TORONTO – Brett Lawrie’s sprained left ankle is out of a walking boot and the Toronto Blue Jays third baseman has started throwing and riding a stationary bike, although a timeline for his return remains uncertain.
Lawrie still needs to strengthen the ankle, which he injured when his foot got stuck on the bag at second during a slide May 27. How long that takes will depend on the way it responds.
Still, it’s a sign of progress for the 23-year-old from Langley, B.C., as the initial thinking was that the injury would only keep him out a day or two.
His gains come with shortstop Jose Reyes, also recovering from a sprained left ankle, scheduled to play two innings in a simulated game and starter Brandon Morrow set to throw a bullpen.
Morrow is tentatively slated to make a 35-40 pitch start for single-A Dunedin on Monday, when Reyes may also begin his rehabilitation assignment.
There’s some debate over whether Morrow will need two or three rehab starts.
If the Blue Jays decide he only needs two outings, he could make a 75-80 pitch start June 27 at Boston. Should he make that start for double-A New Hampshire, as is currently being considered, he would be ready to return July 2.
SIGNING GAMES: Add 18th-round pick Sean Ratcliffe to the list of Blue Jays draft selections to sign on the dotted line.
The right-handed pitcher from Ajax, Ont., gets $75,000, just below the $100,000 max for players drafted beyond the 10th round.
The Blue Jays announced 16 signings on Thursday, and what’s interesting is how much room in their signing bonus pool the Blue Jays created for themselves.
Third-rounder Patrick Murphy signed for $150,800 below the No. 83 spot’s assigned value of $650,800, while fourth-rounder Evan Smith went $96,100 under the $446,100 slot for pick No. 115. Tenth-rounder Garrett Custons went for either $1,000 or $5,000, a source said, providing savings of at least $131,800 on the $136,800 earmarked for No. 295.
That’s nearly $400,000 in the bank and unlike last year, where the Blue Jays built up a war-chest of $2 million to lock down left-hander Matt Smoral, their targets this season appear to be beyond the 10th rounder.
The money could be spent on any of Jake Brentz, chosen in the 11th round, fellow lefty Eric Lauer, taken in the 17th, righty Sam Tewes, chosen in the 22nd, and slugging first baseman Rowdy Tellez, chosen in the 30th round, and the Blue Jays strategy may be to create the cap room and see which of those players decides to take it.
Each has a college scholarship to fall back on, so the big question is whether the Blue Jays can create enough room to buy them out of school.
SHORT SEASON STARTS: The two-time Northwest League champion Vancouver Canadians were scheduled to open their 2013 season on Friday night at Tri-City.
Manager Clayton McCullough, back after a two month stint bullpen catching for the Blue Jays, tabbed Eric Brown for the season opener, to be followed by lefty Kyle Anderson and righty Jeremy Gabryszwski, a second-rounder from the 2011 draft.
Lefty Colton Turner and righty Bobby Brosnahan round out the rotation.
Shortstop Dickie Thon, a fifth-round pick in 2010, moves up a level after two seasons at rookie-league Bluefield.
Catcher Mike Reeves of Peterborough, Ont., a 21st rounder who signed for $1,000, and outfielder Brenden Kalfus, taken in the 23rd, are 2013 draft picks who will suit up for the Canadians.
ROOKIE LEAGUES: The Blue Jays’ two rookie league teams, Bluefield in the Appalachian League and the GCL Blue Jays in the Gulf Coast League, begin play next Thursday and Friday, respectively.
Assignments of note thus far to Bluefield include Canadian right-hander Tom Robson and third baseman Matt Dean, while among those bound for the GCL Blue Jays are 19-year-old Venezuelan right-hander Adonys Cardona, 2012 supplemental first-rounder Tyler Gonzales, second-rounder Chase DeJong, third baseman Mitch Nay and outfielder Anthony Alford.