Encarnacion could return to Blue Jays' lineup soon

Designated hitter has been out since March 8 with back injury

Encarnacion could return to Blue Jays' lineup soon

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Edwin Encarnacion still hasn't resumed baseball activities, but the Blue Jays hope he can return from a sore back at some point next week.

Encarnacion hasn't played since March 8 after he felt some discomfort in his back during a game against the Pirates. The veteran slugger later underwent an MRI that revealed inflammation, but he's still expected to be ready for Opening Day.

The expectation is that Encarnacion will be able to start at designated hitter within the next four to five days, but that will depend on how he feels during preliminary workouts.

"He's just moving along real slow," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Saturday morning. "Hopefully in a few days he'll at least be able to go DH. I'd say maybe four or five days."

The biggest danger in Encarnacion missing an extended period of time during Spring Training is that it could have a negative influence on his timing at the plate. Encarnacion experienced similar issues last April even after going through a full spring schedule and it's something he wanted to avoid this year.

There's still more than three weeks remaining until Opening Day, so that should be plenty of time for Encarnacion to get ready, but it could become an issue if the discomfort in his back pushes his timeline deeper into March.

"Well, we hope so," Gibbons said when asked about there being enough time for Encarnacion. "I don't care how good of a hitter they are, they still need their at-bats, they still need to get their timing down. Sooner the better that's for sure, but we know he's going to hit."

In other injury news, catcher Dioner Navarro is expected to make his return from a left knee injury on Sunday afternoon. He'll likely get the start at designated hitter and it could be at least a few more days until he plays behind the plate.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.