TORONTO -- Kelly Johnson has found himself in a prolonged slump ever since injuring his left hamstring in late May.
At the time, he was one of the Blue Jays' most consistent hitters, and finished May with monthly highs this season in homers (five), RBIs (18), average (.273) and OPS (.807). But since the injury, which required an MRI that came back negative and only forced him out of action for a couple games, he has been a shade of the player Toronto had at the beginning of the season.
Entering play Friday, Johnson is batting .190 with a .603 OPS in 142 at-bats since the All-Star break and has had an OPS under .650 in each of the past three months.
"It affected [his hamstring] me a lot just before I had taken some days. It hurt to swing, it hurt to run," Johnson said. "I'm not going to make the excuse, because it's ultimately, if I am good enough to play, I'm good enough to go out there and compete.
"It's not an excuse. If I didn't feel I could go out there and play, I wouldn't play, and obviously I'm out here playing."
Johnson has been working diligently with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy to try to get back on track and may have found a positive to build on. The second baseman has recorded back-to-back multihit games in his last two contests for the first time since June 15-16 and his three hits against the Rays in Thursday's series opener represented his first three-hit game since May 28.
"Probably in the cage, Murph has said it a couple times recently that I have taken more swings than anybody on the team," Johnson said.
Johnson said the fact that he's putting in the work has allowed him to remain positive.
"It's easier to handle and still have fun playing," Johnson said. "If I was to come here and just sit around and take it and didn't put in the work and preparation, I would be quitting on myself and I wouldn't be able to sleep.
"I'm doing everything I can and am still going to do everything I can."
The 30-year-old is set to become a free agent at season's end for the second time in his career and his 2012 performance could potentially cost him dollars and years in the offseason. But he's trying not to worry about that.
"It comes up, just because the family," Johnson said when asked if he thinks about free agency. "You wonder where you are going to be and it would be nice to know where you are going to be. I might have put more pressure on myself last year, but this year, I'm trying not to think about it."
Lawrie swings bat, but still no timetable for return
TORONTO -- Brett Lawrie, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 9 with an oblique strain, is starting to make progress in his recovery, but there is currently no timetable for his return.
Lawrie informed trainer George Poulis that he was feeling better and began swinging the bat on Friday.
"Brett felt better today. That doesn't give us any point on the calender that he is ready to get into games, but he is feeling better," manager John Farrell said.
Lawrie was forced to the disabled list after feeling pain in his oblique area during an at-bat against Oakland on Aug. 3.
Although the season is entering its final month, the Blue Jays have no intention, as of yet, to shut down Lawrie. He will presumably need to get into a few rehab games before joining the Blue Jays, but things could get tricky if he isn't ready soon, as the Minor League season is coming to an end. Lawrie could play with one of Toronto's Minor League affiliates that make the playoffs, which is the course of action the Blue Jays plan to take with injured starting catcher J.P. Arencibia, whose target date for return is Sept. 10.
Lawrie is known for his high-energy play, which was highlighted when he fell into a camera bay at Yankee Stadium in July and was forced to leave the game.
"He has a high-pain threshold, he's an ultra competitor," Farrell said. "There is nothing that he wants more than to be involved in winning a baseball game. As he goes through this experience, I think he is learning more about himself and is learning more when he can control his energy and effort level to be more efficient."
The third baseman, who's in his second Major League season, is batting .282 with nine homers, 40 RBIs, 13 stolen bases and a .742 OPS.
Farrell: Injuries not an organizational issue
TORONTO -- It has been well documented how many injuries the Blue Jays have suffered this season, particularly to their pitchers.
Starters Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison and Brandon Morrow were all lost in the span of a week in mid-June. Drabek and Hutchison, as well as lefty reliever Luis Perez, were forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, which will keep them out of action until around the midway point of the 2013 season, provided their recovery goes according to plan. After that, it was reliever Jason Frasor who was forced to the disabled list in July with right forearm inflammation. Before any of them, closer Sergio Santos was sent to the DL in April, and months later, after rehab didn't work, underwent season-ending surgery on his pitching shoulder.
Manager John Farrell doesn't believe the multitude of injuries suggest an overall cause for concern and said to imply the organization is doing something wrong in its development of players is unfair. He feels it is best to evaluate these things on a case-by-case basis because every pitcher is different.
"We can just look to our own pitchers and point to different reasons why they got hurt," Farrell said. "Some are arm-action related, some are delivery related. Some are, you take a young guy and put him in this environment and the stress level increases tenfold from what they have previously experienced.
"At Dunedin [Class A], you have 600 people versus 42,000 with a third deck and every pitch you throw goes to the back of your baseball card. There is quite a bit of difference."
Farrell believes a young starting pitcher should throw around 450-500 innings at the Minor League level before reaching the big leagues based on a number of factors. Hutchison only threw 234 2/3 Minor League innings before reaching the Majors.
"So they know their deliveries better, their bodies better," Farrell explained. "They've been in certain situations inside of a game ... that they begin to overthrow consistently -- that is where you see a lot of access wear and tear on a young pitcher.
"That grinding mentality that can cause their body to be ahead of their arm ever so slightly. It's a cumulative affect at that point. It builds up and things kind of get weak and that is where injuries take place."
Farrell stressed that the environment of the big leagues adds tremendous stress on young pitchers and believes it can lead to injury. He said a red flag can be a sudden increase in velocity, which is something Hutchison showed before he landed on the shelf. But Farrell said there were no indicators that the right-hander was injured.
"The one thing we can't do is replicate this environment, that's impossible," Farrell said.
"Every pitch is thrown in a high-stress state because that is how they are wired. The fine line is to tell them, 'Hey, back off.' Establishing rhythm and carrying that rhythm through a game is critical. Then the body works more efficiently, but a lot of times the mind doesn't allow that to happen and then that is where a guy pitches a little bit like a middle linebacker."
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.