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Lawrie focused on maintaining health in 2014

Blue Jays third baseman looking to build off strong second half last season

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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie will admit that he's more than a little tightly wound, and he recognizes that a complete season must start with staying healthy.

So the energetic 24-year-old focused on his core flexibility this winter, hoping that some hot yoga and hip stretching will help him bounce back from an injury-plagued 2013 and pick up where he left off in the second half.

Lawrie began last season on the disabled list with a strained right oblique muscle, rushed back too quickly and didn't find his true form until after the All-Star break. The third baseman pointed out that playing on Rogers Centre's artificial turf can be tough on someone who plays with as much energy as he does, which made it even more difficult to recover early on last season.

"That was tough for me. I'm trying to find a way to get it done, trying to help my teammates. But at the same time, I know I'm not at the top of my game where I need to be," Lawrie said on Wednesday. "Trying to find the balance between that and trying to slow everything down and not trying to press on it, it's tough.

"It starts to wear on your body a little differently. ... Once that starts, it makes my body just a little bit off. I've been working on a lot of flexibility and just trying to stay loose. That's the thing. My body's already wound tight enough as it is."

Still, Lawrie managed to put it all together in August, batting .346/.397/.495 in 107 at-bats. He made the necessary adjustments at the plate, taking on a more upright stance and approaching each plate appearance with a plan in mind, and that helped him see the ball better.

"That really helped me out," Lawrie said. "Every at-bat was just more comfortable. We're obviously on the right path to somewhere positive, so we're just going to continue with that."

Ideally, Lawrie will take what he learned last year, both in the trainer's room and at the plate, and see it all pay off in 2014. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons already considers Lawrie to be among the top defensive third basemen in the Majors, and he believes the 24-year-old is just beginning to tap into his enormous potential.

"The sky's the limit for Brett. He could become an elite player in this game. He works hard at it," Gibbons said. "Year after year, you've just got to keep working and keep improving. He can do that."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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