TORONTO -- George Springer faced live pitching on Tuesday, which he called a “great step” as he rehabs from a Grade 2 left oblique strain.
Springer felt some discomfort in the affected area late in camp and, while there wasn’t one major moment when he recalls the injury taking place, the designation of a Grade 2 strain showed that it wasn’t minor. He’s been progressing well, though, and his session on Tuesday included 14 plate appearances against Blue Jays pitchers Joel Payamps, A.J. Cole and Travis Bergen.
If there’s one person more eager to see Springer’s debut than Blue Jays fans, it’s Springer himself.
“I’m going to push to play. I want to play,” Springer said. “I don't like to not play. I want to play as fast as I can, but it's still early in the year and I don't want to do anything stupid that could unnecessarily knock me out any longer. I trust the medical staff here. I trust what they have to say. I'm just going to go from there.”
According to the Blue Jays, Springer took 17 swings across those 14 plate appearances, which included four hits, three walks and two strikeouts. All that matters here is Springer’s oblique, though, and how he bounces back tomorrow.
The biggest challenge when returning from an oblique injury is a player’s swing, given the harsh rotational motion. Bouncing back from this and facing more live pitching soon will be the final hurdle before he’s eligible to return this week, but just like Springer acknowledged, there’s no sense rushing him back in April until he’s 100 percent healthy.
Springer has been running and doing defensive work, too, and has stayed with the Blue Jays on their current road trip. In the dugout, Springer’s just as active as if he were playing, constantly in conversation with his new teammates.
“I’m just trying to stay in the game and to let these guys know that I’m supporting them any way that I can,” Springer said. “Unfortunately, it’s not on the field, but it’s my job to stay locked in and it’s my job to understand the flow of the game, because I don’t want to get in anybody’s way or do something that’s going to make somebody angry. It’s just my job to be as good a quality guy as I can on the bench and I’ll always be supportive.”
Springer and the Blue Jays expect to have a clearer understanding of his timeline once they see how he rebounds from this live hitting session physically. Once he returns, the Blue Jays will likely face a decision between keeping Jonathan Davis as a fifth outfielder or keeping their bullpen at nine relievers. Springer is first eligible to return for Thursday's home opener at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Fla.
Jansen rebounding from foul tip
Catcher Danny Jansen left Monday’s game late after taking a foul tip off the inside of his right knee, just between the padding on his shin guard, but Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo was optimistic that Jansen will be back in the lineup soon, ideally as early as Wednesday’s finale with Hyun Jin Ryu on the mound.
If the Blue Jays do run into a situation where a catcher needs to miss time, No. 19 prospect Riley Adams is currently on their taxi squad and 40-man roster as the next man in line.
Reese McGuire is also back in the organization after clearing waivers and being outrighted to the alternate training site. This gives the Blue Jays some valuable catching depth, particularly when it comes time for the Minor League season to start, as they’ll have to balance who is playing at Triple-A and who is travelling with the team on the taxi squad.