Closer Ken Giles is headed back to the IL with a right flexor strain in the same elbow that had already caused him to miss the majority of this season, the Blue Jays announced prior to Wednesday’s game against the Yankees. That wasn’t nearly the end of their transactions, either.
Outfielder Derek Fisher, fresh off a costly error in the series opener at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, was placed on the IL with a right knee contusion after being hit by a pitch in a live BP session Wednesday afternoon. Anthony Kay was also optioned to the alternate training site after throwing 49 pitches of mop-up duty in the 20-6 loss.
The good news is that Teoscar Hernández is coming back the other way, as he was activated after a speedy recovery from a mild oblique strain. The Blue Jays hadn’t planned to activate the breakout star just yet, but when Fisher went down, the move was made. Hernández will be available in an emergency role in Wednesday’s game, but he could return to the starting lineup Thursday. Right-handers Jacob Waguespack and Hector Perez were also added to the roster.
The Giles news is a major blow not just for the Blue Jays, but for Giles himself, as he will be a free agent this offseason. Results of an MRI on that elbow are still pending, but it’s a worrying turn after Giles initially received a PRP injection in late July and couldn’t work all the way back to his old form.
“He gave it all he had. It just didn’t work out,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “That’s how it felt today. I wouldn’t think he’s coming back this year.”
Without Giles, the Blue Jays will continue to do what they’ve done. Some nights, the closer will be Anthony Bass. Other nights, it will be Rafael Dolis, who’s quietly been outstanding, or A.J. Cole, who’s also enjoying a great season. With this combination of back-end arms and multi-inning relievers that the Blue Jays lean so heavily on, the bullpen’s goal will simply be recording outs. Roles, as they’ve traditionally been defined, are secondary at best.
Waguespack will add some length to that bullpen group for the time being, while Perez, 24, will be looking at his Major League debut after topping out in Double-A the past two seasons. Perez’s raw talent is tantalizing, but he’s walked 5.2 batters per nine innings in the Minor Leagues, so the Blue Jays will be hoping that shorter bullpen roles help to unlock some of that potential.
With Hernández returning to the outfield picture, the Blue Jays could juggle their defense in a variety of ways. Cavan Biggio was in right field on Wednesday, where he’s looked plenty comfortable, and that’s been made easier by Montoyo having Jonathan Villar, Santiago Espinal and Joe Panik in the infield. In that setup, Hernández could DH semi-regularly down the stretch, then mix in as a right fielder with Biggio back at second or third.
Shoemaker progressing toward return
Matt Shoemaker (right shoulder inflammation) threw 45 pitches over two-plus innings in that live BP session on Wednesday afternoon, and the Blue Jays will have a better feel for his return timeline when they see how the veteran right-hander feels Thursday.
The Blue Jays are open to bringing Shoemaker back in a bulk relief role for the final stretch run and postseason, but if he's able to build up even further, there's also plenty of room in this rotation for reliable innings, which a healthy Shoemaker could provide. Especially with no off-days during playoff series until the World Series, the Blue Jays will need that rotation depth should they advance deep into October.
2021 Spring Training schedule announced
The 2021 Grapefruit League schedule was announced on Wednesday by Major League Baseball. Is it too early to begin the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting?
The Blue Jays will open on Saturday, Feb. 27, on the road against the Phillies, then have their home opener that following Monday, March 1, at TD Ballpark against the Red Sox.
After wrapping up Grapefruit League play with another matchup against the Phillies on March 29, the Blue Jays will head to New York, where they’ll open the 2021 regular season against the Yankees on April 1. Following a trip to Texas to face the Rangers for a three-game set, their home opener will come on April 8 at Rogers Centre against the Angels.