DENVER – In the sixth inning of Friday night’s game, Danny Jansen took a foul ball off his throwing hand. By the seventh inning, he was out of the game and his replacement, Alejandro Kirk, was hitting a crucial three-run double on the way to a 13-9 Blue Jays win over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
But soon after the game ended, Blue Jays manager John Schneider revealed that Jansen fractured a bone on the middle knuckle of his right hand. While further tests will be required before locking in next steps, triple-A catcher Tyler Heineman is on his way to Denver with Jansen placed on the 10-day injured list, who would be the third starting player sidelined in six days, joining Matt Chapman and Bo Bichette.
“”Unfortunate,” Schneider said. “It’s a pretty freak injury and seems like those are coming in bunches right now.”
It’s a significant blow for the Blue Jays at a time that they’re already facing considerable pressure to pile up wins. Kirk will be relied upon more heavily while Jansen attempts to work his way back as quickly as possible.
Still, the Blue Jays did gain in the standings. Because the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros lost, Friday’s win means the Blue Jays gain a full game on the teams they’re chasing in the wild-card race. Entering play Saturday, the Blue Jays now trail Texas by 1.5 games.
So far, the Blue Jays have weathered the absences of Chapman and Bichette well enough thanks in large part to two players who might have been labelled minor-league lifers a month ago. Ernie Clement homered and tripled on his way to a three-RBI night Friday while Davis Schneider contributed an RBI double, a walk and two runs scored. It’s hard to ask for much more.
“You can’t really say enough,” said John Schneider. “Ernie brings instant energy for one and two, he’s producing. When you call guys up when they are performing well in the minor leagues, it kind of carries over. It did with Davis. It has with Ernie. He’s been awesome. Stepped right in. And he’s going to be holding it down there for a while.”
Jansen and Brandon Belt also homered Friday as the Blue Jays improved to 74-61 on the season. All told, it was a positive day for the Blue Jays even if they had to use closer Jordan Romano to escape the ninth after Chad Green allowed four runs in his season debut.
As for starter Hyun Jin Ryu, he provided five innings of two-run ball – the Coors Field equivalent of seven shutout frames. He could have kept pitching, but with a fully rested bullpen after an off day there was no need to push him further.
Before the game, Bichette and Chapman worked out on the field, fuelling optimism that they could be back after minimum 10-day stints. Bichette (quad) hit indoors, fielded grounders hit directly at him and ran while Chapman (finger) shagged fly balls to work on his conditioning. The soonest either player could return would be next weekend against the Royals.
“That’s the hope,” said John Schneider.
In the meantime, though, the Blue Jays are getting by. And while it may seem like these contributions are coming out of nowhere, that’s not exactly accurate when it comes to Schneider, a 28th-round pick, and Clement, who signed a minor-league deal in March after being released by the Oakland Athletics.
“We have some good energy going right now,” Clement said. “There’s a lot of positivity. We believe in each other. They’ve had my back as soon as I got back up here and that’s been awesome. We’re feeding off each other.”
Remember, the Blue Jays have had plenty of chances to acquire other players. They considered bats like Mark Canha and Tommy Pham at the trade deadline before promoting Davis Schneider, who had more August home runs (six) than the ex-Mets combined (five).
As the end of August neared, at least one established middle infielder made it known that he’d be interested in going to Toronto only to be rebuffed, one source said. The Blue Jays told the free agent they believe in Clement’s offensive adjustments and ability to play all around the diamond.
Later, the Blue Jays did extensive background work on the various players waived this week. They had the payroll flexibility to make claims, but some players (starter Lucas Giolito) weren’t fits for this roster while others (reliever Reynaldo Lopez) went to teams with higher waiver priority.
That left former Blue Jay Randal Grichuk unclaimed, but once again the Blue Jays clearly preferred their internal options here or else they would have made a claim (while it was somewhat surprising to see the outfielder clear waivers, a second source suggested that wouldn’t have happened if he’d been made available when waivers were quieter).
Regardless, the Blue Jays showed faith in players who might easily have been written off as organizational depth and are now enjoying the benefits of that belief. With Jansen sidelined as well, the Blue Jays will need more where that came from.
Of course one win at Coors Field is just the beginning of what the Blue Jays need to accomplish on their road trip through Colorado and Oakland. Up next, Yusei Kikuchi will brave Coors Field as the Blue Jays seek to build more of the momentum they so badly need.
“Good way to start the trip,” John Schneider said. “It always seems to get a little dicey here, but the at bats were really, really, really good.”