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Blue Jays GM Anthopoulos says Rogers Centre turf not to blame for injuries

TORONTO - Brett Lawrie's latest injury has the Toronto Blue Jays confused because they're not sure quite how it happened. Lawrie felt something wrong in his left oblique muscle during batting practice earlier this week and now he's out a month.

Even confounded by the cause of Lawrie's injury amid a season full of them, general manager Alex Anthopoulos doesn't blame the artificial turf at Rogers Centre.

"I don't know that the injuries we've had have been linked to this," Anthopoulos said during a wide-ranging meeting with reporters Thursday afternoon. "Is there a wear and tear component to it? Sure. I'm not denying that.

"I just think it's too easy to say everything relates back to the turf."

Anthopoulos pointed to Lawrie's 2013 oblique injury happening at spring training in Florida and then at the World Baseball Classic in Arizona, all while running on grass. A couple of the third baseman's other injuries, a broken finger from getting hit by a pitch and sprained ankle from sliding into a base, could've happened anywhere.

First baseman Adam Lind is out with a fractured right foot now but landed on the disabled list earlier this season with back problems, and Jose Reyes and Colby Rasmus each missed time with hamstring injuries. Reyes aggravated his hamstring ailment on the turf at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, which Anthopoulos said used to be like "cement" when the Expos were there.

Rogers Centre uses AstroTurf GameDay Grass, which gets rolled up for other events. Anthopoulos conceded that the turf can flatten out the more that it's rolled but doesn't consider it the reason some players have gotten injured.

"Guys that have Tommy John (elbow surgery), I don't think there's an impact," he said. "Adam Lind broke his foot.

"It wasn't like a sledgehammer came up out of the turf and slammed him down on the foot."

Edwin Encarnacion strained his right quadriceps muscle while running the bases in Oakland, and his rehab setback came when swinging in Dunedin, Fla.

When a reporter relayed a story to Anthopoulos that opposing players have run to first and said to Lind, "I don't know how you play on this every day," the GM said he has heard the same thing before. But he also doesn't want to make the turf an excuse because the Blue Jays are locked into playing on it through at least 2017, when the stadium lease for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts expires.

Anthopoulos said president Paul Beeston and members of the organization were exploring the possibility of changing the surface to grass. Five retractable-roof parks — the Arizona Diamondbacks' Chase Field, Houston Astros' Minute Maid Park, Seattle Mariners' Safeco Field, Milwaukee Brewers' Miller Park and Miami's Marlins Park — have natural grass, so the technology is available.

"Would players certainly prefer to play on grass? Absolutely. Would I love to see grass? Absolutely," Anthopoulos said. "I know no matter what, the turf is there.

"It's not going anywhere, at least for the next few years. So there's no point spending time on something that isn't going to change."

Anthopoulos said it was a "total cop out" to blame the turf for any of the Blue Jays' losing, pointing to the Tampa Bay Rays' recent success. Rogers Centre and Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field are the only two Major League Baseball stadiums left with artificial turf.

Asked if the turf was a problem in signing free agents, Anthopoulos pointed to the two World Series won in the building formerly known as SkyDome in 1992 and 1993. But back then, the Blue Jays were among 10-of-26 major league teams playing on turf and one-of-five in domed stadiums.

Anthopoulos wasn't sure if turf being more prevalent back then affected then-GM Pat Gillick's discussions with free agents, but he implied it's not the driving force behind players signing or not signing with the Blue Jays during his regime.

"Even in the past, when we've been able to bid high, whether it's years or dollars, we've been able to get players," Anthopoulos said. "Do I think when things are very close, can it have an impact? Sure. But I don't think turf has anything to do with you win or lose games."

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