The question surrounding Munenori Kawasaki has shifted from, “When are the Blue Jays sending him down?” to “How can they not keep him up?”

Kawasaki, who was expected to be returned to Triple-A Buffalo when Jose Reyes returns from injury any day now, made yet another heroic case for him to remain a big-leaguer Friday night.

It was the stuff of a small but growing legend, including a clutch two-run home run in the seventh to tie the game 6-6, and an absolutely electric, crowd-inspiring ground out in the ninth that advanced two baserunners with the game on the line.

Quite simply, Toronto has not seen such drama on the baseball field in some time. Kawasaki’s ground out advanced runners to second and third, setting the stage for Rajai Davis to deliver the walk-off single in Toronto’s 7-6 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

“I was flattered, my legs were shaking,” Kawasaki said about his ninth-inning at-bat, which came with a deafening roar of KA-WA-SA-KI! by the crowd of 35,472, embracing and willing him to deliver a game-winning hit.

Wonderful stuff, all of it, but the Jays are likely to return Reyes to the major league roster either Sunday or Monday. Reyes’ return carries with it an almost matter-of-fact counter move, namely, sending Kawasaki back to the minors.

Essentially, with Reyes back at shortstop, Kawasaki’s position was the only redundant one on the roster.
Not any more, though.

“Nobody has said Kawasaki is going down,” Jays manager John Gibbons said after the win, which evened the Jays’ record at .500 (36-36) for the first time this season, and extended the club’s winning streak to a major league high nine games.

“People might assume that, but we don’t know what we’re doing, to be honest,” Gibbons added.

Kawasaki has made the decision much tougher for the Jays. Much of what the Jays have accomplished in turning a disappointing start around — they are on a 13-3 streak and 23-12 since May 11 — has emanated from the energy and indomitable spirit of Kawasaki.

Kawasaki is the heart and soul of the team, a minor league call-up who is loved by teammates and fans equally, and is now too important to what’s happening with the Jays to be extricated from the roster.