TORONTO — The hardest part for Troy Tulowitzki is sleeping. As he continues to recover from a small crack in his left shoulder blade and muscle bruising in his upper back, the Toronto Blue Jays shortstop faces a nightly struggle to find a position in bed that lets him rest comfortably.
But when he’s at the ballpark, working with Blue Jays trainers who are doing everything they can to get him healthy enough to contribute before the season’s end, he’s starting to feel like himself again.
“I feel a lot better. I mean, I can lift my arm now. Before I couldn’t even move my arm,” Tulowitzki said Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre. “Every day I feel like I’m making strides. I’m definitely headed in the right direction.”
It all began a week ago in the outfield at Yankee Stadium where a hard-charging Kevin Pillar collided with Tulowitzki under a high pop-up. Tulowitzki fell to the ground awkwardly and left the field in unmistakable discomfort. Initial X-rays of his torso came back negative but a small crack in his scapula was discovered in a subsequent MRI.
Blue Jays trainers spent days attempting to relieve the inflammation, muscle bruising and internal bleeding that was preventing the crack from healing. On Thursday they sent him to visit a specialist in Boston who has experience dealing with scapula injuries and performed soft tissue work on the area around the injury.
“We’re just trying to speed up the process,” Tulowitzki said. “That’s definitely the goal. But anytime there’s a fracture, you don’t want to rush it.”
Tulowitzki hasn’t performed any baseball activities since the injury occurred, focusing all of his efforts on receiving treatment and rest. Sometime late next week he’ll undergo an MRI, CT scan and further tests to determine how far along he’s come in the healing process and how much more time he might need.
The day after the injury, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos relayed “a guess” from Blue Jays doctors that if all went well Tulowitzki could return in 2-3 weeks. On Saturday at Rogers Centre, a week into his recovery, Tulowitzki said the 2-3 week timetable was still his hope, but that it was far from a sure thing.
“I’m in waiting mode. There’s no plan. No date set,” Tulowitzki said. “You don’t want to throw a date out there and have people expecting you to return—and then you’re not there because you’re not ready.”
For now, the Blue Jays are moving forward with Ryan Goins as the everyday shortstop and Cliff Pennington manning second base, while Munenori Kawasaki provides middle infield depth from the bench.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is still hopeful for a Tulowitzki return at some point, but time is running out. After Saturday the Blue Jays have just 14 games left before what will likely be the club’s first post-season run in 22 years.
That complicates matters, as Tulowitzki won’t be able to take a rehab assignment or have much time at all to find his way at the plate if he does return in October.
“We’ll see how he progresses. When he feels he can do something, he’ll start cranking it up. But [Blue Jays doctors] didn’t tell me that there was an estimated time,” Gibbons said. “We’ve just got to run with who we have right now. Hopefully he makes it back. But if he doesn’t, then these are our guys. And they’re doing a pretty good job right now.”
The Blue Jays hope to have a better idea of when—perhaps if—they might get their star shortstop back sometime in the next week. For the time being, Tulowitzki will continue to receive hours of daily treatment and rehabilitation, watching from the bench as his team marches forward without him.
“It’s definitely tough. But at the same time, they’re playing great. That makes it easier,” Tulowitzki said. “If anything, it gives some other guys a chance to play and feel like they’re part of the club. It’s going to take everybody to reach our goal, which is to win a World Series. I think that’s huge for the guys that are playing right now.”