Lawrie focused on maintaining health in 2014
Blue Jays third baseman looking to build off strong second half last season
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie will admit that he's more than a little tightly wound, and he recognizes that a complete season must start with staying healthy.
So the energetic 24-year-old focused on his core flexibility this winter, hoping that some hot yoga and hip stretching will help him bounce back from an injury-plagued 2013 and pick up where he left off in the second half.
Lawrie began last season on the disabled list with a strained right oblique muscle, rushed back too quickly and didn't find his true form until after the All-Star break. The third baseman pointed out that playing on Rogers Centre's artificial turf can be tough on someone who plays with as much energy as he does, which made it even more difficult to recover early on last season.
"That was tough for me. I'm trying to find a way to get it done, trying to help my teammates. But at the same time, I know I'm not at the top of my game where I need to be," Lawrie said on Wednesday. "Trying to find the balance between that and trying to slow everything down and not trying to press on it, it's tough.
"It starts to wear on your body a little differently. ... Once that starts, it makes my body just a little bit off. I've been working on a lot of flexibility and just trying to stay loose. That's the thing. My body's already wound tight enough as it is."
Still, Lawrie managed to put it all together in August, batting .346/.397/.495 in 107 at-bats. He made the necessary adjustments at the plate, taking on a more upright stance and approaching each plate appearance with a plan in mind, and that helped him see the ball better.
"That really helped me out," Lawrie said. "Every at-bat was just more comfortable. We're obviously on the right path to somewhere positive, so we're just going to continue with that."
Ideally, Lawrie will take what he learned last year, both in the trainer's room and at the plate, and see it all pay off in 2014. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons already considers Lawrie to be among the top defensive third basemen in the Majors, and he believes the 24-year-old is just beginning to tap into his enormous potential.
"The sky's the limit for Brett. He could become an elite player in this game. He works hard at it," Gibbons said. "Year after year, you've just got to keep working and keep improving. He can do that."
Stroman among fifth-starter candidates
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- There's a long list of pitchers competing for the final spot in the Blue Jays' rotation, and manager John Gibbons said the club is going to take its time before declaring a winner.
"We won't know until we get a little way through Spring Training. Things will start shaking out," Gibbons said on Wednesday. "There's a number of guys who could win that spot. In our mind, we have an order of how it kind of stacks up right now, but we won't say it. Some guy could come out of nowhere and be that guy."
R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ will hold down the first four spots, barring any injuries this spring. Among those battling for the fifth spot are Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Marcus Stroman, Sean Nolin, Dustin McGowan and Ricky Romero.
How those pitchers perform in Grapefruit League action could go a long way in determining whether they crack the Opening Day roster.
"We know some of the other guys who had a chance and an opportunity last year and pitched well for us," Gibbons said. "We know a lot about some of these guys. Competition's good for everybody."
Gibbons was asked specifically about Stroman, Toronto's first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and the club's No. 3 prospect, according to MLB.com. In 20 starts last year for Double-A New Hampshire, the 22-year-old right-hander went 9-5 with a 3.30 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 111 2/3 innings.
"We like him as an organization. He's coming off a big year at Double-A. Everybody likes him," Gibbons said. "If he comes out of it in Spring Training and he's that guy, then we'll go with him. He could very well."
Dickey getting bird's-eye view of knuckleball
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- R.A. Dickey is getting a new look at his signature knuckleball: the view from atop his catcher's helmet.
Dickey asked Erik Kratz to attach a GoPro camera to the top of his helmet while catching the knuckleballer's bullpen session on Wednesday morning, and Dickey planned to review the film for his own benefit.
"The more information for me, the better. It's good to get kind of a real unique perspective," Dickey said. "When you can put a camera on top of a catcher's mask, I can really see my body as it comes down the slopes, see mechanically what it does. That camera in particular is high-definition so I can see rotation and things like that. It gives me great feedback, which is why I wanted to use it."
Named the Opening Day starter on Tuesday by manager John Gibbons, Dickey called the appointment "special" and "an honour to represent not only a team, but a country, on the first night of the year.
"I never take something like that lightly," Dickey said. "My story is such that those kind of experiences are highly valued."
The movement on Dickey's knuckleball early on this spring has impressed Gibbons.
"I don't want to catch it, I know that," Gibbons said.