How will the Blue Jays handle key injuries?

March 17th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson’s Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- At this point, the final days of Spring Training are about survival.

The Blue Jays have run into the usual dose of injuries over the past four weeks, but after some relatively healthy seasons for the club, it feels a bit jarring given the names involved. Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah and Danny Jansen aren’t exactly fringe players.

The organization has avoided anything season-altering so far, though, and the next week-plus will be used to round out the plans for how Toronto will react to these injuries.

Here’s how the Blue Jays will adjust:

1. RHP (right shoulder soreness)
If we’re ranking these by worry, Manoah is the runaway No. 1. The big right-hander’s shoulder issues late last season weren’t exactly clear, but something wasn’t right and he dealt with soreness again after his first start of the spring. Perhaps Manoah gets back on a mound this week and ramps up to a full workload by mid-April, but that’s the absolute best-case scenario. There’s a long list of other scenarios that don’t progress as quickly.

There’s no mystery to this solution. gets to run with a big league rotation job, and if he pitches as well as many within the Blue Jays’ organization expect, he could keep it. If that script plays out, Manoah wouldn’t just need to get his body right, he’d need to do enough to win the job back. This is a massive opportunity for Francis.

2. C (fractured right pisiform bone)
Manager John Schneider served up the latest on Jansen before the Blue Jays’ Saturday game against the Yankees.

“A lot of it will just depend on how Jano is feeling in the coming days and the next week, to see if he can start doing some stuff after that,” Schneider said. “It’s not displaced or anything, nothing crazy in the joint. Hopefully, it’s rather quick. We’re still looking at a couple of weeks, but it was the best possible news we got yesterday.”

The contenders to backup starting catcher Alejandro Kirk? and , each of whom is having an excellent camp.

“There’s probably a better defensive track record with Brian and a little bit more offensive-minded with Payton, but they’re both really good in certain areas behind the plate,” Schneider said. “It’s just a matter of how they match up with guys on our staff and how they’re going to match up offensively against who we’re playing. It’s nice to have guys who have spent time in the big leagues and have a pretty good track record at one thing or the other.”

Serven was scheduled to catch both Chris Bassitt and Yusei Kikuchi at the club’s complex on Saturday, which seemingly points to him.

3. RHP (right shoulder fatigue)
Let’s not even call this an “injury.” This was something minor that Gausman felt earlier in camp, but it derailed his schedule and he’s trying to catch up. Gausman threw 23 pitches in a live BP setting Friday in Dunedin and he will get into a game next, but the Blue Jays are in a race against the clock to get him ready in time.

“We’re waiting and seeing,” Schneider said. “We still have to build him up quite a bit, whether he lands at the end of camp at 60 pitches and then he can pitch without overworking and overtaxing our bullpen at the beginning of the year. If it’s at the end of the rotation, that’s probably the best-case scenario.”

If Gausman isn’t ready to make a start the first trip through the rotation, would be next in line, even if the “start” is a bulk outing combined with Trevor Richards to cover six innings. No. 1 prospect Ricky Tiedemann is the most exciting name here -- and he was mentioned by Schneider on Saturday -- but it would still be surprising to see the Blue Jays move up the timeline on their prized prospect just to cover one or two starts.

Another name that just keeps coming up? . The 31-year-old veteran got rocked in his one appearance with the Blue Jays last season, when he was brought up to cover some innings on the final day of the year after a postseason spot had been clinched. His stuff looks livelier in camp, though, and the metrics are pointing to some significant improvements.