BOSTON – Learning from the fast-track activation of Brett Lawrie earlier this season, the Toronto Blue Jays intend to take their time with the third baseman before bringing him back from the disabled list this time.
Lawrie started his rehabilitation assignment for a sprained left ankle at single-A Dunedin on Wednesday by going 1-for-2 with an RBI single, and manager John Gibbons said Thursday the club must “make sure we think his bat is ready, no doubt” when he’s activated.
A position player’s rehab assignment can last up to 20 days, and given that Jose Reyes just returned from his sprained left ankle, there isn’t the immediate pressure to get Lawrie back the way there was in April after Reyes was first hurt.
Lawrie played in only two rehab games for Dunedin back then before rejoining the Blue Jays and struggled, batting .209/.268/.374 in 37 games with five home runs and 14 RBIs, something Gibbons attributed to rushing the player back.
"I think a part of it is we jumped the gun on him bringing him back, out of necessity, and he probably wasn't ready to face major-league pitching," Gibbons admitted. "So, slow start, that magnifies, and then that personality, he fights it, he's one of those guys that tries harder and harder, and sometimes that when this game gets tougher to play. I think a lot of that was a big part of it."
Lawrie, 2-for-3 with a double in six innings for Dunedin on Thursday, suffered an oblique injury while playing a warm-up game for Canada ahead of the World Baseball Classic, and missed the vast majority of spring training as a result.
After a handful of games at Dunedin, the Blue Jays will promote him to triple-A Buffalo. The rough timeline for his activation is two weeks, which should give Lawrie a chance to establish a base of at-bats and hone the timing so critical given the many moving parts of his swing and his frenetic nature.
"I think Brett's his own worst enemy, he wanted to come up guns a-blazing, and when you miss a full spring training and then you just get a few at-bats in the minor leagues - me and Adam Lind talk about it a lot, and it gets lost in the shuffle," said veteran infielder Mark DeRosa. "This is a tough business to succeed in on an everyday basis. These guys are really good at what they do and you get exposed if you're not ready.
"So I don't think he necessarily was rushed by the organization. I think that as a player, you want to be out there, and you want to be out there for your team. But if your timing's off and you don't have the necessary at-bats to come into the season, it's going to take a minute. Hopefully, he comes back guns a-blazing, but we're in a situation now where we need all hands on deck, and not only that, we need all hands on deck to swing the bat."
FARRELL'S VIEW: The Blue Jays are a vastly improved team from the one that met the Boston Red Sox in three previous series, and manager John Farrell has taken notice.
"I think everybody in the game saw them to be a very strong team," he said Thursday. "Just from the outside looking in, they're pitching much more consistent. Their bullpen has been outstanding. … (Chien-Ming) Wang has given them a lift. So the fact that they're above .500, they're clearly in hunt in this division, is not surprising I don't think to anyone."
The Red Sox began the day 4-5 against the Blue Jays in a series some were viewing as an important measuring stick.
"I can't speak to what the thought is in their clubhouse, I know that we'll be challenged this weekend," said Farrell. "We don't look at any series differently than if it's another club in our division. They come in having played much better in the month of June. I don't think where we are today is a surprise to anyone around the game, that is you have five teams that are clearly within striking distance of a division title."
TOUGH FOR TEX: Next week New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira will undergo surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist, and he can only hope he recovers as well as Jose Bautista did.
The Blue Jays outfielder suffered a similar injury last season, had surgery to fix it last September, was ready for spring training, and has been issue-free since. "So far, so good, knock on wood nothing (bad) is going to happen, I'm just going to be able to play and be healthy," he said.
Like Teixeira, Bautista initially tried rest and rehab for his wrist after suffering the injury July 16, returned Aug. 24, but pulled the plug on the season the next day when his wrist simply didn't feel right. The surgery was scheduled soon after.
"It wasn't that it didn't improve, I knew I had to let the pain subside, that was part of the rehab process, the other part was trying to get the muscles around it strong so maybe I could play with injury and swing without hurting my tendon," said Bautista. "Once I started playing at this level, I just felt the tendon was moving way too much, and I knew because they explained to me how the anatomy works, that if I kept allowing that tendon to flip over the bone, with that bone having a sharp edge, I was going to damage my tendon. And if I did that it would have been an 8-12 month surgery.
"I didn't want to take the chance, so that's why I decided to have the surgery. When you take a swing and you feel like your whole arm dislocates, it's not a good feeling, plus on top of that, if you're going to end up damaging something on top of the tendon sheath that's already injured, what's the point?"
DRABEK BACK AT IT: Right-hander Kyle Drabek made his second appearance since starting a rehab assignment and allowed two runs on three hits and a walk in two innings for single-A Dunedin against Lakeland on Thursday.
Drabek had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last June. He allowed two runs in 2.1 innings in his first outing five days ago.