Borucki to return to mound tonight vs. Indians

July 22nd, 2019

DETROIT -- There were three months between the time Blue Jays left-hander was placed on the injured list at the end of Spring Training with left elbow soreness and when he made his first rehab start on June 26.

Now that the rehab process is over, Borucki, who joined the Blue Jays ahead of Friday's series opener against the Tigers in Detroit, was activated off the injured list on Monday and will return to a Major League mound against the Indians at Rogers Centre, which gives him an extra day of rest on his regular schedule and slides Jacob Waguespack in for Sunday. To make room on the roster for Borucki, the Blue Jays placed right-hander Trent Thornton on the 10-day injured list with right elbow inflammation on Monday, retroactive to Sunday.

“Obviously the [2019] season didn’t start the way I wanted it to,” said Borucki, who went 4-6 with a 3.87 ERA in 17 starts over 97 2/3 innings with 67 strikeouts as a rookie last year. “It took a little bit longer than I thought, but the training staff did a really good job of getting me back healthy. I’m feeling really good, and I’m excited just to be able to help the team out in the second half a little bit, just to be able to play again and pitch again.”

During those days away from competition, Borucki experienced a brief loss of identity.

“Until I pitched in a game, I didn’t even feel like a baseball player anymore,” he said. “When you’re not able to play catch or do anything, you’re not really a baseball player, you’re just trying to get back. Then once you start throwing again and doing all the things you’re used to doing, then you become a baseball player again."

Though it didn’t take long for Borucki to feel unlike himself, he also felt immediately at home again the moment he matched up against an opponent during the rehab process.

“It’s weird, once you get back on that mound and you’re facing a hitter again, all those pregame jitters come back [and] you get focused,” he said. “It’s crazy how your mind works that way.

“You’re so distant from it, but once you step on the mound, a hitter steps in the box, it all comes back to you. It was crazy. That first game after, it was so much fun just to be able to play again and compete and have that edge back.”

In Borucki’s first rehab start, he took on rookie-level Gulf Coast League competition and struck out six over three hitless innings. Since then, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound pitcher continued his rehab assignment with one start for the Dunedin Blue Jays on July 1 and two for the Buffalo Bisons on July 11 and 16, allowing seven runs (six earned) over 15 innings, with three walks and 13 strikeouts.

Those outings solidified the turning of the page for Borucki on his injury, but with some early uncertainty surrounding the issue in his throwing arm in the beginning, there was some fear that the outcome could be worse until doctors were able to identify that the cause of the inflammation was actually a bone spur.

“At first, no one really knew what was going on,” he said. “Then, I kind of rushed back to try to see if I could get back and only miss a couple starts, but it didn’t respond well. When that happened I was a little nervous, but I talked to a couple doctors and they didn’t seem too worried about it so that made me feel a lot better."

“When it happened, it just felt like it was just inflamed at the time. Then we found out it was a bone spur that was causing the inflammation,” Borucki added on Friday. "I tried to come back, just didn’t respond, then I got a cortisone shot. After that, we agreed it would just be a slow process back and just not trying to rush anything."

Despite the early uncertainties, the slow nature of his rehab was the most difficult aspect of the comeback for Borucki.

“[What helped] was just kind of taking it day by day, not looking too far into the future,” he said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself. I wanted to get back fast. When I was [thinking] like that it made me a little bit miserable, because my arm wasn’t feeling good, but I wanted to get back. Once I knew my timeline of when I would be back and how long it would take, then I tried to enjoy as much of rehab as you can enjoy.”