TORONTO — At last playing better baseball after a poor start to the season, the Toronto Blue Jays are now facing a run of injuries that may make it more difficult to fully recover.
Reliever Sergio Santos is bound for surgery that will cost him about six weeks while Melky Cabrera is scheduled to have an MRI on his tight left hamstring, GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons revealed Tuesday, those items leading off a lengthy list of updates.
The best bit of news for the team comes in the form of Jose Reyes having the walking boot removed from his sprained left ankle, with light catch sessions and hitting off a tee due to begin in the coming days.
The Blue Jays had conservatively set a return for the star shortstop around the all-star break, but that may very well get sped up, with live batting practice and simulated games possible by the start of June.
“We’re now looking at how many weeks does it take before he’s sprinting and running,” said Anthopoulos. “Is it two weeks? Could be. Let’s say it’s two weeks, now you have another month to really get a lot of reps, batting practice, get into games, how many games is he going to need. It would not surprise me to see him back at the end of June.
“The fact that he’s out of the boot and we’re in the middle of May, six weeks from now doesn’t seem like a stretch.”
The Blue Jays will reconnect with Reyes, who’s in New York, on Friday when they open a series against the Yankees. Updates on several of his teammates follow below:
Sergio Santos – The triceps injury that interrupted the reliever’s spring training and landed him on the disabled list Apr. 14 is leading to surgery this week that will shave down bone spurs and remove loose bodies from his elbow.
Santos is expected to miss six weeks, and the news comes just as he was on the verge of returning from the disabled list. Anthopoulos said that after turning things up Saturday in an extended spring training game, he didn’t feel very good and his velocity was down from where it needed to be.
“That’s when they said, let’s get these spurs shaved down and let’s take these loose bodies out and he should be fine,” said Anthopoulos.
This is the second straight season with a surgery for Santos, who was acquired from the Chicago White Sox two winters ago for prospect Nestor Molina (who’s also had elbow and shoulder injuries). He appeared in six games before shoulder woes shut him down and eventually needed surgery, while he got into five games this year before being sidelined.
Speaking with reporters last week in St. Petersburg, Santos indicated that he didn’t quite feel 100 per cent but said he wanted to push things to make a decision one way or another.
“They did say as he starts to get back and throwing, if there’s discomfort along the way, it might be something we look at doing,” Anthopoulos explained. “Internally we talked about even if he pitched through the season without any discomfort, because it’s a pretty quick operation, we’d probably get the loose bodies out and the bone spurs shaved down during the off-season.”
Melky Cabrera – The outfielder has resembled a sack of cement with limbs running the bases of late and an MRI planned for Wednesday will look into what might be causing the tightness he’s experiencing in his hamstrings, particularly the left one.
Anthopoulos said Cabrera has struggled with the problem since spring training — playing on turf hasn’t helped — and that a stint on the disabled list “could happen.”
“We’re hopeful that it just needs a little bit of rest and it’s not that serious,” he added. “We thought over time with treatment it could get better. It’s the left hamstring that’s been tight, with the off-days, it times well to get a look at it … just to make sure is it a strain, is there inflammation, is there something going? We’ve been treating him on and off, but it’s been tough when he’s playing out in the field every day, playing on turf, it’s been hard to allow it to heal.”
Over the weekend in Boston, Cabrera said through interpreter Luis Rivera that “I’m going to give it whatever I have that day. I want to be in the lineup every day no matter what. That’s why I continue to play.”
Should he end up on the disabled list, the Blue Jays would likely play Emilio Bonifacio every day in left field, while options for a call-up from triple-A Buffalo include outfielders Moises Sierra and Anthony Gose (who’s had a tough go of late) or perhaps infielder Jim Negrych.
Brandon Morrow – The right-hander had his start pushed back a third time, from Wednesday against San Francisco to Saturday at the Yankees, to ensure “he’s as close as possible to 100 per cent,” said Gibbons.
Ramon Ortiz will fill in versus the Giants, with the veteran right-hander and Chad Jenkins essentially being start-to-start right now. The Blue Jays now line up Mark Buehrle, Morrow and R.A. Dickey this weekend at New York, and are TBA for Monday and Tuesday back home versus the Rays.
For his part Morrow said the neck issues were behind him and that he’s ready to go.
“I prepared all week to pitch (Wednesday) and I came in (Tuesday) with the intention of pitching (Wednesday),” he said in a brief interview. “They told me they’re going to have me go Saturday, it’s a combination of wanting to make sure I was for sure, 100 per cent.
“It’s frustrating because I’m ready to go, I’m anxious to get back out there and it sucks sitting around and just waiting. It gives me a chance to throw another bullpen (Wednesday), to go at it a little more aggressively and throw all my pitches like a normal session.”
Chad Jenkins, who held the Boston Red Sox to two runs over five innings Sunday, is currently lined up to pitch next Monday and depending on how Ortiz fares Wednesday, he may follow him.
“If he throws well, I don’t see why we’d change that,” said Anthopoulos, who credited Jenkins for having “the best command I’ve ever seen him have (Sunday). We knew he threw strikes, and he could sink the ball, but the way he was hitting the glove, I’ve never seen that kind of command from him. If he has that type of command, he’s going to be able to beat a lot of teams.”
Josh Johnson – The right-hander, who’s also battling tightness in his triceps that was only supposed to cost him on start, was playing long toss a couple of days ago and is due to have another session before returning to the mound.
The tentative date for a rehab game is May 20 or 21, but a return before June is highly unlikely.
“He’s throwing, he’s up to 120 feet, we’re still on track to have him make a rehab appearance, I would guess it would be about two innings the first appearance,” said Anthopoulos. “One more after that, assuming he gets to four (innings in the second stint), and then the question is, we brought Chad Jenkins up and it was basically going to be a five inning outing, with Josh, we can call him up and have him make that start knowing we’re not going to run him 110, 120 (pitches). Or we could give him one more just to build him up more.”
J.A. Happ – The left-hander is still in Florida after suffering a right knee sprain, a minor skull fracture behind his left ear and taking eight stitches to close a gash in his ear, waiting for things to calm down before he resumes exercising.
“The reports are overall he’s moving in the right direction, still has some soreness,” said Anthopoulos. “The next few days will be telling, see how much more it responds. “
Dustin McGowan – The star-struck right-hander is starting a rehab assignment with single-A Dunedin and while he has 30 days to work himself back into shape, Anthopoulos pointed out that he can come off the 60-day DL on May 30 “and I expect him to be ready.”
McGowan has been using the weighted ball program introduced to the Blue Jays by Steve Delabar and has made big strides with his shoulder’s recovery since.
“This is as optimistic as I’ve been because it’s been quite some time that he continues to feel great,” said Anthopoulos. “There’s always some type of soreness, but we haven’t seen anything, at least on the reports. … Again, it’s still two weeks from (May 30), but it looks good, he’s maintaining his velocity, he’s consistently 94, 95, and the big thing is he continues to feel good the next day.”
Should he return, McGowan would come back as a reliever.