothly for Overbay in the series finale against the Rays on Sunday, as the first baseman went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, leaving seven men on base in the process.

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