Blue Jays optimistic about Vlad Jr.'s return

March 12th, 2019

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s strained oblique muscle has led to questions from fans and media about whether there is a conditioning issue with the game's top prospect.

Guerrero created a bit of a stir last month when the Blue Jays revised his listed weight to 250 pounds. That's a far cry from his signing weight of approximately 200, and while there's no questioning his bat, there might be questions about other elements of his game.

The 20-year-old is expected to miss the rest of Spring Training with the oblique injury. He should return early in the year to Triple-A Buffalo, but the door to make the Opening Day roster -- which was never going to happen anyway -- has been officially slammed shut.

"Not concerns," Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said when asked about possible concerns over conditioning issues. "I think we’ve been very consistent from Day One. There’s one tool when it comes to Vladdy’s development that so far outpaces every other aspect of his development. That we’ve got concerns about every other piece of his development, trying to catch that up to his hit tool.

"I talked about Manny Ramirez and that model and challenge we went through in Cleveland a long time ago in the same way. I still feel the same way, it’s a little bit unfair to take a 19-year-old or a 20-year-old and say, ‘We expect you to handle yourself like a veteran, Major League player. We expect you to handle yourself, in every aspect of your game on and off the field, your routines, your preparations, your baserunning, as if it’s as good as your bat.’ We’re trying to develop those things right now with a sense of, 'How do we expedite that, how do we catch those things up?'"

Guerrero might have received one of those reminders late last week when he strained his oblique on a swing. But it's worth noting that even the fittest of ballplayers run into similar issues with obliques. Nobody ever questioned third baseman Brett Lawrie's fitness when he was in Toronto, and yet there were multiple strains.

More than a lack of fitness, this specific injury likely can be tied to Guerrero's violent swing. He generates a lot of natural power with his mechanics, but he also swings the bat with so much force that it leaves him susceptible to this type of ailment.

"It’s things that happen, so if that’s what the tests said and that’s what I need to do, I just need to make sure I’m healthy and getting ready to come back," Guerrero said through a translator. "Injuries are a part of baseball and I understand that. So I’ll just be working hard to get back after Spring Training."

Guerrero had four hits in 19 at-bats this spring with one RBI and one run scored. The Dominican native likely won't be an option for a promotion to the Major Leagues until at least late April following the latest setback, and Brandon Drury will continue to play third base until the day of his promotion arrives.

"Like anybody, it sucks," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said of the injury. "That sucks. You don’t want anybody to get hurt and lose Spring Training at-bats and stuff, but he’s a young kid, and it’s not as bad as we thought it was, it’s three weeks. So he’ll be all right."