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Gurriel returns from injury with bang

Young Cuban homers after missing more than week
Special to MLB.com

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Spring Training got off to an inauspicious start for Lourdes Gurriel. The 23-year-old Cuban star, who signed a seven-year, $22 million deal with Toronto in November, appeared in the Blue Jays' first Grapefruit League game, against the Braves on Feb. 25. He entered that game as a pinch-hitter, playing shortstop, going 0-for-2.

But he tweaked a hamstring and was sidelined until Wednesday, against the Orioles.

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Spring Training got off to an inauspicious start for Lourdes Gurriel. The 23-year-old Cuban star, who signed a seven-year, $22 million deal with Toronto in November, appeared in the Blue Jays' first Grapefruit League game, against the Braves on Feb. 25. He entered that game as a pinch-hitter, playing shortstop, going 0-for-2.

But he tweaked a hamstring and was sidelined until Wednesday, against the Orioles.

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He wasted little time announcing his return to the lineup. Pinch-hitting for designated hitter Mike Ohlman in the seventh inning, Gurriel jumped on the first pitch he saw from Baltimore right-hander Tyler Wilson.

Gurriel crushed the hanging breaking ball for a three-run homer, scoring Rowdy Tellez and Darrell Ceciliani, who reached on back-to-back singles to right to open the inning.

Although the blast wasn't enough in the Blue Jays' 6-4 loss, manager John Gibbons liked what he saw in the Blue Jays' prospect.

"He looked great," Gibbons said. "He'd been out a while with a hamstring. That's his third at-bat of the spring. Guy hung him a breaking ball, he hit it a long, long ways. It was exciting. He was grinning from ear to ear. The kid's got a lot of talent. He'll be calling home tonight, I would think."

With third base coach Luis Rivera translating, Gurriel said he wasn't worried about trying to see pitches.

"No, no," Gurriel said with a smile. "[I] was concentrating on seeing a pitch, and it was a good pitch to hit."

Gurriel had an idea of what to expect from the Orioles' righty. From the bench, he had been watching Wilson, who entered the game to start the fifth. Gurriel knew he would likely face Wilson in his first at-bat.

He was prepared, he said, through Rivera. He saw the pitch, and it was a hanging breaking ball. Gurriel said he just jumped all over that one.

Gurriel went 1-for-2 in the game, popping out to open the ninth.

Gurriel said his hamstring is much better and that the doctors told him he was ready.

"This was [my] first game [back]," Gurriel said. "[I] had been working out the last week or so. [I'm] good to go. And it was good. [I] had fun today."

And, he's adjusting to life outside Cuba.

"It's been a little different knowing that in the States, in the big leagues, there's a lot of close games, and they got to play the little game," Gurriel said. "But baseball is baseball and [I've] got to know how to play the game no matter where [I'm)] at."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com

Toronto Blue Jays, Lourdes Gurriel