2/22/2014 4:28 P.M. ET
Kawasaki predicts Canada will win gold medal
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Munenori Kawasaki has a bold prediction for Sunday morning's gold-medal hockey game between Canada and Sweden at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Kawasaki doesn't know all that much about hockey, but he has been watching some of the tournament on televisions in the clubhouse in order to gain a better understanding of the sport.
The Japan native knows exactly what the Canadian fans want to hear and he wasn't shy about letting a group of reporters know about who he thinks will come out on top.
"Canada will win ... because I love Canada and my son is a Canuck," Kawasaki said.
The wife of the Blue Jays infielder gave birth to their first son during last year's regular season. He went on a brief maternity leave last August so he could return to Toronto while his teammates were in New York.
But back to that hockey game, Kawasaki also had a score he wanted to share with everyone.
"Canada wins," Kawasaki said. "Score? I think 2-1 Canada wins. Perfect. Sounds good. Let's go Canada. O Canada. Let's go Canucks."
Encarnacion doesn't think wrist will be an issue
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Edwin Encarnacion's injured left wrist is back to full strength, and the Blue Jays' first baseman doesn't expect it to become a recurring problem again this season.
Encarnacion dealt with issues in his wrist during the final two months of the 2013 season and eventually had to be shut down late in the year. He underwent season-ending surgery on Sept. 20 and missed out on his quest for 40 homers.
The left wrist had been a nagging problem throughout the course of Encarnacion's nine-year career and eventually prompted the removal of some cartilage during that surgical procedure. He has since received a clean bill of health and will be playing without limitations this spring.
"I feel ready and ready to go," Encarnacion said Saturday morning. "It took almost seven weeks to be 100 percent. I didn't want to hurry my plan to recover, so I took my time to make sure it would be ready."
Encarnacion first began developing problems with his wrist back in 2008 while with the Reds. The discomfort continued the following season in Toronto, and he eventually required surgery to shave a large spur off his hamate bone.
The Dominican native was expected to be ready for Spring Training in 2010, but in reality, it took another full year before his strength returned. If there were any doubts something similar might happen this season, Encarnacion attempted to dismiss them during his live batting practice of the spring by hitting a home run off right-hander Todd Redmond.
Encarnacion doesn't believe the two surgical procedures are comparable, and even though it took him almost two months to fully recover, the wrist didn't have a major impact on his offseason routine. He was still able to go through his regular program, which once again involved working out with Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano and renowned hitting coach Luis Mercedes in the Dominican Republic.
"This time it [wasn't] a big surgery," Encarnacion said. "It was something for clean-up, so I know I'm going to be all right.
"I knew before I came here, I knew I was ready to go, because I was hitting BP in the Dominican. I hit a couple of live BPs and my swing looked great. I'm not worried. I know I'm going to be all right. I just want to make sure my wrist is ready is go, and that's what makes me happy."
Encarnacion once again will be relied upon as a primary component of Toronto's offense. He's expected to bat cleanup behind fellow slugger Jose Bautista and will look to build on a successful 2013 season that saw him hit .272 with a .904 OPS, 36 homers and 104 RBIs in 142 games.
With job secure, Cecil more relaxed in camp
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays left-hander Brett Cecil looks a lot more relaxed in his surroundings this year, and it's easy to understand why.
After years of fighting to make the team out of Spring Training, Cecil finally enters camp with a guaranteed job. Last season, Cecil didn't find out he was heading north until one of the final days of camp, but all of that uncertainty is ancient history.
Cecil went from barely cracking the 25-man roster in March to someone who was an American League All-Star by the middle of July. Now he can relax just a little bit and focus on the task at hand instead of constantly looking over his shoulder to see who might take his job.
"Completely different," Cecil said when asked to compare this year's camp to 2013. "I'm fairly certain that I have a spot on the team. Obviously I have to perform, but there's more pressure taken off not being on the bubble for once. My mind's clear, just focusing on getting my quality work in, not necessarily quantity work."
The added luxury of having a secure spot means there's also less pressure on Cecil having to prove himself every day. When Cecil was on the fringe, there was always someone watching, and that meant he felt the need to go full bore all of the time.
In theory, that sounds good, but the reality of the situation is that it can also lead to problems down the road. Cecil figured that out firsthand when he began to run out of gas during the second half of the season and eventually developed soreness in his left shoulder.
That's one reason why Cecil is planning to be a little more diligent this season. There are times when he will need to limit his throwing on the side and also his weighted-ball workout routine. When his arm is feeling a little tired or sore, it's best to back off and give it a day before getting back to work.
"Like I've already told the trainers, coaches, 'I'll let you guys know if I'm not feeling 100 percent,'" said Cecil, who went 5-1 with a 2.82 ERA last year. "I just don't want any red flags to be thrown up, but I am going to be a lot smarter about the time I take throwing, when I feel like I really need the work, if I feel like I need to take a day, I said I'm going to take a day.
"For example, [on Friday], they told me I had 25 pitches, and I said I don't need 25 pitches, I'll do 20. If I can throw 20, I'm sure I can get five more in a game down the road. I don't need that right now. I need 20 or so and that'd be it. So right now, it's just saving as many bullets as I can for August/September and hopefully October."
Happ to open Grapefruit League slate vs. Phillies
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Left-hander J.A. Happ will take the mound when the Blue Jays open their Grapefruit League schedule Wednesday against the Phillies at 1:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV.
Happ is expected to throw two frames and will then add one inning to his workload with each additional start. Happ's expected to begin the year as the club's No. 4 starter, but in theory, he could be held back until Toronto's fifth game of the season in order to start the home opener vs. the Yankees.
The Blue Jays have yet to announce the remainder of their pitching schedule for Spring Training, but a schedule is expected to be released by Sunday or Monday. R.A. Dickey has already been announced as Toronto's Opening Day starter, so pitching coach Pete Walker is in the process of working back from that date in his preparations.
Happ entered last year's camp without a job, but he then proceeded to post a 1.90 ERA in 23 2/3 Grapefruit League innings and eventually took the spot away from left-hander Ricky Romero, who was demoted to Class A Advanced Dunedin.