Jays activate Eckstein, start him at short and bat him ninth

Updated: May 28, 2008, 1:38 AM ET
Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. -- David Eckstein came off the disabled list Tuesday and was back in Toronto's starting lineup playing shortstop and batting ninth.

Eckstein went on the DL on May 8 retroactive to a day earlier with a strained right hip flexor, which he tested in five rehab games before being cleared to be activated.

"I thought it would heal a little quicker," he said. "I went out there and played four straight days and didn't feel it. I feel fine."

Manager John Gibbons plans to be cautious at first with Eckstein, who's batting .246 with one home run and 12 RBIs in 30 games this year. He'll likely sit out Wednesday night's middle game against the Oakland Athletics and play again in a day game Thursday.

"He's ready to go," Gibbons said. "We'll ease him into it, make sure he's good to go."

Eckstein is glad Gibbons will be making the call on when he plays and when he rests because, "I told them they need to do it because if you ask me I'm going to say I want to play."

To clear roster room, Toronto optioned infielder Hector Luna to Triple-A Syracuse.

The 33-year-old Eckstein played the past four days and five games total for Class-A Dunedin in Florida. After his first game, he woke up the next day with some soreness and then took a day off before playing the next four. He's hoping he will be pain-free now as he moves forward -- especially heading to Anaheim on Friday to face his former club. He spent his first four big league seasons with the Angels, then three in St. Louis before joining the Blue Jays.

"I haven't been back since '04," Eckstein said. "That's where I started out and I had great times there. It's going to be pretty good. I don't want to get too much into that [emotions of returning]."

Eckstein was getting antsy to return, especially with Toronto playing so well and knowing he could help. Marco Scutaro filled in during his absence and will still get playing time, Gibbons said.

"Oh my gosh, yeah, you go a little nuts," Eckstein said. "It's great to sit there and watch things fall into place. We're getting key hits and the pitching has always been there."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press