ST. PETERSBURG -- After a disappointing first half of the season that was marred by injuries, third baseman Brett Lawrie has emerged as the hottest hitter in the American League during August. It has been quite a turnaround for a player who struggled to keep his batting average above .200 earlier this year.
"He's locked in right now," manager John Gibbons said. "He's confident, and he's doing everything right."
Going into Sunday's game, Lawrie, who was hitting .199 on July 22, was batting .426 for the month, tops in the AL, boosting his season average to .262. Lawrie's 26 hits in August also led the league. He collected hits in 18 of his last 20 games going back to July 28. Furthermore, he has struck out less than 7 percent of the time this month, compared with 23 percent during the first half of the season.
Lawrie sustained a strained oblique muscle in Spring Training. While on a Minor League rehab assignment, he was called back to the Blue Jays in mid-April when Jose Reyes sprained an ankle. Lawrie struggled at the plate, then sustained a high ankle sprain in late May, sidelining him for six weeks.
But the most frustrating slump of Lawrie's career appears to be over. He prefers not to talk about his recent resurgence at the plate, but playing every day at third base appears to have made the difference.
"Getting a chance to play every day, that's what's really helped me," he said.
Happ, Cobb meet in person at field that links them
ST. PETERSBURG -- Until a few months ago, J.A. Happ and Alex Cobb did not know each other. Then both pitchers were felled by frightening line drives on the same field -- Happ by one off the bat of Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings on May 7, and Cobb with another off the bat of Kansas City's Eric Hosmer on June 15.
Now, Cobb said Sunday, "there is definitely a bond that has formed between us."
"We're going to be linked with this, probably forever," Happ agreed.
Before Sunday's game between Happ's Blue Jays and Cobb's Rays, the pitchers met for a few minutes in front of the Rays' dugout on that same Tropicana Field where they were struck down and carried off on stretchers earlier this season. It marked the first time the two met face to face since their alarmingly similar, near-tragic accidents.
"I saw the actual play [on TV] when it happened to Alex," Happ said. "It was kind of surreal."
Both pitchers won their first starts here since returning from their injuries. Cobb beat the Mariners, 7-1, on Thursday in his first big league game in two months. Happ bested the Rays, 6-2, on Saturday night for his first win since April 12 and third big league game following a three-month recovery period.
"It's nice to see we're both back at it," Happ said.
"Not too many people know what we went through," Cobb said. "It gives me peace of mind, seeing him back on the mound and doing well."
Each pitcher said he would like to see some sort of protective headgear developed for pitchers.
"Whether a pitcher wants to pitch in headgear or not should be up to him, but it definitely should be an option," Cobb said.
"I think, if it was available, if it was functional and comfortable and didn't hinder performance, I'd definitely be for it," Happ said.
"It's part of the inherent risk that everybody takes going out to play," the Blue Jays' left-hander added. "But I hope it is an option that becomes available."
Lind making case at plate to stay in Toronto
ST. PETERSBURG -- The fact that Adam Lind homered twice in Saturday's 6-2 victory, both times with two strikes against him, did not go unnoticed by manager John Gibbons.
"I think maybe he's heating up again," Gibbons said.
Lind and Blue Jays fans hope so.
Lind's contract expires at the end of this season. But Toronto holds club options on his services for next year and beyond.
"I'd like to stay here," Lind said. "All I can do is do as much as I can on the field. But that decision is not up to me."
However, a strong finish might go a long way in settling Lind's future.
"That's all part of the game; it's ups and downs," said Lind, who hit .280 with 16 HRs and 44 RBIs through Saturday. "I know everyone will have some down parts of the season. All you can do is try to stay consistent. You take what they give you. I've played enough, so nothing surprises me."
• With Reyes sidelined by a sore right knee and Munenori Kawasaki away on paternity leave, manager John Gibbons was left with only two bench players Sunday -- backup catcher Josh Thole and outfielder Rajai Davis.
• Reyes did not quite blame artificial turf for the discomfort in his injured knee. But he does not believe it helped, either.
"Everybody knows it's tough to play on turf, so you have to take care of your body when you play on turf," Reyes said.
• Left-hander Sean Nolin and catcher A.J. Jimenez, rated by MLB.com as the Blue Jays' No. 5 and No. 9 prospects, were promoted from Double-A New Hampshire to Triple-A Buffalo. Nolin, who made his Major League debut earlier this season, will most likely be called up again before season's end.
Jimenez, who had Tommy John surgery last year, is the organization's top catching prospect.
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.