Toronto Blue Jays first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion is set to undergo a precautionary MRI after reporting pain in his lower back and right side, according to a tweet from Scott MacArthur of TSN.
At the current time, the injury does not appear to be serious and there is no word yet on whether Encarnacion will miss any time or how much, but the Blue Jays are being cautious with their two-time All-Star slugger, hoping that they can nip this early in Spring Training rather than deal with it during the regular season.
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The 32-year-old Encarnacion is in the last guaranteed year of his contract with the Blue Jays, with Toronto holding a $10 million team option for 2016. The team has already made plans to try and plan around Encarnacion’s balky back and give him more time as the team’s designated hitter in 2015, hoping that by limiting the time spent standing on the hard turf of Rogers Centre will help alleviate the tightness that has been present the last two seasons. That will involve a rotation at first base that could include Justin Smoak and Danny Valencia, with Daric Barton on the outside looking in. However, with back issues already cropping up in Spring Training, that mix could turn to primary DH duties for Encarnacion.
Edwin has seen limited action thus far this spring, collecting just 6 hit-less at-bats, with a pair of walks and three strike-outs. However, the limited duty seems to be across the board for the Blue Jays starters so far, as the team tries to evaluate the other players in camp. Even if the results of the MRI come back with decent results, the Blue Jays will likely give him a few days to rest and get things back in order before resuming baseball activities. With camp open for another three weeks, the team has the luxury of time on its side.
Encarnacion was limited to 128 games in 2014, missing a large chunk of time from July 5th through August 15th after injuring his quad in a game against the Oakland Athletics last season. However he made the most of his time on the field, producing a .268/.354/.547 slash line with 34 home runs and 98 RBI. That included a stellar run during the month of May, when Encarnacion took home the American League Player of the Month award by notching 16 home runs and 33 RBI.