CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Brett Lawrie is expected to be out for at least the next few games because of tightness in his left groin.
The Blue Jays' third baseman suffered the injury while attempting to score from second base on an RBI single by J.P. Arencibia during Friday's game against the Rays.
Lawrie doesn't believe the ailment is anything serious and likely would return to action if it was the regular season, but with more than two weeks to go until Opening Day there's no reason to force the issue.
"Brett came in feeling good, yet we're going to side on the cautious side with his groin situation," Blue Jays manager John Farrell told reporters on Saturday morning. "It's likely to be multiple days before he's back on the field.
"He feels improved today, but we're going to be sure this is 100 percent out of his mind and certainly not feeling anything before we would even entertain the thought of getting him back into the lineup."
Lawrie did not require an MRI and was held out of batting practice on Saturday to give him a full day of proper rest. It's an injury Lawrie has dealt with in the past and he wants to be overly cautious to avoid a more serious setback in the future.
The high level of intensity that Lawrie plays with has created question marks about whether he's the type of player that can take part in 150-160 games a year. Farrell was quick to dismiss any of that talk and pointed to the fluke nature of last year's injuries as one of the main reasons that his style of play doesn't necessarily equate to those issues.
"We would never ask him to go less than his instincts tell him to," Farrell said of Lawrie's intensity. "All players are going to deal with injuries, some might say well look at how many games he missed last year. Well, he got hit in the hand with a pitch and he had a groundball bounce up and fracture his finger.
"Those are completely out of his control. I think as he gets into his career and gets established, I think he'll have a better feel -- and certainly not trying to take away from the intensity -- but I think he'll understand who he is as a player more and more."
Lawrie is set to embark on his first full season in the Major Leagues after an impressive debut in 2011. The native of Langley, British Columbia, hit .293 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs while posting a .953 OPS in just 150 at-bats.
This spring, Lawrie entered play Saturday with the American League lead in hits (14), doubles (six) and stolen bases (five). He also leads the Blue Jays with a .609 average (14-for-23) with a .625 on-base percentage and a .957 slugging percentage.
Bullpen competition narrowing down
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The field of candidates has narrowed for the final two spots in the Blue Jays bullpen.
Following a series of cuts on Friday, the Blue Jays' stance is that there are five pitchers vying for two open spots. Drew Carpenter, Aaron Laffey and Rick VandenHurk are in the mix, but the two clear-cut favorites are left-hander Luis Perez and right-hander Carlos Villanueva.
"I would categorize that final bullpen spot similar to the left field situation," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "There are those who did well in those roles, who did well a year ago, that are here. We'll see how that unfolds and plays out.
"I think the most important thing, though, is that we are looking at a number of guys this year, compared to last year where the overall depth is much improved."
Perez seems like a lock because of his strong 2011 debut and the fact that he's out of options on his contract. The Blue Jays must place him on the 25-man roster or risk exposing him to waivers, which all but guarantees his spot with the team.
Villanueva got off to a slow start in camp because of circulation issues that caused a cold sensation in his throwing hand. The 28-year-old right-hander was temporarily shut down but has since returned to the mound and is showing no lingering effects from the previous ailment.
The Dominican native should feel secure with his current situation based on last year's experience with the club. Villanueva went 6-4 with a 4.04 ERA while walking just 32 batters in 107 innings.
Villanueva spent time in both the bullpen and starting rotation, but the Blue Jays feel he's best served in long relief. Despite his strong 2011 campaign, however, the club says he technically still has to earn his spot on the team.
"He did [impress] but yet at the same time, as was mentioned in his one-on-one meeting, Alex (Anthopoulos) was very candid, very forthright, that it wasn't just as if he was presented with the job," Farrell said. "But at the same time, it's balanced and acknowledged with what he did last year and we feel like the best role for him is in the role that we talked about with guys in the competition (for long relief)."
Thames remains leading candidate for left field job
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Results in Spring Training will be just one factor the Blue Jays take into consideration when deciding to make their final cuts before the start of the regular season.
The club currently has an open spot in left field, utility infielder and two jobs in the bullpen that are still up for grabs. And while the current level of performance will be monitored, there are other factors at play as well.
"It's one of the areas of evaluation that we certainly factor in, yet it's not the sole area," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of Spring Training stats. "Track records speak a lot about a player, and at the same time, we can't apply Spring Training as well, it's just Spring Training for this situation and yet over here, in this other situation, it carries more weight.
"We've got to take an equal look and an equal process to evaluate and consider all performances, last year, this Spring Training. Yet, at the same time, you can tangibly see guys' arm strength, action to pitches, the way they're swinging the bat, the way they're making adjustments inside a given at-bat, all those things are very real regardless of what the batting average might say."
That line of thinking would appear to still give the advantage in left field to Eric Thames in his competition against Travis Snider. The 25-year-old Thames finished the 2011 as the starter in left and was recently described as being the "frontrunner" for the position by general manager Alex Anthopoulos.