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Grichuk swings in cage, hopes to return soon

MLB.com @gregorMLB

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The clock is ticking on Randal Grichuk's availability for the start of the regular season.

Grichuk went through light work in the batting cage on Sunday afternoon as he continues to recover from a minor rib cage issue. Toronto's right fielder is expected to be ready for Opening Day, but he will need to return to games in the near future if that's going to become a reality.

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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The clock is ticking on Randal Grichuk's availability for the start of the regular season.

Grichuk went through light work in the batting cage on Sunday afternoon as he continues to recover from a minor rib cage issue. Toronto's right fielder is expected to be ready for Opening Day, but he will need to return to games in the near future if that's going to become a reality.

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"The season's not too far off, we've got to be smart about it," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Today will be a big day for him, because swinging the bat is the big issue."

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The Blue Jays will have to wait until Monday morning before they know how Grichuk's body responds to swinging the bat. Toronto has eight games remaining in the Grapefruit League season and then two additional exhibition games in Montreal before the start of the regular season. Grichuk will need to appear in at least a few of those in order to head north with the team.

If Grichuk becomes unavailable for Opening Day, Teoscar Hernandez is expected to crack the 25-man roster and would become the favorite to start in right. That would allow Curtis Granderson and Steve Pearce to continue platooning in left. Hernandez is batting .333 (12-for-36) with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 14 games this spring.

Blue Jays Spring Training information

"I love the way he's playing," Gibbons said. "He's talented."

Last-minute entry
Infielder Gift Ngoepe was the early favorite to crack Toronto's 25-man roster with a spot on the bench, but that may no longer be the case. The Blue Jays signed utility man Danny Espinosa to a Minor League contract on Saturday morning, and he will now compete against Ngoepe for that final spot.

Espinosa made his debut for the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon in Sarasota and came through with a four-hit afternoon. He added an RBI single against the Pirates on Sunday. The 30-year-old Espinosa is a career .221/.297/.378 hitter over parts of eight seasons in the big leagues.

"He's a talented guy, too, and he's got a track record in the big leagues," Gibbons said. "That never hurts."

Video: PIT@TOR: Espinosa lines RBI single up the middle

Options
The Blue Jays optioned shortstop Richard Urena to the Minors on Sunday morning and reassigned infielder Tim Lopes to Minor League camp. Urena made his big league debut last season as a September callup, but he'll either be sent to Triple-A Buffalo or Double-A New Hampshire. In Buffalo, Urena likely would be required to split time at second and shortstop with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Ngoepe.

Up next
Right-hander Aaron Sanchez will make his fourth start of the spring when the Blue Jays visit the Braves on Monday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET. Relievers Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, Tim Mayza and Deck McGuire are also scheduled to pitch. The game can be listened to via an exclusive webcast.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Randal Grichuk