Expect Blue Jays to be cautious with Guerrero Jr. regardless of diagnosis

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Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. awkwardly makes a play during second inning action against the Seattle Mariners, in Toronto, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. Guerrero exited from the game in the third inning. (Fred Thornhill/CP)

TORONTO – Expect the Toronto Blue Jays to be especially cautious with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., no matter what their evaluations of his left knee reveal. The discomfort that forced him from Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners isn’t his first incident in the joint, as a strained left patellar tendon sidelined him for 39 days last summer at double-A New Hampshire.

Worried about a recurrence of the injury back then, the Blue Jays focused the young slugger’s rehab on building up a defence against future trouble. As GM Ross Atkins said at the time: “We want to make sure that when he does come back from this it’s not something that is going to be reoccurring. With someone as young as he is we have an opportunity here to really stabilize in and around that knee and we’re going to take every opportunity to do that.”

A year and change later, Guerrero left the field after a top of the second in which he charged left to snare an Austin Nola grounder and then awkwardly threw against his momentum to first in an unsuccessful effort to get an out, and didn’t return for the third.

Not good.

Manager Charlie Montoyo said Guerrero “felt a little tweak in his knee” on the Nola grounder and was sent for an MRI “just to make sure he’s fine.” More details are expected Sunday, but you can bet that given his age and importance to the Blue Jays rebuild, there are a lot of people holding their breath.
 
“I know he dealt with something similar last year and it took a while,” said teammate Bo Bichette, who had two hits including a homer and was caught looking at a borderline pitch to end the game. “Hopefully it’s not the same injury.”

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Now, it’s possible the issue is minor and he won’t miss much time, but Guerrero is also a gamer who plays a taxing, all-out style on the field. He aggressively chases balls to his left, like Nola’s grounder Saturday, and well down the third-base line into foul territory, like when he and Derek Fisher just avoided one another, trading a friendly hug before returning to their spots.
 
If he said something to the training staff, he felt something worrisome.
 
Factoring in his ample and dense frame, there’s a lot of torque on his joints. The Nola grounder was a movement meat-grinder, as he broke left, bent and stretched to snare the grounder, took eight sideways steps toward second pulled by his momentum, and then twisted back and fired over to first.
 
So many different body parts could easily have been tweaked, or pulled, or strained, or torn.

Still, it’s his ball all the way and he was aggressive in getting after it.
 
“That’s a tough play for the shortstop, he’s coming (to third) and he’s got to throw on the run,” said Montoyo. “Any time the third baseman can get in front of him and get it, that’s better. That’s what Vladdy thought he’d do on the play.
 
Added Bichette: “Every time a third baseman can get to it, they need to try to get to it. I’m running away from first base, he’s running to it, so when he called me off it’s his ball. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the play and unfortunately, he tweaked his knee.”

A knee issue is perhaps the most troubling outcome.

Brandon Drury took over at third base and delivered a double in the fifth inning that bounced over the wall in right-centre, preventing Cavan Biggio from scoring from first base. Rowdy Tellez proceeded to groundout to end the inning, keeping the Mariners up 3-2 at that point.

Brandon Drury took over at third base and delivered a double in the fifth inning that bounced over the wall in right-centre, preventing Cavan Biggio from scoring from first base. Rowdy Tellez proceeded to groundout to end the inning, keeping the Mariners up 3-2 at that point.
 
Reese McGuire’s solo shot in the seventh inning tied things up 3-3 but Kyle Seager hammered one off the foul pole against Tim Mayza in the eighth to provide the margin of victory.

Bichette hit his fifth homer, a solo shot in the fifth, but also made a careless out on the bases when he was caught trying to steal third in the first, breaking before Reggie McClain released the ball.

In the ninth, McGuire’s double with two out gave the Blue Jays a chance to tie the game but Matt Magill got a call on a low and away heater for strike three that left Bichette visibly frustrated.
 
“I wish, in hindsight, I could have fouled it off or tried to put it in play somewhere,” he said.
 
Trent Thornton allowed three runs on five hits and four walks over six innings, working through the Mariners lineup three times. He mostly threw four-seamers – 42 in 86 pitches – while continuing a recent increase in cutter usage with 16, making an adjustment to his arm slot after a three-walk second that helped get him the zone more often.
 
“It’s more being consistent in my delivery and knowing where in my delivery (the arm) feels right, when everything is on time,” said Thornton. “Today I was able to make the adjustment a little quicker, avoid the bigger inning. I ended the game on a strong note, at least.”
 
A silver lining for some, an anxious wait for others.

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