Injury bug bites Blue Jays during 17-in-17 stretch

14 Aug 2023 | Sports | 60 |
Injury bug bites Blue Jays during 17-in-17 stretch

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays finally got some rest and, hopefully, did some healing on Monday.

Injuries have piled up over a 17-day stretch where the Blue Jays played every day. All-star shortstop Bo Bichette is the most prominent name on Toronto’s injured list, but he’s far from alone with closer Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., Platinum Glove centre-fielder Kevin Kiermaier and reliable reliever Trevor Richards joining him.

The Blue Jays had Monday off and, after hosting the Philadelphia Phillies for a two-game interleague series, will have Thursday off as well.

“Seventeen in a row is tough, you know? We’re battling the injury bug a little bit,” said manager John Schneider after Sunday’s 11-4 win over the Chicago Cubs. “It’s a very welcome day off tomorrow for a lot of guys for a lot of different reasons.

“Hopefully they enjoy it.”

Schneider may have been underselling it when he said his team has been battling the injury bug “a little bit.”

Toronto earned nine wins between July 28 and Sunday to stay in the American League’s third and final wild-card spot despite losing five players to injury in that stretch, including some of the team’s most productive players.

Romano was the first of the Blue Jays’ cornerstones to go down, being put on the 15-day injured list on July 29 with lower back inflammation. Despite missing all of August so far, the all-star reliever’s 28 saves are still third in the American League and tied for fifth in Major League Baseball. He was in Toronto’s clubhouse on Sunday and is expected to return from the 15-day IL on Tuesday.

Likewise, Bichette still leads the Blue Jays with a .321 batting average and is second on the team with 17 home runs, even though he went down with right patellar tendinitis on July 31. His absence led general manager Ross Atkins to acquire shortstop Paul DeJong from the St. Louis Cardinals ahead of the trade deadline on Aug. 1.

Richards was added to the 15-day IL on Aug. 3 with ongoing neck inflammation. The preventive step was necessary for the workhorse of Toronto’s bullpen, whose 54 1/3 innings pitched are tied with Erik Swanson for most among the team’s relievers.

Kiermaier lacerated his right elbow on Aug. 6 making a leaping grab against the garage door at Fenway Park early in Toronto’s 13-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Rookie reliever Hagen Danner got one out in his MLB debut on Aug. 11, but then had to leave the game with a left oblique strain and was placed on the 15-day IL the next day.

“That was tough. It was a long stretch for us,” said outfielder Daulton Varsho, who moved from left to centre to spell Kiermaier. “We have a shorter series with some off days in here coming up, so that’s probably definitely needed for our team to get healthy and be able to finish out the season strong and be able to make a playoff push.”

Although not officially on the injured list, third baseman Matt Chapman and catcher Danny Jansen are also hurting.

Chapman was scratched from Sunday’s lineup 90 minutes before the opening pitch with an inflamed right middle finger after it was pinched between a dumbbell and the weight rack during his pre-game workout.

Jansen has been “a magnet for the ball,” getting hit by five pitches over his past eight games, not counting all the pitches he’s had to block behind the plate. That included two HBPs on Sunday.

“I feel bad for him because he’s wearing it, literally,” said Schneider. “He’s hurting a little bit and it’s a credit to him for going out and playing.

“It’s not comfortable to block balls in the dirt. It wasn’t comfortable for him to swing really. He’s a grinder. That’s just who he is.”

Potentially losing Chapman and continuing on without Bichette or Kiermaier is particularly difficult, as they lead the Blue Jays in wins above replacement, a stat that measures a player’s value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he’s worth than a replacement-level player at the same position.

Chapman has a 4.4 WAR, Bichette is 4.1, and Kiermaier is 3.1. Romano is 11th on the team with a 1.5 WAR.

“We’ve been winning games, winning series,” said starting pitcher Chris Bassitt on the team’s injury woes. “We have a lot of guys, especially from the pitching side, to make up for that. I think we’ve done well.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2023.

by The Canadian Press