DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays continue to take a cautious approach with Brett Lawrie and will hold him out of the lineup for at least the next two days.
Toronto's third baseman hasn't played since March 16 when he injured his left groin while attempting to score from second base.
Lawrie went through a series of running drills Wednesday and didn't experience any lingering effects from the tightness that had been causing him issues earlier in the week.
"We'll increase his baseball activity today, particularly with ground balls, little bit more lateral work," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said Thursday. "He is not in the lineup today, and right now we'll push that back until Saturday at the earliest. He continues to be improved every day but consistent with what we've stated about him, we're going to err on the side of caution.
"He's making steady progress, this isn't because of a setback in any way but it's just a gradual ramping up of the activities and being sure that any discomfort, which there is not right now. We just want to be sure we take him through the appropriate progression."
Last year, Lawrie hit .293 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs while posting a .953 OPS in just 150 at-bats. He entered Thursday's game leading the Blue Jays in doubles (six), stolen bases (five) and average (.609), while also posting a .957 slugging percentage despite playing in only nine games.
If this was the regular season, Lawrie's timetable likely would be much different, but with two weeks to go until Opening Day, the Blue Jays feel there is plenty of time to get the native of Langley, British Columbia, ready for the start of the season.
"I'm sure he would be kicking the door down to get back into the lineup," said Farrell, who added he would like to get Lawrie into six or seven games before the start of the season. "Most importantly is his feedback to the treatment, to the agility work he's going through right now and all of that is solid, all of that is fine. We're probably slowing him down against his wishes but we feel like we're taking the appropriate steps if that's the case."
In other injury news, left fielder Eric Thames made his return to the lineup on Thursday afternoon against the Phillies. The Blue Jays left fielder missed one game because of cramping in a calf muscle but arrived to the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium feeling ready to go.
Santos set for return with retooled changeup
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays closer Sergio Santos will make his return to the Grapefruit League season with a scheduled inning of work on Saturday against the Braves.
Santos hasn't pitched in an exhibition game since March 7 but has continued to throw in bullpen sessions and against Minor Leaguers. The delay between regular outings was because the Blue Jays wanted to refine his changeup, which needed a couple of adjustments.
"One was just getting more frequent use with it," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "There has been a slight adjustment in his handset, in the set position, that has allowed him to get his hand out of his glove a little bit quicker, that's where some of the repeated bullpens helped solidify that a little bit more."
Santos used the changeup during his time with the White Sox, but after being acquired by Toronto in an offseason trade, he pinpointed that pitch as one of his biggest areas for improvement.
The 28-year-old throws his fastball in the upper 90s, but being able to consistently locate the changeup will provide him with another weapon to keep opposing hitters off balance. Santos will now resume a regular throwing schedule prior to the start of the season.
"Whether or not we get to a back-to-back before we break camp remains to be seen, but he feels good and he's back in the regular turn here," Farrell said.
"We spent a seven-day period where he threw a couple of bullpens to concentrate on his changeup. He came into camp in such good shape, powerful, felt great. We just felt like there was a couple of things that we could address in that setting."
Santos went 4-5 with a 3.55 ERA while converting 30 saves in 36 opportunities last year with the White Sox.
Escobar, Johnson flipped atop lineup
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays utilized a different looking lineup for the second consecutive game in Thursday's 2-0 victory over Philadelphia.
Typical leadoff man Yunel Escobar was bumped down to No. 2 in the order and was replaced with second baseman Kelly Johnson in the top spot.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell indicated that he was just experimenting with a few things but did like Escobar's ability to hit through openings on the right side of the infield.
"Both have hit at the top of the order for the vast majority of their career," Farrell said. "Just felt like Yunel has the ability to hit the hole over there a little bit more. Kelly's not a dead pull hitter, he's going to use the whole field a little bit more."
Escobar started 110 games out of the leadoff spot in 2011 compared to just 12 in second and eight in third. He finished the year hitting .290 with 11 home runs and a .369 on-base percentage.
Blue Jays among finalists for Prestige Award
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays are one of three finalists for the Sport Event Sponsor of the Year in the 2011 Prestige Awards.
Toronto was nominated for its sponsorship of the 2011 World Baseball Challenge, which is also a finalist for the International Sport Event of the Year. The tournament was held last July in Prince George, British Columbia, and included teams from Cuba, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Bahamas, China and Canada.
The awards are presented by the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance and all finalists will be recognized at a luncheon on April 19th in Richmond, British Columbia, prior to the recipients being announced.
Jim Swanson, of Prince George, is a finalist for the Community Service Award in recognition for the work he did as chair of the World Baseball Challenge.