Phelps becomes latest Blue Jay to land on IL

May 6th, 2021

Another day, another injury for the Blue Jays.

This time, it’s reliever David Phelps who hits the 10-day IL with a right lat strain. Phelps came into Wednesday’s 9-4 win over the A’s and was warming up for the eighth inning, but he felt a pang and was removed before the inning started. As a corresponding move, left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu was activated from the injured list to make the start Thursday vs. Oakland.

Phelps' absence is a major blow to a Blue Jays bullpen that has quietly been one of baseball’s best in 2021. Toronto’s 2.47 bullpen ERA entering Thursday trails only the Yankees for the lowest in the Majors, and the group had pitched the fifth-most innings, often carrying full bullpen games. Multi-inning relievers have been a major part of that, of course, but Phelps represents one of the club’s traditional back end arms and he has allowed just one earned run with 15 strikeouts over 10 1/3 innings this season.

Phelps has exceeded expectations early and the Blue Jays have needed it. Julian Merryweather is on the 60-day IL, while both Jordan Romano and Tyler Chatwood have needed IL stints in April. That group will be further tested now, Rafael Dolis in particular.

Infielder Joe Panik was also removed from Wednesday’s game with left calf tightness and underwent an MRI on Thursday. The Blue Jays are still awaiting those results, but they are thin on immediate options as they’ve already needed to dip into their taxi squad for Jonathan Davis earlier in the series.

Blue Jays evaluating plan for Springer

General manager Ross Atkins says that the Blue Jays felt strongly about their decision to activate George Springer when they did, having based that decision on feedback from Springer and their staff, to go along with measurements like an isometric strength test and a speed test using GPS monitoring.

“If we have objective reasons to take the next step and put him in a position to make our team better, then we’re always going to do that,” Atkins said. “Having said that, we’re going to continue to revisit that process with George, with our medical staff, with our coaching staff and learn how we can improve. If there’s a way to be better, we want to do that.”

Now that Springer is back on the 10-day IL with a right quad strain, Atkins expects that this stint will go longer than the 10 days, but the Blue Jays are not setting a timeline just yet. Springer will get some light work in, but this will begin as a period of rest. Further down the line, the club will need to evaluate how it ramps Springer back up, especially after he re-aggravated this injury so soon after his initial return.

“Are there other ways that we can improve upon this process to maximize his return strength?” Atkins said. “Are there other medical opinions we can get or are there other resources we can use? The process will probably be relatively similar and there will probably be a progression as he returns.”

Kirk looking at extended absence

Catcher Alejandro Kirk will be out for at least four weeks with his left flexor strain, Atkins said, though it could be longer. The Blue Jays made the move from No. 18 prospect Riley Adams to Reese McGuire on Wednesday and that could stick for the coming weeks behind Danny Jansen. Given the length of Kirk’s potential absence, he’ll need some time to build back up upon his return to full health, too.

Extra notes

• Atkins expects Merryweather (left oblique strain) to be “full steam ahead” when he’s eligible to come off the 60-day IL on June 13.

• When Thomas Hatch (right elbow impingement) is eligible to be activated from the 60-day IL, Atkins expects him to already be built up to six innings and 85 pitches, so he should have an opportunity to pitch his way into the rotation.

• Anthony Castro (right forearm strain), an unexpected standout in the bullpen, should have a “relatively quick return.” That injury is not considered serious.