Sauna injury sidelines Blue Jays’ Martin with sore left knee

Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin (Fred Thornhill/AP)

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays open a nine-game homestand without their starting catcher after a surprise sauna injury sidelined Russell Martin with an injured left knee for at least two days.

An MRI revealed no structural damage for the Blue Jays’ catcher, who hopes to avoid the disabled list. Meanwhile, Josh Thole will start behind the plate for the Blue Jays on Friday, when Marco Estrada returns from the disabled list, and Saturday, when R.A. Dickey starts.

The injury occurred on Thursday, a Blue Jays off day, when Martin went to the sauna without having eaten much. He stayed in a bit too long and felt a bit woozy, so he went to take a cold shower. After a minute in the shower, he passed out, losing consciousness briefly as he slipped to the floor.

“The next thing I know I’m on the ground,” Martin said. “I had dropped the shower hose on my face and I’m on the ground … I woke up and I had the shower curtain half on my body”

On the way down he aggravated his left knee and also hit his head. Aside from a small bump, his head’s fine, but his knee remains “a bit sore.” He got some treatment from the Blue Jays’ training staff Friday and was relieved that the affected area wasn’t overly swollen.

“It’s probably going to be sore, but I’ve played through soreness before,” Martin said. “Knowing that there’s no structural damage kind of puts my mind at ease. It’s just going to be one of those years where I have to grind it out.”

Because Thole offers limited offence, the Blue Jays would probably not be comfortable playing him every day for long. Toronto also lacks obvious replacements at triple-A, which could prompt the front office to look outside the organization should Martin require more than a few days off.

Thole has never caught Estrada, who’s pitching for the first time since July 2 Friday.


The Blue Jays could have a decision on the future of Aaron Sanchez “not too far down the road,” manager John Gibbons said Friday. Though the club initially planned to move the right-hander back to the bullpen, his breakout performance has prompted team decision makers to think long and hard about the best way to balance his short- and long-term value.

“Nobody wants to move him to the ‘pen,” Gibbons acknowledged. “But it may be the best for the kid in the long run.”

“I don’t want blood on my hands either if the kid gets hurt,” Gibbons added.

If the Blue Jays do move Sanchez to the bullpen, he’d provide another legitimate late-inning option along with Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna. As a starter, though, he’s pitched at an All-Star level that would be extremely difficult to replace in midseason trades.

Sanchez, who turned 24 this month, has a 2.87 ERA in 125.1 innings, a career high at the MLB level. He’s never pitched more than 133.1 total innings in a season since the Blue Jays drafted him in 2010.

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