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Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista speaks to the media before a spring training baseball game on March 22, 2017. (Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press)
Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista speaks to the media before a spring training baseball game on March 22, 2017. (Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press)

Jose Bautista’s back and ‘feeling great,’ leading list of Jays returning to health Add to ...

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista says the lower-back stiffness that prevented him from playing for the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic last weekend is no longer an issue.

Bautista was in the original lineup for Wednesday’s spring-training game against Detroit, but with an off-day Thursday, it was determined he should hold off playing until Friday.

“I’m feeling great,” Bautista said. “I talked to the staff and it makes no sense to just kind of crank it up. Just take a day off.”

Bautista is hopeful that his strong start, hitting .563 with two homers and six RBIs in six games before leaving for the WBC, will continue.

“I’m seeing the ball well and feeling good at the plate,” Bautista said. “Just excited to be back in the swing of things with the guys, and looking forward to getting ready for the season.”

Aside from trying to reach the postseason for a third-consecutive year, the Blue Jays hope to improve upon merely reaching the AL Championship Series.

“I think we’re comfortable with the group that we have,” Bautista said. “We just have to stay healthy, play hard and play together. Hopefully this season get a little deeper into the playoffs than we have the last two.”

The 36-year-old Bautista was slowed by injuries last season and hit .234 with 22 home runs and 69 RBIs. He then became a free agent before returning to Toronto on a one-year deal. He had been an all-star for six successive seasons before his drop-off.

Bautista said he would like to play in the WBC again.

“It’s a great time,” Bautista said. “We love playing for our teams. It’s a different pride element, a patriotic pride.”

Meanwhile, reliever T.J. House is taking part in a throwing program at the Blue Jays’ minor-league complex two weeks after being hit in the head by batted ball.

“I think he’s going to be in game action real soon,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.

House was taken off the field in an ambulance March 10 after getting struck during the ninth inning of a game.

Second baseman Devon Travis (right knee) is set to play in his first big-league exhibition game Friday. His status for the start of the regular season has not been determined.

“We’ve got to be smart,” Gibbons said. “If it costs us a couple extra weeks, so be it.”

Third baseman Josh Donaldson (right calf) played defence for the first time after making his debut as the designated hitter Monday.

Outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. will probably be out a few days due to shoulder soreness.

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