Springer makes long-awaited '21 debut

April 29th, 2021

The wait is over. was activated from the injured list and made his long-awaited Blue Jays debut on Wednesday night in an 8-2 loss to the Nationals in Dunedin, Fla. Springer went 0-for-4 at the plate, though he didn't strike out.

Springer’s return looked possible in Tuesday’s opener against the Nationals, but after one added day to rehab his right quad strain that’s kept him out through April, the $150 million man is ready to roll. He was eager to make up for lost time, too.

“I want to play. I’m tired of being on the IL and not being out there with the guys,” Springer said before the game. “I had an opportunity to play today and I said, 'Absolutely.'”

Springer being activated from the IL wasn't the only roster move the Blue Jays announced Wednesday: Hyun Jin Ryu has been placed on the 10-day IL with a right glute strain (retroactive to April 26); lefty Travis Bergen has been recalled from the club’s alternate training site; and Rowdy Tellez has been optioned to the club’s alternate training site.

Springer landed on the IL late in Spring Training with an oblique strain, and just as he was finishing his rehab from that injury, the three-time All-Star outfielder strained his right quad. The Blue Jays have taken the rehab process slowly to ensure the long-term health of Springer, who recently has been playing in rehab games at the club’s alternate training site.

Starting as the Blue Jays’ DH on Wednesday, Springer jumped right into the leadoff spot, which immediately adds some balance and length to a lineup that’s in need of it.

This is great timing for the Blue Jays, who have won four of their last five games to get back to .500 (11-11). Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is coming off a historic night in Tuesday’s win over the Nationals, too, launching three home runs and driving in seven, becoming the youngest player in Blue Jays history, and the seventh-youngest in MLB history, to hit three homers in a game.

With Springer back atop the lineup in his natural leadoff spot, Guerrero’s .360 average and 1.177 OPS should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs from the three spot with Bo Bichette between them.

“It’s exciting to hit in front of him,” Springer said. “The way he’s been swinging the bat all year, the way his at-bats have been all year, I think he’s in a much better spot with his mind and his swing. He understands what he needs to do right now and it’s been fun to watch.”

Springer has had a front-row seat to the Blue Jays’ unusual start. The lineup was expected to carry the team, with pitching being the question mark, but even as a parade of pitchers went on the IL in April, Toronto’s rotation and bullpen have found ways to keep the team afloat. The lineup has leaned too heavily on Guerrero and the team’s infield defense has been worrying at points, but to get to Springer’s return at 11-11 allows the Blue Jays to gain some momentum.

“Extremely resilient,” Springer said of the team. “It takes a lot to have the amount of injuries that this team has had. For guys to step up in big spots and to do things they might not normally have to do or have had to do in the past, it’s a little bit of what this team stands for. Keep fighting every day. It’s obviously only April still, but I like the way that everybody has fought. It’s next man up and keep on going.”

The Blue Jays have an off-day Thursday and stay in Dunedin to host Atlanta for a weekend series beginning Friday. That begins a stretch of 16 games in 17 days, so Springer could see additional DH days or a scheduled off-day to ensure a smooth and healthy return.

“He hasn’t played in a big league game for a long time, so we’re not just going to put him in center field every night. We’ve just got to be careful,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “That’s something we’re going to have to talk about every day with George and the trainers to see where he is, but I see him DHing a lot at the beginning, just to keep him away from running every day in the outfield.”

Montoyo projects those DH reps to be fairly steady for Springer as they ease him back into playing the field on an everyday basis, which is what went into the decision to option Tellez. Teoscar Hernández is close to his return, too, as the Blue Jays’ powerful outfield inches back towards full health for the first time in 2021.