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Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie (The Canadian Press)

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie

(The Canadian Press)

Brett Lawrie optimistic he’ll be ready for Opening Day Add to ...

Russell Martin felt his body wasn’t ready to catch three games in the World Baseball Classic and, having signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent, believed his first obligation was to his new team. He excused himself from the Canadian team.

Third baseman Brett Lawrie criticized Martin for dropping out late – Martin had said he wanted to play shortstop, but an arm injury would have kept him out anyway – then dropped out himself after straining his rib cage in a WBC tuneup game. The Toronto Blue Jays infielder watched from the dugout as Canada lost two of three games and was eliminated from the tournament.

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The difference? Martin is back playing in Grapefruit League games, while Lawrie is out indefinitely with a recurrence of an injury that sidelined him from Aug. 4 to Sept. 6, 2012. Lawrie believes he’ll be ready for his team’s opening day, April 2.

“With these things, it’s not really so much a timeline, just how I feel,” Lawrie said, after returning to Blue Jays camp Tuesday. “Last year, they tried to give me a timeline and what not, but it was just going to get better when it wanted to. It feels night and day from when I first did it [last week] to what it is now. I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing but I anticipate that I should be out there.”

Lawrie pulled himself out of a WBC tuneup game against the Cincinnati Reds after diving for a few “rockets.”

“The biggest thing to get new blood in there, ride the bike and what not but nothing too crazy because you don’t want to irritate these things,” he said. “It just sets you back.”

Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos praised Lawrie last week for recognizing the injury and pulling himself out of the WBC.

“It was time for me to take a step back and get ready for 162 games and get ready for my teammates,” Lawrie said. “It was very disappointing but I still got an opportunity to sit in the dugout and represent my boys and my country.”

A brawl between Mexico and Canada was ignited when Chris Robinson bunted in the ninth inning of Canada’s 10-3 win last Saturday. Lawrie’s Toronto teammate, Jose Bautista, called the bunt a violation of baseball’s unwritten rules.

“It’s a code amongst players and everybody who plays baseball at a level higher than Little League knows what it is and there’s no excuse,” Bautista told TSN.

Lawrie defended the bunt, because run differential can be a tie-breaker in international rules.

“Some of the guys on the other team didn’t understand the rules … and it went south from there,” Lawrie said. “We needed base runners, we needed more runs. We did the right thing. You’ve got to run up the score as much as you can because nothing’s ever guaranteed. They just didn’t understand that, so what happened, happened.”

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