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Big shoes to fill: Morales ready for new role with Blue Jays

Former Kansas City Royal Kendrys Morales will try and fill the hole left in the lineup by the departure of Edwin Encarnacion.

Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Kendrys Morales won't be showing off his World Series ring around the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse – not yet, anyway.

Morales, who signed with the Blue Jays as a free agent this off-season, was part of the Kansas City Royals' 2015 championship team that beat Toronto in the ALCS before downing the Mets in the World Series.

"Not yet, I've only been here two days," Morales said Sunday through a translator when asked if he's shown his new teammates the diamond– and sapphire-encrusted gold ring.

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"But I think going forward, whenever the guys are going to have more confidence in me, it might happen later."

Morales is expected to slot in at DH for the Blue Jays and try to fill the hole left in the lineup by the departure of free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion.

He may also get time at first base along with Justin Smoak and Steve Pearce, another free-agent acquisition.

Morales, who has played 582 of his 1,030 career games at DH – and 371 at first base – said he can play in the field if necessary after preparing "a little bit more" than in past off-seasons.

The 33-year-old Cuban spent the last two years in Kansas City, batting .277 with 52 homers and 199 RBI's over 312 games over that span. He had five hits, including a homer, and drove in four runs in six ALCS games versus the Blue Jays in 2015.

"He's a proven big leaguer, really good hitter," Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said earlier this week. "It's nice to have him on your side because facing him with those Kansas City teams, especially in the playoffs, he was a tough at-bat, a tough out. It will be great to see him in our lineup."

As a switch-hitter, Morales provides a bit of diversity in a Blue Jays' lineup that was right-handed heavy through the middle the last couple of seasons.

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He has a .278 career batting average versus left-handed hitters and a .271 mark against righties.

Jose Bautista said Morales's versatility at the plate would likely play into the bullpen management of opposing teams.

"We'll see. With some teams it definitely will, with some teams they go to their regular guys regardless of who's at the plate," said Bautista, who played with Morales in winter ball years ago.

"More importantly because of the quality of the switch hitter, not just because he's a switch hitter. I think that'll play into how some managers manage their bullpens."

Morales also played six years for the Angels, two with Seattle and one in Minnesota.

He said signing with Toronto was "an easy choice."

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"When I play against the Blue Jays, I liked the way the guys played and they pushed each other," Morales said. "For me every time I played I liked that kind of intensity on the field."

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