Encarnacion could return to lineup this week

Blue Jays slugger has been out with a sore back since March 8

Encarnacion could return to lineup this week

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion is nearing a return to Grapefruit League action.

Encarnacion, dealing with a sore back, was scheduled to play in a Minor League game on Tuesday, manager John Gibbons said. He likely will do the same on Wednesday, and if all goes well, he would play with the big league club on Thursday against the Phillies in Dunedin, Fla.

Encarnacion has not played in a game since March 8, though he has been taking batting practice as his back has improved.

"It feels good now, but now he's just building up," Gibbons said. "He's basically getting back in the swing of it a little bit, no pun intended."

Encarnacion hit .268/.354/.547 with 34 home runs and 98 RBIs last season. He is 0-for-6 in Grapefruit League action.

• Outfielder Kevin Pillar, working his way back from a strained right oblique, was set to take batting practice on Tuesday. He is slated to return to the lineup on Wednesday against the Orioles for his first game since March 14.

• Outfielder Michael Saunders (left knee surgery) also was set to play in the Minor League game on Tuesday, along with Encarnacion and infielder Steve Tolleson. Mark Buehrle and closer Brett Cecil were scheduled to pitch.

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.