03/19/10 12:34 PM ET
Encarnacion eyeing Opening Day start
Jays third baseman close to playing in Grapefruit game
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
On Friday morning, Encarnacion stepped into the batter's box at Dunedin Stadium and tested his surgically repaired left wrist during a round of batting practice. It was Encarnacion's first time taking batting practice in roughly two weeks, and he was feeling good after the session.
"It feels good. I'm almost ready," Encarnacion said. "I think I'm going to be ready to play in a couple of days. I didn't feel anything today."
The Blue Jays have held the 27-year-old Encarnacion out of Grapefruit League games all spring due to weakness in his left wrist, which was operated on at the end of October. Baltimore-based hand specialist Dr. Tom Graham shaved a large bone spur off the hamate bone in Encarncion's ailing wrist.
Encarnacion has complained of weakness in his wrist throughout the spring, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos noted on Thursday that the third baseman has been feeling much better of late. Encarnacion hit in a soft-toss session on Thursday, and was then cleared to take part in batting practice on Friday.
While Encarnacion has been sidelined with the issue, Jose Bautista has garnered a significant amount of playing time at third base. If Encarnacion needed to open the season on the 15-day disabled list, Bautista would likely begin the year at third. As things currently stand, Bautista is in line to be Toronto's regular right fielder.
Anthopoulos said the Jays are optimistic that Encarnacion will be ready for Opening Day.
"He's really starting to turn the corner," Anthopoulos said on Thursday. "It's definitely not out of the question that he breaks with us Opening Day."
Toronto acquired Encarnacion from Cincinnati last season in the July 31 trade that sent third baseman Scott Rolen to the Reds, and also brought pitchers Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart to the Jays. In 42 games down the stretch with Toronto, Encarnacion hit .240 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.