TORONTO -- It’s not the worst-case scenario, but it’s not good news for the Blue Jays, either. Bo Bichette is headed to the 10-day IL with right patellar tendinitis after pulling up in pain while running the bases on Monday.
The injury came less than 24 hours before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline and had a clear impact on the Blue Jays’ plans as they acquired shortstop Paul DeJong from the Cardinals. DeJong is with Toronto now, activated on Wednesday in a corresponding move to Bichette’s IL stint.
After a nervous night, the news that Bichette’s MRI revealed “no structural damage” was encouraging, but every game the star shortstop misses is a major blow to the Blue Jays in the middle of a postseason race, especially with so many crucial games against AL East rivals.
“The quicker we can get Bo back the better, obviously,” manager John Schneider said, “but we’ve got to see how he goes with each day, with each treatment, with each activity.”
General manager Ross Atkins also expressed optimism that Bichette will be back in time to help the Blue Jays down the stretch, but this isn’t a player you simply replace.
“In terms of importance, it’s right up there with the most on the team in terms of what he brings from an offensive and defensive standpoint, playing every single day basically,” Schneider said. “He’s right up there as the guy who makes us go with his production. You look for other guys to step right in and have opportunities, whether that’s Brandon Belt, Danny Jansen, Vlad, George, Chappy, those guys in the middle.”
In the meantime, DeJong will take over Bichette’s duties at shortstop with Santiago Espinal the next option in line. DeJong is batting .233 with 13 home runs and a .710 OPS this season, but his primary value comes in the field, where he’s one of the game’s more reliable defenders.
Offensively, Bichette’s absence will need to be viewed more broadly. DeJong alone isn’t about to replicate the production of the AL hits leader, but a lineup filled with underperforming stars certainly has room to collectively improve. George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could make up for Bichette’s absence – and then some – by returning to their career norms.
A Blue Jays lineup without Bichette just won’t look right, either. The 25-year-old had appeared in 106 of the club’s 108 games at the time of his injury, and totaled 159 games each of the past two seasons.
“He prides himself on getting better every day and every year,” Schneider said. “I think he’s done that. I think teammates recognize that and we recognize that. He plays a very demanding position. What he brings from both sides of the ball, you don’t find that very often in this league.”
The early steps of Bichette’s recovery are “day to day” in every sense of those words. The Blue Jays will adjust on the fly based on how Bichette’s patellar tendinitis recovers, and while he’ll want to push it, Toronto will also need to find the right balance of caution for a player who means as much as anyone to this club’s postseason hopes in 2023 and beyond.