TORONTO – George Springer left Sunday’s 7-2 win over the Atlanta Braves early with what the Toronto Blue Jays described as fatigue. Then, the star outfielder had what the club said was a planned day off Monday, when he was unavailable to pinch-hit in a 5-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics. Next, his hoped-for return Tuesday became an unplanned day off because he was still feeling “it” in his quad.
What is “it,” exactly? Good question.
Still fatigue, discomfort, pain, what are we talking about here.
“I would use fatigue, maybe, I wouldn’t use pain,” manager Charlie Montoyo said before a 4-1 loss to the Athletics on Tuesday. “Because pain, you can’t play. I wouldn’t call it pain.”
Well, Springer isn’t playing, and communicating clearly about what’s happening with the $150-million man would help snuff out growing unease about his status. Rather than using the type of vague language that’s created a little bit of a vacuum, if he simply has lingering fatigue in the quad he strained last month and only returned from last week, then say as much.
Because that would readily explain the Blue Jays’ handling of Springer these past few days. Fatigue would suggest he’s not hurt enough to hit the injured list, but not healthy enough to play without risk of aggravating the quad and turning it into an injury.
Under that scenario, playing out his day-to-day status makes sense, allowing him to resume playing if he bounces back. Playing a few games with a shortened bench is a worthy tradeoff for getting Springer back after a few days rather than 10.
Still, given that he’s played only four games since being activated last week, grabbed at his quad Saturday while running up the line — and has yet to be strong enough to play in the field — why not make him take the 10-day timeout, give him time to more fully recover and then get the complete player back?
“Because he was able to swing the bat when he came back,” said Montoyo. “The goal was that he was going to play in the outfield. Sunday he felt fatigue. Before that he was feeling good. You could see it at the plate. He was swinging the bat well, hitting bombs. Everything was going good until that Sunday he felt fatigue. He didn’t pull anything. He just felt it a little bit, so we’ve been patience since then.”
How much longer they can do that, with the team in the midst of 10 games in a row and running a two-man bench, is an interesting question. The Blue Jays’ rotation instability makes a 14-man pitching staff essential at the moment, although with Robbie Ray starting Wednesday and Hyun-Jin Ryu due to return Thursday, that need may become less acute.
Anthony Kay provided four innings of work Tuesday, the damage against him all coming in a fateful second during which Sean Murphy and Matt Chapman opened the inning with consecutive singles, Jed Lowrie doubled them home and Mitch Moreland followed with a two-run homer.
Trent Thornton followed with 2.2 innings of one-hit, one-walk work before Ty Tice mopped up the final 1.1 frames, providing a needed breather for a too-busy bullpen.
That they kept things close and gave the offence a chance to pull things out against an effective Cole Irvin was a bonus, even if the lefty wasn’t letting them up off the mat during his eight innings. The Blue Jays managed only three hits against him, two of them in the sixth when Santiago Espinal singled and Marcus Semien doubled him home, and struck out nine times.
A start that deep into the game feels like the stuff of fantasy for the Blue Jays right now, although some good news came out of Trenton, N.J., where Nate Pearson allowed a run on four hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in 3.2 innings during triple-A Buffalo’s season opener.
Getting the top prospect back in form would help stabilize the rotation, which in turn would help an offence still not fully untracked.