TORONTO – Uncertainty was the watchword for the Toronto Blue Jays on the eve of possibly clinching a berth in the American League Championship Series, due to the status of second baseman Devon Travis and left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano.
Travis, one of the team’s most consistent hitters down the stretch, was a late scratch from Friday’s 5-3 win over the Texas Rangers in the second game of the best-of-five AL Division Series with what is being called a bone bruise on his right knee. Liriano, meanwhile, will face a series of daily tests in the immediate future now that he is in Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol.
Blue Jays trainer George Poulis said Saturday that Liriano had been diagnosed with what the team is calling a “mild” concussion – you can get a debate going about whether such a designation exists, but there we are – and that there was no timetable for his return. The next step in the protocol, according to Poulis, are exertion tests – and Liriano did not have any of those tests done Saturday when he reported to Rogers Centre.
Normally, a player or pitcher cannot be dropped from the active roster due to an injury sustained during the post-season without missing the next series, too. But according to a spokesman with the commissioner’s office, teams have more mid-round flexibility now as a result of a rules change that became effective for this season, for situations “related to concussions or potential concussions, bereavement/family medical emergency, and paternity.
“A player can be temporarily replaced before returning during the round,” baseball spokesman Michael Teevan wrote in an e-mail. “So, Francisco would not be automatically ineligible for the League Championship Series under these circumstances. If he is to return to the field during this round, he would need to be cleared by our medical director, in accordance under our process with the MLB Players Association.”
Liriano was taken from Globe Life Park in an ambulance after taking a line drive off the bat of Carlos Gomez in the eighth inning. Liriano was in a neck-brace at the time, which Poulis said was a precautionary measure for any patient transported with an injury to the face, neck or head. The Blue Jays held their chartered flight for Liriano, who was not wearing the brace when he got on the plane and who in the words of Poulis has not suffered from any “severe symptoms.”
Poulis said that Major League Baseball would need to review any and all medical documents relating to Liriano before he was cleared to play. Last season, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson was forced out of Game 1 of the division series after taking a knee to the head. He passed the concussion protocol and was back in the lineup the next day.
Holding a 2-0 lead on the Rangers would seem to mitigate against the Blue Jays considering using the replacement option when it comes to Travis, even though the club is shy of middle infield depth due to the decision to sacrifice Ryan Goins for a relief pitcher. Darwin Barney, the only backup infielder on the roster, started for Travis in Game 2 and if he starts at second again on Sunday, Gibbons said that catcher Russell Martin would be his de facto backup second baseman in the event of an injury to Barney.
“And knowing Russ, he’d probably like to do that,” Gibbons said with a chuckle, referring to the fact that Martin broke into the game as a middle infielder and decided against playing for Team Canada in the last World Baseball Classic because they wouldn’t let him play shortstop.