DUNEDIN, Florida - Brett Lawrie met with Blue Jays' doctors upon his return from the World Baseball Classic and is hopeful his strained rib muscle won't keep him from playing on Opening Day.
"That's the thing with these things," said Lawrie. "It's not really so much a timeline, just on how I feel. Last year, they tried to give me a timeline but it was just going to get better when it wanted to so now it's kind of the same thing and just how I feel everyday."
Lawrie was hurt in Canada's March 6 WBC tune-up game against the Cincinnati Reds. He pulled himself out of the tournament but remained with the team through to its elimination on Sunday by the United States. The 23-year-old doesn't believe the injury is as severe as the oblique strain that kept him out more than a month last August.
"Last year, it got to a point where it just felt like someone stuck a knife in my side," said Lawrie. "That totally wasn't the case this time because I couldn't even roll around in bed, you can't do anything really as opposed to now I can do all that and cough and sneeze without it bugging me. I caught it early enough to where I don't have to worry about it."
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos suggested last week Lawrie learned from his injury experience last season, removing himself from the pre-WBC game as a precautionary measure, rather than try to play through the pain. Lawrie agreed.
"Allowing myself to do what I did and take myself out of the spot was big for me," said Lawrie. "The WBC was a bonus had I gotten to play in it but, if I couldn't do that healthy, then it was time for me to take a step back and get ready for 162 games and get ready for my teammates."
Lawrie had a front row seat in the dugout for the bench-clearing brawl between Canada and Mexico on Saturday night. Calling it a "heated battle," Lawrie said the Mexican team – and those who criticized Canada's decision to drop down a ninth-inning bunt despite having a six-run lead – didn't understand the rules of the tournament. Jose Bautista was among those who questioned the Canadian strategy.
"It's just the point of being there and the situation that was going on in the game and how some of the guys on the other team didn't understand the rules and how you need runs and you need run support," said Lawrie. "Especially because of the game we had against Italy (a 14-4 mercy rule loss) when they put a bunch of runs up on us so to try and gain those back, (Mexico) just didn't understand that and things kind of went south from there."
Lawrie said he hasn't yet talked to Bautista about the comments and didn't indicate whether a discussion was necessary.
The Blue Jays have Lawrie back in camp, albeit injured, but remain without WBC participants Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, R.A. Dickey and J.P. Arencibia. Reyes and Encarnacion helped the Dominican Republic to a 5-4 second round-opening win over Italy on Tuesday; Dickey and Arencibia were with their American teammates in Miami as the US opened the second round against Puerto Rico on Tuesday night.
Lawrie says the absences shouldn't have an effect on Blue Jays' team chemistry.
"I thought the chemistry was starting to be built as guys had to go off (to the WBC,") said Lawrie. "But I also think that this is a good thing because it's already getting guys in to game mode. So right when they come back from the WBC, maybe they have one or two games (off) and then, boom, right back in to game mode again."
Toronto has options at third base should Lawrie miss the start of the season. Veteran Mark DeRosa has experience and has started seven games at third this spring; Maicer Izturis could shift over from shortstop or Emilio Bonifacio could offer a temporary solution.
Opening night is three weeks away. In order to be ready, all Lawrie can do right now is rest.
Coming off a 5-3 loss to the Red Sox in Fort Myers on Tuesday, the Blue Jays conclude a two-game road trip with a visit to Bradenton to play the Pirates.
Mark Buehrle will start and pitch four innings.
Melky Cabrera, Emilio Bonifacio, Adam Lind and Maicer Izturis are the highest-profile position players who will play in the game.