NEW YORK – An anxious wait over the status of Troy Tulowitzki looms for the Toronto Blue Jays after the star shortstop suffered a small crack in his left shoulder blade and upper back muscle bruises in a freak collision with centre-fielder Kevin Pillar on Saturday.
The team said in a brief release that he’ll be monitored closely for a week to help determine a possible timeline for return, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be back any time soon. Losing the steadying cornerstone for an extended stretch would be a significant blow given how valuable his presence has been.
“I couldn’t feel any worse about it,” a sombre Pillar said after the Blue Jays completed a doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees. “It’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever experienced on the field. I’ve been injured myself, but to injure someone else is a nightmare you never want to have happen on field. Especially a guy like him, who’s so important to this team and on a play where it could’ve easily been avoided.”
The injury happened during the second inning of the first game, a 9-5, 11-inning win. Initial X-rays on his ribs and chest were negative, but the crack was revealed during an MRI taken later in the day.
Tulowitzki drifted back into shallow centre along with second baseman Ryan Goins in pursuit of a Didi Gregorius pop up, and called off others as Pillar charged in. “I guess he waved me off with his hand. I was calling it,” said Pillar. “We never saw each other.”
Typically the centre-fielder has jurisdiction, but Tulowitzki was camped under the ball and as he made the catch, Pillar knocked into him from behind.
Tulowitzki stood upright after the contact and then rolled backwards onto the turf, the ball rolling from his glove. He lay flat on the turf for several moments and was attended to by a Blue Jays trainer before gingerly walking off the field on his power.
“I think the part of my body that hit him was my chin,” said Pillar. “He said it kind of felt like an elbow. It kind of happened so fast, I haven’t really had a chance to look at it yet. … It was just two guys trying to help the team win. We both feel comfortable making that play, and it was just unfortunate that it happened to be in that area where we can both get to the ball.”
Manager John Gibbons immediately ran out to take a look at his shortstop.
“You could tell that wasn’t natural,” Gibbons said. “He was complaining about his ribs and everything hurting a little bit. Tough news. You look at what the guy has done for us since he’s stepped on that field, our record is what it is, it’s tough. …
“We’ll probably have a little better idea in a few days of how long they might think it would (take to heal). Kind of a freak thing, it’s unfortunate. It means a couple of the other guys here get a chance to step up.”
Cliff Pennington came into the game in Tulowitzki’s place and will likely get the bulk of the work in his absence. After making a game-saving defensive play in the eighth inning, Pennington helped fuel the winning rally in the first game with a hit by pitch, and then hit a two-run homer in the second contest.
“Losing Tulo for however long we lose him is a big blow, but this game is not going to stop,” said Pennington. “We’ve got to keep going and try as a team to do our best to pick up everybody and do the best we can.”