Blue Jays 'cautious' with Pillar's oblique strain

Outfielder having solid spring as he competes for starting spot

Blue Jays 'cautious' with Pillar's oblique strain

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar will be shut down for at least next week because of a strained right oblique muscle.

Pillar sustained the injury while sneezing prior to Saturday afternoon's game against the Yankees. That might seem strange, but it's actually somewhat common and also familiar to the Blue Jays, as left-hander Ricky Romero got hurt the same way in 2009.

The time required to rehab a Grade 1 sprain is a little vague, because it's often the type of injury that can linger. Even if Pillar misses more than seven days, the hope is that he'll be ready for Opening Day on April 6.

"I guess better now than later," Pillar told a group of reporters Sunday morning. "I think it's very, very mild, and I'm just thankful that they're willing to give me a little bit of time off and play it safe. I played with it yesterday, wanted to play with it today, but they're just being a little cautious with it."

Pillar was competing for the starting job in center field with Dalton Pompey. He also has been considered as a replacement for Michael Saunders if the veteran left fielder isn't ready in time for Opening Day because of a left knee injury.

Outlook: Pillar, OF, TOR

At the very least, Pillar was expected to crack the 25-man roster as a fourth outfielder. The 26-year-old had been having a rather impressive camp by hitting .269 with a respectable .758 OPS, one home run and five RBIs in nine games.

Ezequiel Carrera and Caleb Gindl likely would be the biggest beneficiaries if Pillar misses an extended period of time. Both players have been in the mix for the fourth outfielder spot, but it's believed the Blue Jays have seen enough of Pillar this spring and over the past two years that if he's healthy, there should be a spot for him on Opening Day.

"He has close to 30 at-bats right now, so it's not like he's behind. We've got some other guys with a lot less," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "So being out a week, or 10 days, whatever it ends up being, we just said let's give it a week and see where we're at.

"Even if it's two weeks, he's going to be fine. The way he's playing, he's in a great position. I said, 'Kevin, you know how well you're playing, so let's get this taken care of so that he'll be ready to go for us.'"

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.