Gausman (shoulder fatigue) is latest Toronto hurler with setback

March 4th, 2024

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- In Spring Training, no news is good news. Well, there’s been a lot of news lately.

Monday morning opened with manager John Schneider sharing that wouldn’t be throwing his scheduled live bullpen session. Gausman didn’t fully bounce back after his bullpen a few days ago and is dealing with “general fatigue” in his throwing shoulder.

“It kind of just popped up,” Schneider said. “He didn’t really bounce back after his side. We’ll see how he is in a couple of days.”

Gausman was supposed to throw something in the range of 40 pitches over two innings against his own hitters at the Blue Jays’ complex later in the day, but will instead be reevaluated in a couple of days. Gausman did undergo an MRI that showed “no structural concerns and no injury” according to Schneider, so while it’s relieving that Gausman has avoided something more serious, these bits of bad news are starting to pile up for the Blue Jays’ rotation.

Schneider opened his morning media session on Saturday with similar news, as Alek Manoah hadn’t bounced back well from his first Grapefruit League outing and was dealing with right shoulder soreness. An MRI in that case brought back similar results -- nothing major, nothing structural -- but Manoah has also backed off from his regular routine. He is scheduled to play catch Monday to see how he feels moving that shoulder at a low intensity.

The laundry list stretches on from there.

No. 1 prospect Ricky Tiedemann dealt with some calf and hamstring inflammation earlier in camp, which cost him a start in the spring opener, but it looks like he’s gotten back on the mound just in time to keep this from impacting his readiness for the season. Tiedemann looked fantastic in a Sunday session facing his own hitters and could make his next appearance in a game, which would be a welcome sign for the young left-hander with as much potential as any pitching prospect in the sport.

Next is Yariel Rodriguez, who was already fighting to catch up to the rest of the pitchers in camp after not pitching professionally in 2023. Rodriguez dealt with back spasms earlier in camp, which cost him some time, and he is scheduled to face live hitters this coming Saturday.

None of these issues sound major, at least not yet. You’re not reading the word “tear” or “strain” here, but in spring, even a week off from a pitcher’s build-up can be costly. Even a week off from max-effort throwing can take a starter off one track and put them on another, so in early March, that clock starts to tick.

The good news? Toronto’s rotation depth is far more impressive than it was in 2023 and ‘22.

Alongside Tiedemann and Rodriguez are Bowden Francis, Mitch White and No. 15 prospect Chad Dallas. The young Dallas has emerged as the dark horse of the group, showing an excellent feel for his breaking pitches and a bold approach to veteran hitters, while White has surprised with an uptick in velocity as he stretches back out.

It’s Francis, though, who should be next in line and is quickly becoming one of the most important pitchers in camp. Francis threw 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball with three strikeouts against Atlanta on Saturday, earning even more praise from his manager. There’s been plenty of it coming Francis’ way lately.

“He looked awesome,” Schneider said. “His stuff was there, everything from velo to location was good, the way he held runners was good. I love the different speeds between his fastball and curveball, then the splitter and cutter in between. I thought it was a tremendous outing from him. He’s in a great spot.”

The coming week is crucial for the Blue Jays. A clearer timeline on when both Manoah and Gausman could get back on a mound will determine exactly which level you should set your worry at, but for now, the Blue Jays need a few days with no news.