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Toronto Blue Jays 3B Brett Lawrie to Start Year on Disabled List

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COMMENTARY | If the Toronto Blue Jays want to get off to a hot start to the season that kicks off April 2, they are going to have to do it without their starting third baseman.

It was announced Monday morning (March 25) that Brett Lawrie will start the 2013 season on the disabled list due to lingering issues from a strained rib cage. The injury occurred while Lawrie was participating in a Team Canada exhibition game in preparation for the World Baseball Classic back on March 6.

Toronto had hoped that Lawrie would be back in time for the start of the season, but the team didn't see enough improvement in his status to see that becoming a reality. Lawrie is expected to play in minor-league games -- expected to be with Triple-A Buffalo -- for the remainder of spring training so the Blue Jays can determine a time frame for his return.

In his first full season in the major leagues in 2012, Lawrie, 23, batted .273 with 11 home runs in 125 games. He missed 30 games due to an oblique injury, which was the original diagnosis of his current injury before team doctors found out it was a strained rib cage.

Despite being expected to play a major role in the Blue Jays' offense this season, losing Lawrie for the first few weeks of the season shouldn't be a major blow to the team's success. However, if the injury lingers around longer than planned and he continues to miss time, it could become a major issue for a team that lacks in the area of pure base-hitters.

It's a situation to keep a close eye on for the next couple of weeks as doctors and trainers work to figure out an exact time frame for the up-and-coming infielder's return to the lineup.

Maicer Izturis, a better fielder than hitter at this stage, will man third base for the Jays to start the season, but if he under-performs at the plate, the team will likely turn to utility player Mark DeRosa to fill in. If that fails, general manager Alex Anthopoulos could try and make a minor move via trade or free agency to fill in the corner until Lawrie returns with the latter being the likely option.

One name available that could fill in those shoes is former Blue Jays 3B Scott Rolen. Rolen spent the previous four seasons in Cincinnati where he seemingly revitalized his career and helped lead the Reds to two division titles (2010 & 2012). He played for Toronto in 2008 and half of 2009. In that time, he batted .288 with 19 home runs and 93 RBIs. He could provide the Jays with a solid bottom of the order bat that can fill in for Lawrie when/if he needs days off for any reason later in the season.

The Blue Jays also announced Monday (March 25) that they have designated right-handed pitcher Dave Bush and catcher Josh Thole to Triple-A Buffalo. Bush, an eight-year veteran, spent 2012 with Lehigh Valley of the International League and went 4-3 with a 3.16 ERA. He last played in the major leagues in 2011 when he made 17 appearances with the Texas Rangers.

Thole was acquired by Toronto as part of the deal that brought R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays. Thole spent the last four seasons with the New York Mets, and even played in Buffalo for two games last season on a rehab stint as well as 48 games back in 2010.

While it's under a different partnership now with new management (for the most part), Thole's familiarity with the Bisons and his status, along with Bush, as a veteran who has major-league experience, should help out a young Bisons squad that will be looking to make an impact in the International League this season.

Michael Straw is a sportswriter who lives in Buffalo, NY and has been covering baseball, primarily at the Triple-A level, for two years. He began covering the Blue Jays in the fall of 2012, and has been published in multiple Western New York publications.

For Blue Jays and other sports news, follow Michael on Twitter @MikeStrawQCS.
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