TORONTO -- Star outfielder George Springer has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 strain to his left oblique, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins announced Tuesday.
Springer had been dealing with some “mild tightness” in the area initially, but due to some inflammation, the Blue Jays had Springer undergo an MRI, prior to Tuesday’s 9-3 win over the Phillies in Grapefruit League play. He is not expected to play for the next few days and the organization expects to have a clearer update on his timeline in the next “four or five” days.
“His symptoms and all of his baseball movements and patterns are incredibly encouraging,” Atkins said. “We’re extremely optimistic about his strength, about his range of motion, especially his rotational movements, that he could be playing baseball very soon.”
The good news for the Blue Jays is that this doesn’t sound like it will be a long-term issue for Springer. This news comes on the same day Atkins announced that presumed closer Kirby Yates is “most likely” headed for season-ending Tommy John surgery.
With Opening Day in New York against the Yankees just over one week away, the Blue Jays will use what time they have to be cautious with Springer and evaluate how he responds to treatment.
“He is extremely motivated and driven to be ready for Opening Day,” Atkins said. “I would imagine that it would have to be us taking that completely out of his hands in order for him not to be playing on Opening Day, so we'll stay open minded to it and reassess it as we continue to get closer. I can't reiterate it enough that our inability to recreate that pain or for him to feel a significant loss of strength or range of motion is extremely encouraging.”
If Springer does need to miss a small amount of time, that would likely bump Jonathan Davis into a role. The Blue Jays also have Josh Palacios on their 40-man roster, who’s had an excellent spring, but Davis’ ability to play center field should give him the advantage at any point the Blue Jays are without Springer.
“Davis is still competing for a job even if Springer is healthy,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “But, of course, Davis would be the choice if Springer couldn’t go.”
Ray takes a tumble
Left-hander Robbie Ray fell while going down a set of stairs recently and bruised his left elbow, Atkins announced. The Blue Jays will be cautious and expect him to miss his final Grapefruit League start, but are expecting him to be ready for the opening series against the Yankees.
The play for now is to have Ray throw a bullpen session in a couple of days. Over four starts this spring, Ray has posted a 1.98 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings. Given the lack of upside behind Hyun Jin Ryu, the Blue Jays need Ray to be at his best in 2021.
Positive signs with Pearson, Hatch
Not all of Tuesday’s injury news was bad. No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson is progressing well from a setback to his right groin strain and should throw a bullpen session “within days,” Atkins said. Pearson is still fully expected to open the season on the injured list, but barring further setbacks, he should be back early in the season after he finishes building back up.
Right-hander Thomas Hatch, who left his last start with “mild right elbow inflammation,” has no UCL involvement in the injury and is not expected to miss any significant time, Atkins said. That’s great news for the Blue Jays given the early worry regarding the injury, and if Hatch can return to full health early in the season, he should have every opportunity to earn a spot at the back of the rotation.
Gurriel goes yard
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. launched his second home run of the spring on Tuesday, a 380-foot, two-run shot off Zack Wheeler.
So much of the focus lands on the young core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette, or the recently-added stars in George Springer and Marcus Semien, but Gurriel’s offensive upside over a full 162 games remains underrated. That’s because Gurriel has yet to play a full, healthy season in the Major Leagues, with 65, 84 and 57 games in his first three years.
The 27-year-old has shown an ability to hit for both average and power, though. Gurriel’s last two seasons combined give a sample size of 141 games, close to a full season of everyday reps. Gurriel has hit .289 with an .874 OPS and 31 home runs over that span. If he recreates that in 2021, this Blue Jays lineup would reach another level.