This has been a nightmarish week for the Blue Jays, and it’s only Wednesday.
As all outlined by general manager Ross Atkins in a chat with the media on Tuesday evening, Kirby Yates is likely headed for Tommy John surgery, George Springer has a Grade 2 oblique strain, and Robbie Ray bruised his pitching elbow when he fell down the stairs while carrying his young son at his spring training residence in Florida.
Yates is probably the headliner here, as he faces a lengthy absence that could extend all the way to mid-2022, when he’ll be 35 years old coming off two consecutive lost seasons. The right-hander was among the most effective high-leverage relievers in baseball between 2018-2019, posting a combined 1.67 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 123 2/3 innings for the Padres while earning 53 saves. But he logged only 4 1/3 innings in 2020 before requiring surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow and now that same elbow is in need of full-on reconstruction.
Toronto had brought in Yates this winter on a one-year, $5.5 million free agent deal in the hope that he could bounce back health-wise and solidify the closer role for a team with designs on making a deep postseason run.
That job seems likely to now fall to Jordan Romano, who earned two saves during the condensed 2020 regular season and finished with a sharp 1.23 ERA, 0.886 WHIP, and 21/5 K/BB ratio in 14 2/3 total innings. The 27-year-old right-hander battled a finger strain down the stretch, but he carried a clean bill of health into camp this spring and boasts a 1.59 ERA and 13/2 K/BB ratio through 5 2/3 frames in the Grapefruit League. If he does get the gig, or at least a strong share of it, Romano could be a terrific value in leagues that have yet to draft, even more so perhaps in leagues that have already drafted and offer free rein of the waiver wire prior to Opening Day.
As for Springer, the hope is that his oblique strain isn’t as serious as the Grade 2 label suggests. He has actually been playing through it for some time and has been able to do some rotational exercises without issue this week in camp. Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo stressed, however, that the team won’t let him back into a game until he is 100 percent. Can he get there by next Thursday? It seems like a stretch, but neither Atkins nor manager Charlie Montoyo would rule it out.
Ray is going to try to throw off a mound in a couple of days and see how the bruise affects his ability to pitch. There’s no ligament or structural damage, so the outlook is generally promising, but that patchwork Blue Jays rotation is at risk of being exposed should the 29-year-old left-hander not be ready for the first regular-season series against the division-rival Yankees. Toronto needs Ray to be a legitimate No. 2 starter this year, and he had been pitching like one this spring with a 1.98 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and 18/5 K/BB ratio through 13 2/3 frames.
Gallen Has Hairline Fracture
The lead story in Tuesday’s Spring Training Daily was that Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen had been scratched from a scheduled Cactus League outing on Monday due to what was labeled as right lateral forearm soreness. After another round of tests and a second outside medical opinion, it turns out the issue is a little more serious than that.
Gallen has officially been diagnosed with a “hairline stress fracture at the radial head of his right forearm,” the team announced on Tuesday afternoon. He apparently suffered the injury while hitting in a batting cage back in mid-March -- manager Torey Lovullo said he probably “mishit” a ball. Any more anti-DH folks out there?
The 25-year-old can continue playing catch through the first phase of his rehab, but he’ll be limited to low intensity throws to allow for proper healing and the D-backs don’t have a timetable yet for when he might be able to return to live games. It’s a safe bet that Gallen won’t be an option before mid-April, and if he has to essentially restart his throwing program from scratch, we’re probably looking at May.
Before this diagnosis, Gallen was going as the 14th starting pitcher off the board in the average Yahoo draft. And deservedly so after he put up a 2.75 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 82/25 K/BB ratio in 72 innings (12 starts) last year.
The vacant spot in the Arizona rotation could go to Taylor Clarke, who had been projected for a piggyback/swingman-type role. He has an underwhelming 4.99 ERA and 108/51 K/BB ratio in 128 career major league frames.
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Tatis Jr. … Just A Scare?
