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02/23/09 5:49 PM EST

Wells out with hamstring strain

Center fielder expected to miss one month after reaggravating injury

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays have experienced life without Vernon Wells before, and the club is preparing for precisely that once again this spring. Toronto's center fielder suffered a strained left hamstring during a workout on Monday, and he is expected to be sidelined at least one month.

Wells left the Bobby Mattick Training Center to undergo an MRI exam to further evaluate the damage, but the Blue Jays are holding out hope that he'll still be ready in time for Opening Day on April 6. The only difference might be that Wells could be penciled in as the designated hitter, instead of manning center field at the season's outset.

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"The only good thing about it," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said, "and there's nothing good about, but if you're going to look at it that way, it happened now and he's got a chance to be ready to start the season."

Last year, Wells resided on the disabled list on two separate occasions -- once for injuring the same leg. On July 9, Wells strained his left hamstring while stealing third base in a game against Baltimore and didn't return to Toronto's lineup until Aug. 10. Wells will likely have a similar timetable for coming back this time as well.

"Right now, preliminarily, I'd say he's going to miss four weeks," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said.

In the meantime, the Blue Jays will have to rethink how their starting nine will shape up throughout the Grapefruit League schedule. Gaston said left fielder Travis Snider and right fielder Alex Rios, who can also play center, will be in the outfield for Wednesday's spring opener against the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. ET in Dunedin. Adam Lind, who also plays left, will fill in as the designated hitter.

As for the third outfield spot, Gaston said utilitymen Jose Bautista and Joe Inglett will see plenty of action outside of the infield this spring. Snider will see time in both corner spots, and Lind will likely have more at-bats with Wells out, considering third baseman Scott Rolen (returning from a left shoulder injury) and first baseman Lyle Overbay (recovering from offseason hernia surgery) are being eased into the lineup.

Wells, 30, aggravated his hamstring while running on Monday during the club's third full-squad workout of Spring Training. Gaston said he noticed Wells wasn't participating in some of the daily outfield cutoff drills, but the center fielder did step into the batting cage to face pitching and to take part in a routine batting-practice session.

The Blue Jays are counting on a healthy Wells to be their cleanup hitter this season. Last year, the center fielder posted a .300 average, led the team with 20 homers and finished with 78 RBIs. The only problem was that Wells -- a three-time American League Gold Glove winner and two-time All-Star -- appeared in only 108 games for Toronto.

Over the offseason, Wells hired a personal trainer, with the goal of getting into better physical condition in order to hopefully avoid some of the injury woes he's dealt with in recent seasons. Last year, Wells fractured his left wrist during a diving catch in May and he tweaked both hamstrings at different points in the season. In 2007, Wells played through a left shoulder injury and underwent surgery the following offseason.

"I've never done so much work in an offseason as I did this offseason," Wells said on Feb. 16. "I normally haven't been a big guy to work out during the season, but that's going to change this year. Hopefully, once we get into August and things like that, I'll still be as strong as I was Opening Day.

"Going through what I went through this offseason, my body is in a better place than it ever has been. It'll allow everything else to fall into place."

Prior to injuring his hamstring on Monday, Wells already lost his chance to suit up for the United States in the upcoming World Baseball Classic due to the time he spent on the DL last season. Wells missed 52 games in 2008, exceeding the amount of DL time allowed last year for players participating in the tournament.

Adding to the issue was Wells' contract. Each team taking part in the Classic is required to take out insurance for its players, a process that the center fielder said was hindered by the seven-year, $126 million extension he signed with Toronto three winters ago. Wells was hoping to use the Classic to jump-start his bat going into the regular season.

With his current injury, though, that hope has officially been eliminated.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.