TORONTO — Toronto Blue Jays closer Ken Giles was unavailable Saturday, as his weeks-long battle with elbow issues continued. Giles last appeared in a game on Wednesday, but his arm was evidently not well enough to pitch nearly 72 hours later. According to Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, a trip to the injured list is a possibility.
Montoyo’s post-game media availability was delayed considerably following Saturday’s 5-4 Blue Jays win over the New York Yankees while he conferenced with club staff regarding Giles’s next steps. When Montoyo eventually arrived at the podium, he revealed that Giles was ruled out prior to the game.
“His arm’s not bouncing back. And that’s what I was just doing. We were having a conversation and we were talking about it to see where we’re going to go from here,” Montoyo said. “It’s up to them. We’ll see. If he’s not able to bounce back, then he might have to go on the IL. We’re talking about it. If it’s a couple more days, we could wait. That was our conversation that we were just having.
“Going into the game, I already [knew I didn’t] have Giles. We’re trying. But if the guy’s not 100 per cent, we’re not going to use somebody who’s not 100 per cent.”
The elbow issues date back to early July, when Giles threw an inning of work on three consecutive days during a series against the Boston Red Sox. The 28-year-old has pitched only six times over the five weeks since, and already spent 10 days on the injured list around the July all-star break.
It appears another stint is being seriously considered. After he spoke to the media, Montoyo had a long meeting in his office with Giles and Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker. If Giles does hit the IL, the Blue Jays could backdate it to Aug. 8 and potentially have him return as soon as next weekend.
One way or another, Toronto likely needs to do something with its roster in the coming days. The Blue Jays played Saturday’s game with only two position players on the bench, an untenable situation long term. And Toronto may require bullpen help as soon as Sunday’s series finale against the Yankees, after using five pitchers to get through Saturday’s game. Trent Thornton is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays Sunday, and he’s failed to complete four innings in five of his last seven outings.
After Wilmer Font and Jacob Waguespack got the Blue Jays through 5.2 innings Saturday, Tim Mayza pitched for a second consecutive day, and his fifth time in the last seven days. Jason Adam followed and earned the win, throwing 32 pitches over 1.1 innings after throwing 32 pitches over 2.2 innings two days prior. Derek Law then worked a four-out save, pitching on a second consecutive day. Justin Shafer, who has received high-leverage work of late, didn’t appear at all, likely due to pitching on four of the last eight days, and having thrown 74 pitches over 4.2 innings in the last week.
Of course, a Giles injury carries ramifications that extend far beyond the coming days and weeks. He’s the Blue Jays best reliever by a mile, and a lock to be the club’s closer next season if he’s still on the team.
Toronto discussed Giles in trade discussions with multiple teams at last month’s deadline, ultimately failing to come to terms on a deal. It’s likely the Blue Jays will revisit discussions this offseason or potentially at next year’s deadline, as the club’s front office continues to seek ways to add young talent to its minor-league system ahead of an expected return to contention in the coming years. But other clubs will want to see Giles healthy and effective before surrendering anything of serious value in a trade.
When he last pitched on Wednesday, Giles allowed two runs on three hits while striking out two. It was the third time in his last seven outings that Giles has surrendered a run. But even with that damage, his ERA on the season still sits at an exceptional 1.95, which he’s paired with an elite 14.8 K/9.
Rather than his results, the Blue Jays are likely more concerned with a slight dip in Giles’s fastball velocity, which averaged 98.5-m.p.h. in May and 97.7-m.p.h. June, but has so far averaged 96.7-m.p.h. in July. Giles hit 100-m.p.h. on the radar gun multiple times in May and June, but the hardest pitch he’s thrown this month was clocked at 97.6-m.p.h.