Pearce to undergo MRI, Tulowitzki ‘on target’, Martin optimistic

In Aaron Sanchez's return to the rotation he went five strong allowing just one run with four strikeouts. Kevin Pillar then won it with a walk-off homer in the ninth that gave the Jays their 5th win in a row.

TORONTO – Add Steve Pearce to the long list of Toronto Blue Jays battling injuries. The veteran utility player left Sunday’s game with right calf tightness, and will now undergo an MRI to determine next steps.

The injury occurred in the second inning of Sunday’s series finale against the Seattle Mariners, when Pearce hit a 1-1 fastball into the gap for a double. Immediately after sliding safely into second base, Pearce stood up and started walking to the dugout in apparent discomfort. Ezequiel Carrera entered the game in his place.

Pearce has started slowly, batting just .205/.256/.373 in 27 games, but had been hitting better of late. He has hit all four of his home runs in May after going the entire month of April without an extra-base hit.

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With Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, J.A. Happ and Francisco Liriano among those on the disabled list, the Blue Jays’ depth has already been tested. Losing Pearce would weaken the Blue Jays in left field, where he has played 23 times, while removing a valuable layer of insurance at first base.

“I’m tired of talking about it,” manager John Gibbons said. “I’m not talking about injuries anymore.”

Pearce has never played more than 102 games in a season due to a variety of injuries. Most recently, the 34-year-old underwent flexor tendon surgery on his right elbow last September.

Carrera has hit well enough to warrant regular playing time in left field, and Chris Coghlan has experience in the outfield corners. Even so, the Blue Jays could promote a position player from triple-A should Pearce require a DL stint. One such option, Darrell Ceciliani, could have the inside track due to his MLB experience and presence on the 40-man roster.

TULO PLAYS SIM GAME

A rainy day in Dunedin, Fla., slowed Tulowitzki’s rehabilitation work Saturday, but he remains “on target” to join the Blue Jays in Atlanta next week, according to Gibbons.

When the Blue Jays noticed that Saturday’s forecast called for rain, they suggested Tulowitzki play it safe with his strained right hamstring and sit out against the Daytona Tortugas. Instead, the shortstop played a simulated game Sunday, an off-day for the Blue Jays’ Florida State League affiliate.

Tulowitzki’s expected to play for Dunedin Monday, after which the Blue Jays plan to re-assess his progress. They play in Atlanta Wednesday and Thursday, and it’s conceivable that Tulowitzki could return for either game.

PROGRESS FOR MARTIN

Martin’s optimistic that his stint on the disabled list will be a short one after some light throwing and hitting over the weekend.

The Blue Jays catcher was placed on the DL Monday with nerve irritation in his left shoulder, and he received a cortisone shot that same day before resting for the remainder of the week. The Blue Jays, winners of five straight, have played well in Martin’s absence, but sitting on the sidelines was still a challenge for the typically active backstop.

“It was awful,” he said. “Awful. It helped because we’re playing well, so I’m on the bench having a good time cheering the guys on, but to not do anything is probably the toughest thing for me.”

Martin did some light hitting work Saturday, followed by a short catch session Sunday. Most importantly, a shoulder that was “just not functioning” before the DL stint has now become much more receptive to strengthening exercises.

“When it was fatigued, I couldn’t do one (repetition),” Martin said. “Right now it feels strong and I’m building that strength.”

Martin plans to continue his strengthening work in the coming days, and he could test his shoulder by catching a bullpen session.

“Everything’s fine,” he said. “The key is to not feel any fatigue in the shoulder, and in everything I’ve so far I’ve passed every single test. We’re just going to keep progressing and hopefully make that return date.”