The Blue Jays have placed catcher Alejandro Kirk on the 10-day IL with a left flexor strain, the club announced Sunday. The move comes after Kirk hit two home runs in the series opener against Atlanta and earned back-to-back starts in the shifting timeshare behind the plate.
Tommy Milone was also placed on the 10-day IL with left shoulder inflammation, and Anthony Castro joins him with a right forearm strain. The Blue Jays have activated Ross Stripling, who pitched 4 1/3 valuable innings to start Sunday's 7-2 win over the Braves, saving the bullpen from another heavy workload while allowing two runs on five hits with four strikeouts . Toronto also added Anthony Kay to the roster, who can offer length in a variety of roles, whether in the bullpen or rotation.
No. 18 prospect Riley Adams was also added to the roster and, when he sees his first action, will be making his Major League debut. As the most MLB-ready catcher available on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster, the 24-year-old was originally projected to open the season as the starter in Triple-A Buffalo.
Adams impressed during Spring Training, hitting two home runs over 17 plate appearances. His defense continues to develop, but with Danny Jansen struggling mightily at the plate of late, Adams will have an opportunity.
“Riley has some of the best raw power in the organization,” said Gil Kim, the Blue Jays’ director of player development, “so, offensively, it really is a focus on balls in play right now and his contact rate, and he’s making a lot of good improvements there. Defensively, receiving is the most important part of the game right now and that’s where he’s focusing his work, as well as learning game planning.”
Kirk’s injury comes just as he began to eat into the playing time of Jansen, but given the depth of catching in the Blue Jays’ organization this picture could continue to develop as the year goes on. The Blue Jays now have Reese McGuire and veteran Juan Graterol as depth, while No. 7 prospect Gabriel Moreno is expected to open in Double-A.
The Castro injury is also a tough blow to the Blue Jays. The hidden gem of this bullpen, Castro was added via waivers but has pitched very well through April, throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and earning the trust of manager Charlie Montoyo.
No. 6 prospect Manoah gets Triple-A assignment
Right-hander Alek Manoah was the star of Spring Training, mowing through the Yankees twice and looking more advanced than most expected. The club’s No. 6 prospect has only pitched in short-season ball with Vancouver back in 2019, but at 23, he’s being assigned to Triple-A to open 2021.
“The thought process behind Triple-A was driven by two reasons,” Kim said. “One, to challenge him at the highest level we thought he was ready for, and two, to put him in the best team environment there with a combination of players and staff, where we felt really good about Alek’s potential to develop with that group.”
There’s still plenty of development ahead for Manoah. His high-90s fastball and impressive slider lead the way, but as he rounds out the rest of his arsenal and the Blue Jays see how he holds up over a full season, Manoah could put his name on the MLB radar by late 2021.
“Both of those players are going to continue focusing on shortstop,” Kim said. “Obviously, both of them can’t play shortstop every day, so Austin will be playing shortstop and he’ll be playing a little bit of center field as well. Jordan will be playing shortstop with a little bit of third base, too. Both of those young men have put a ton of time, effort and work into developing as shortstops, but they’re talented athletes who can play other positions as well.”
The pair represents the next wave of positional talent for the Blue Jays and could push for the Major League roster in 2022.