In a day of busy injury news around camps in Florida and Arizona, the item that got the most immediate attention was Fernando Tatis Jr. walking off the field in a Cactus League game because of what was later revealed to be left shoulder discomfort. Thankfully, at least based on the early reporting, it doesn’t seem too serious.
“He’s fine,” a source told Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune after Tatis was examined on Tuesday night.
The star shortstop ranged to his right in the bottom of the third inning and felt something a bit off on his upper glove side as he made a backhanded play. He’s right-handed, it should be noted, so this was not about the long throw across the diamond.
More will be known on Wednesday, but manager Jayce Tingler explained after that game that Tatis has dealt with minor shoulder issues off and on in recent seasons and probably would have kept playing had it been a meaningful game.
“It comes and goes over the years,” said Tingler.” He does a pretty good job of managing it. He’s got a good feel for when it gets bad and when it’s not too bad. He’s disciplined with his treatment and what he does to keep it good and strong. … We as a group just have to stay very on top of it.”
National League Quick Hits: Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Tuesday that Josh Hader will be used in a more traditional closer role this season … Carter Kieboom has been in the process of reworking his swing while trying to compete for the Nationals' starting third base job, which could ultimately go to Starlin Castro … J.T. Realmuto (thumb) homered in his first at-bat of the spring Tuesday against the Blue Jays … Reds closer candidate Amir Garrett struck out the side for the second time in two tries this spring on Tuesday versus the Padres … Kyle Hendricks has been named the Cubs' Opening Day starter … Drew Pomeranz (forearm) is scheduled to pitch in a Cactus League game on Friday … Kyle Freeland suffered a left shoulder strain in his Cactus League start Tuesday versus the A’s … Braves closer candidate Will Smith pitched a perfect inning with two strikeouts Tuesday against the Red Sox … Reds manager David Bell said Tuesday that "everything is pointed in the right direction" in regard to Tejay Antone (hip) and Michael Lorenzen (shoulder) being ready for the season … Francisco Lindor went 3-for-4 with his fourth spring homer and a double as the Mets defeated the Marlins on Tuesday … Adam Wainwright struck out seven while limiting the Nationals to one run in six innings Tuesday … Mets manager Luis Rojas said Tuesday that he has yet to decide on whether Joey Lucchesi or Jordan Yamamoto will have the fifth starter job to begin the season … Jacob Nottingham (thumb) is likely to start the season on the injured list … Mets manager Luis Rojas said Tuesday that Seth Lugo (elbow) hasn't resumed throwing … Rico Garcia revealed Tuesday that he needs Tommy John surgery.
American League Quick Hits: Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that the Astros have made an extension offer to Lance McCullers … Indians manager Terry Francona offered "high praise" for Nick Wittgren on Tuesday and suggested that he could be an option at closer to start the year … Twins optioned outfielder Alex Kirilloff to their alternate training site … Ramon Laureano (side) returned to the Athletics' lineup Tuesday … Khris Davis suffered a left quad strain in the Rangers’ Cactus League game against the Angels on Tuesday … Nate Pearson (groin) is set to resume throwing off a mound "within days," per Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins … A’s rotation candidate Daulton Jefferies had it going Tuesday versus the Rockies, striking out seven batters over four shutout innings … Isiah Kiner-Falefa singled three times and scored three runs in Cactus League action Tuesday versus the Angels … Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Julio Teheran (back) "feels good" after his early exit from Monday's start … Ryan Brasier (finger) threw live batting practice on Monday … Taylor Ward ripped a solo homer and added a two-RBI triple Tuesday against the Rangers … Felix Hernandez (elbow) is scheduled to throw a side session on Wednesday … Dallas Keuchel held the Cubs off the scoreboard for four innings Tuesday in Cactus League play … Rangers manager Chris Woodward said Tuesday that Jordan Lyles will pitch in a tandem role at the back of the team’s rotation, which could affect the status of Dane Dunning and/or Kyle Cody.