TORONTO -- The benches-clearing fracas between the Blue Jays and Yankees during Monday night's game has led to a pair of potentially devastating injuries for Toronto.
Right-hander Joaquin Benoit sustained a torn left calf muscle during the melee, and he might miss the rest of the season. Second baseman Devon Travis aggravated his surgically repaired left shoulder and is currently listed as day to day.
Both players have been pivotal contributors during the second half of the season and would not be easily replaced. As a short-term emergency solution, Toronto promoted right-hander Chris Smith and utility man Andy Burns from the Minor Leagues to add more depth to the roster.
"It's a big loss, no doubt about it, he has been so good," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of losing Benoit. "[Brett] Cecil has been better, [Joe] Biagini -- we'll lean on those guys. And when the starters are good, we'll try to push them as much as we can. We'll have to make some adjustments."
Benoit is one of the main reasons that Toronto's bullpen has gone from a glaring weakness to a potential strength since the end of July. He's allowed just one home run and 17 hits while striking 24 over 23 2/3 innings in his 25 appearances with the Blue Jays. The 39-year-old has been Toronto's go-to seventh-inning reliever while also providing protection to primary setup man Jason Grilli.
The Blue Jays do not have an obvious candidate to step into Benoit's role, and it will instead have to piece together the final nine outs of the game. Cecil likely will take on a more prominent role, while Biagini also should see an uptick in high-leverage innings.
If the Blue Jays qualify for the postseason, then a member of their starting rotation also will move into a relief role. That job would likely go to either Francisco Liriano or Marcus Stroman, but there could be a possibility that Aaron Sanchez will receive some consideration for a move back to the bullpen.
"Nothing good comes out of those situations," Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said. "There's no upside. It's understandable why they develop, but they're unfortunate, and we'll try to work through it. If there is a lasting impact, then it's just one more challenge that we have to face.
"Every great team has to demonstrate resilience and toughness, and it will be one more challenge for us to face if there is a direct outcome."
The Blue Jays are hopeful that the injury news on Travis will be more positive. Travis got tangled up during the on-field encounter with the Yankees and aggravated the injury before making it worse during a fourth-inning strikeout.
Travis was limited to 62 games last season because of a shoulder issue, and he later had multiple surgeries which delayed his start in 2016. Travis returned at the end of May and has since become the club's everyday leadoff hitter with an impressive .299 average and a .778 OPS in 97 games.
If Travis is unable to finish the year, Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins would split duties at second base. The hope will be that it is a short-term fix, but it also comes with the danger of being something long-term instead.
Either way, the scuffle turned into a lose-lose situation for the Blue Jays. New York's season will come to an end at the end of this week, but Toronto is expected to play beyond that point, and any long-term injury has to be considered a major setback.
"I aggravated it, initially, during that little scrum," said Travis, who added that an X-ray revealed the surgically implanted screws in his left shoulder were not affected by the injury.
"I probably should have used my right arm and not my left. I kind of got it caught up in there, and the swing I took was a little reminiscent of the one I took last year [that caused an injury ]. As soon as I swung, I felt discomfort, so it was a two-piece thing -- initially the scrum and then the swing."