Early on in camp, before the games began, Encarnacion was shelved after a procedure to remove an abscessed tooth, the idea being that he would start getting into games this week, but manager John Gibbons revealed Tuesday morning that the slugger is now dealing with a new problem.
"He’s got a little oblique issue," said Gibbons. "It’s minor, but those things can turn into bad things if you don’t watch it, so (Encarnacion playing is) on hold."
Encarnacion went through last season with a sports hernia that required off-season surgery. He was plagued by a finger problem and has also had back issues. Despite all the injuries, he still played 146 games in 2015 and belted 39 home runs to go with a terrific .277/.372/.577 batting line.
The plan for Encarnacion is to rest him completely for now.
"He won’t do anything that involves twisting and turning,#34; explained the skipper. "They’ll shut him down at least a week and then see where he’s at."
If Encarnacion is just starting to ramp up his baseball activities in a week, it’s highly likely that he’ll only be able to play in one or two Grapefruit League games, if any.
"He’s one guy who doesn’t need as many at-bats, at least he’s shown that," Gibbons said. "But you’re always worried about that, especially the oblique because those things can turn into long-term deals. It’s not at that point, but if we don’t protect him, it could turn. So that’s why we’ll back him off. He’s not going to get his normal at-bats, so you always worry about that, but what are you going to do about it?"
Should Encarnacion not be ready to answer the bell on April 3, when the season opens for real in St. Petersburg against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Blue Jays would likely use Chris Colabello as the everyday DH with Justin Smoak playing at first base until Encarnacion is able to play.
Starting the season with Encarnacion on the disabled list, while far from ideal, could allow the Jays to keep both of their out-of-options back-up outfielders — Ezequiel Carrera and Junior Lake — and it wouldn’t require Encarnacion to miss 15 days in the regular season.
Encarnacion can be placed on the 15-day disabled list as early as March 25, as long as he doesn’t play in any major-league spring training games from that point onward, so while he could start the season on the DL, he would be eligible to return to action on April 9 and would only be forced to miss five regular-season games.