BOSTON -- Brett Lawrie is only 23 years old. That might be worth repeating.
The expectations were big, probably too big, when Lawrie returned to start the 2012 season after a rookie campaign in '11 that surprised even the Blue Jays.
Lawrie, who has been out since spraining his left ankle May 27, held his head above water last year with a .324 on-base percentage and .729 OPS, but he has struggled in limited action in 2013, posting a .268 OBP and .642 OPS.
Manager John Gibbons said Thursday that the Blue Jays may have rushed Lawrie, who began his rehab assignment with Class A Dunedin on Wednesday, this season. After missing the World Baseball Classic due to a rib injury, Lawrie returned on April 16 without any Minor League games under his belt.
The Blue Jays won't rush Lawrie this time. Even when his injured left ankle has healed, he'll stay in the Minors until the team feels his bat is ready.
"We want him playing good before he comes back," Gibbons said. "We jumped the gun a little bit and brought him back out of necessity, and he probably wasn't ready to face Major League pitching. So a slow start to that magnifies it.
"And his personality, he fights it. He's one of those guys who tries harder and harder. Sometimes that's when this game gets tougher to play. So I think a lot of that was a big part of it."
Gibbons said Lawrie has still added value to the team, even though he hasn't been as productive with a bat.
"We screwed up out of necessity," Gibbons said, "but I guarantee he won some games for us with his defense. So it balanced it out.
"He got some key hits along the way. It's not like he didn't do anything. Everybody was expecting him to do what he did when he first arrived, and eventually he will."
Lawrie was 1-for-2 with an RBI in his first rehab game with Dunedin on Wednesday. He'll likely be promoted to Triple-A Buffalo, where he'll spend enough time to get into a groove.
Gibbons said Lawrie will not play any second base during his rehab.
Wagner, Perez playing vital roles in bullpen's revival
BOSTON -- Neil Wagner and Juan Perez might be the callups of the year.
Since the two were added to the Blue Jays' bullpen from Triple-A Buffalo on May 29, Toronto's relievers have posted a 0.95 ERA over 95 innings, best in the Majors over that time.
"We're strong down there," said manager John Gibbons. "They've all been good, but the addition of Wagner really has helped -- especially at the time we put [Esmil] Rogers in the rotation. We had been looking for a right-hander who can get a tough right-hander out late in the game, and he's done that.
"Perez coming up, too, he's off to a great start. We have depth. On any given night, you don't have to ride the go-to guys all the time."
After starter Chien-Ming Wang lasted just 1 2/3 innings in Thursday's 7-4 loss to the Red Sox, the bullpen, aided by three innings from Perez, combined to throw 6 1/3 frames of scoreless ball, allowing just three hits.
"They've been lights-out," Gibbons said afterward. "They gave us a chance. They kept us right there, but it was too much to overcome."
Perez pitched three perfect frames Thursday and set a career high for innings pitched in the Major Leagues. With 14 seasons in the Minors, The 34-year-old has never found much success at the next level, though he's never been given much of a chance. He's had four stints in the Majors before this year and never thrown more than 12 1/3 innings. In 15 innings with the Blue Jays in 2013, Perez has yet to allow an earned run.
Wagner has a similar past. The 29-year-old has spent eight seasons in the Minors, posting ERAs above 5.40 in each of his last two, but the right-hander turned a corner this year, his first with the Blue Jays, striking out 32 batters in 20 1/3 innings in Triple-A Buffalo while posting a 0.89 ERA. It's been much of the same in the Majors, where he's allowed just one run over 12 innings.
Gibbons said he's become a right-handed specialist.
"Yeah, he's proven that so far at this point," Gibbons said. "You can pitch him at any time. He's a lot like [Aaron Loup] -- you can throw him early in the game if you want, or if you have him late in the game, he can come in and get that big out. It's a little versatility out there."
The Blue Jays are carrying eight relievers in the bullpen with just three position players on the bench. They'll continue to do so, considering how successful it's been.
"We haven't been burned yet by that one last guy on the bench," Gibbons said. "If we need a change, we'll do it, but at this point, we really haven't had to."
Left knee tendinitis lands Cabrera on disabled list
BOSTON -- Hours after Melky Cabrera started in left field and went 1-for-4 during the Blue Jays' 7-4 loss to the Red Sox on Thursday night, Cabrera was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left knee tendinitis.
Taking his place on the roster will be energetic shortstop Munenori Kawasaki, who was sent down to Triple-A Buffalo when Jose Reyes returned from the DL earlier this week.
Kawasaki, 32, hit .225 with a .337 on-base percentage and seven stolen bases in 60 games with the Blue Jays as Reyes' primarily replacement at shortstop. Kawasaki also made his mark with a big smile and ability to come through in the clutch.
Without Cabrera, Rajai Davis, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista are the only three pure outfielders on the roster, but Emilio Bonifacio and Mark DeRosa can also play in the outfield.
Reyes has bruised shin, avoids injury scare
BOSTON -- "Thank God it didn't hit me in the ankle," was the reaction of Jose Reyes after he fouled a ball off his left shin during Thursday's 7-4 loss to the Red Sox.
The scary moment came in the top of the fourth inning, on the third pitch of an at-bat against Jon Lester, who was throwing a cutter that left Reyes marveling after the game.
Reyes took a big hack and the ball ricocheted off the inside of his bat and straight into his lower leg.
In just his second game back after missing more than two months with a severe sprain in his left ankle, Reyes was limping.
"It hit me right there," he proudly said, pointing toward his shin, where there was a ping-pong-ball-sized bruise even after he had been icing it for about 20 minutes. "It was painful for a little bit, but after a couple seconds, it went away."
Reyes said he should be fine. Bullet dodged.
The shortstop is 0-for-6 with a walk and a sacrifice fly in his first two games since April 12.
"It's OK," Reyes said of the way his swing has felt. "Still some work to do, but it's going to come. It's something I don't worry about.
"It's my second game. I've been out a long time, so I'm going to continue to work hard."
• Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus were both given the day off on Thursday. The two have combined to go 6-for-44 against Red Sox starter Jon Lester in their careers. Both will be available off the bench and should return to the lineup Friday. Lind, who has hit lefties better this season despite weak career numbers against southpaws, is batting .372 since May 23.
• With Rajai Davis, Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Reyes in the lineup, the Blue Jays have three basestealing threats against catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has the fourth-worst caught-stealing percentage among Major League catchers.
• Jose Bautista has averaged a home run every 1.65 games in Fenway Park. He has 14 homers in 34 career games entering Thursday.
• The Blue Jays are 29-12 when scoring first this season, but 10-26 when opponents score first.
• The Blue Jays have yet to lose a game this season when leading after seven innings.