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03/27/08 2:06 PM ET

Stairs returns with Minor League start

Starter out since March 20 but unlikely to start year on DL

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Add Matt Stairs to the list of Blue Jays who are currently battling a health issue. Toronto manager John Gibbons said that the veteran outfielder is fighting a sore hip, though a trip to the disabled list for Stairs hasn't been discussed.

"There's not even any talk of that," said Gibbons, when asked if it was possible that Stairs might be sidelined to begin the season.

The 40-year-old Stairs hasn't had an at-bat in a Grapefruit League game since March 20 and he hasn't appeared in a game since Sunday. On Thursday, the Blue Jays had Stairs take at-bats during a Minor League game rather than in Toronto's final home game at Knology Park against the Astros.

Should Stairs' minor injury develop into something more serious, having him play in a Minor League game would allow the Jays to backdate a potential DL stint for Stairs closer to his last appearance in a spring game. Gibbons reiterated, though, that the Jays believed Stairs would be ready in time for Opening Day.

"We haven't even talked about that," Gibbons repeated. "We want to see how his hip is, because you can't put him in to play a [Grapefruit League] game where it could flare up on him."

Stairs, who signed a two-year contract worth $3.25 million with the Jays in November, is set to open the season in a left-field platoon with Shannon Stewart. Gibbons noted on Thursday that he plans on having Stairs and Stewart bat in the second spot of Toronto's order on the days they start.

This spring, Stairs has hit .304 with one home run and four RBIs in 11 spring games for Toronto. In his first season with the Blue Jays last year, Stairs hit .289 with 21 homers and 64 RBIs in 125 games.

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