Blue Jays' Brett Lawrie to start season on DL

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie will start the regular season on the disabled list because of a strained rib. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons announced the news on Monday.

Strained rib will sideline 3rd baseman, while Toronto sends Thole, Bush to minors

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie has a strained rib and will begin the season on the disabled list. (Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

The Toronto Blue Jays aren't willing to risk third baseman Brett Lawrie suffering another long-term injury.

The team announced Monday that the native of Langley, B.C., will open the season on the disabled list with strained rib cage on his left side. The Blue Jays had been holding out hope that Lawrie might be ready to open the season on time, but decided a careful approach was needed.

"I wish that I could say I'm going to be ready on this day, but I can't go as hard as I want to go out on the field until it feels like my other side," Lawrie said. "I want to make sure that when I go back out there to play it's to stay out there. It's not go out there and test it. I just don't want that hanging over me, I don't like that in my head the thought that it could get worse."

Last season Lawrie tried to play through pain and ended up missing two months with a right oblique injury.

"It's a precautionary thing," manager John Gibbons said Monday before Toronto's exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies. "And with those injuries, like we've said before, if you aggravate them again sometimes they become long-term and we don't want to risk that."

Lawrie has not played since March 6 after he strained a muscle in his left rib cage in Canada's exhibition game against the Cincinnati Reds leading up to the World Baseball Classic.

Because he has not played his move to the disabled list will be backdated, so that he will miss only the first four games of the season if he is ready to return.

Gibbons put no time frame on Lawrie's return.

"It's not like he had a big setback or anything," Gibbons said. "You look at the schedule, a week from tomorrow we're starting. He had limited at-bats before he went to the WBC and he hasn't had any since. Basically, we're not going to be able to get him into enough games before the season starts to feel comfortable with it."

Lawrie said he will remain in Florida when the team goes north to start the season.

"It's not so much a pain, it just feels like something is different," he said. "I can only do so much treatment and ride the bike so many times. When I go out on the field, it just doesn't feel right. You can't simulate game speed. If anything it just needs time but time is not with us right now.

"Yeah you can go out there and suck it up for a few games but what happens when I have to go back to the manager and say it's a little sore again then I have to go through this whole process again."

Lawrie said the injury did not change his mind about wanting to compete in the WBC.

"You don't know when these things are going to happen," he said. "It's a freak accident. I don't know when I did it or on what play. It just started to nag at me."

He said it is not as severe as the oblique injury from season.

Gibbons also said Monday regular catcher J.P. Arencibia and backup Henry Blanco would share the catching for knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey. Having a personal catcher for Dickey and his tricky knuckleball had been a consideration.

Opening game

"They will both catch him," Gibbons said. "There will be nights when we want J.P.'s bat in there and it will also give Blanco a chance to catch some of the other pitchers."

Arencibia will catch Dickey in the season opening game on April 2 against the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre.

Catcher Josh Thole, who caught Dickey last season when the two were with the New York Mets, was optioned to triple-A Buffalo.

Dickey won the National League Cy Young Award last season.

The Blue Jays were satisfied with the way Arencibia handled the knuckleball in the WBC where he caught both Dickey's starts for Team USA.

"To be honest with you I thought J.P. might have a hard time catching the knuckleball, having never caught it and it kind of made sense [to have a personal catcher]," Gibbons said. "But he did a good job, all the reports we got and everything we saw. Henry won't strictly be his guy, they'll both catch him."

Dickey was asked for his input and agreed with the move.

"We asked him how he liked throwing to these guys." Gibbons said. "And he said: 'I like throwing to all of them. They all did a nice job."'

Blanco has caught Dickey's past two outings since he returned from the WBC, both minor-league games.

The moves were among those announced Monday as the Blue Jays solidify their roster for the opening of the season.

Gibbons said that the Blue Jays likely would have an eight-man bullpen to open the season while Lawrie is on the disabled list. Mark DeRosa and Maicer Izturis will share third base in Lawrie's absence.

First baseman Edwin Encarnacion is expected to return to action within the next few days and Gibbons expects him to be ready for the season opener. Encarnacion has not played since returning from helping the Dominican Republic win the WBC title because of a swollen index finger

In other moves made Monday outfielder Anthony Gose was sent to AAA Buffalo on option while right-handed pitcher David Bush was assigned to the minor-league camp and will start at Buffalo.

Catcher Mike Nickeas will stay with the Blue Jays through their two exhibition games Friday and Saturday against the Phillies in Philadelphia before being assigned to the minors, Gibbons said.

Right-hander Brad Lincoln, who has been out since March 9 with a sore right shoulder, was scheduled to pitch in a minor-league game on Monday. The plan had been to stretch him out so that he could be a long reliever or a starter.

Instead he was optioned to Buffalo and will open the season as a reliever.