The Toronto Blue Jays have weathered their fair share of injuries over the past several years and the fruits of their labors were definitely meager because of their struggles with health. Thus far in 2014, they’ve managed to persevere through the occasional injury and found a way to push themselves into first place.
However, the magical run has slowed to a halt, as the Jays went into a slide and watched their division lead dwindle from a season-high 6 games on June 6th to just 1.5 games entering play on Monday. And to make matters worse, the Blue Jays may be forced to defend the top of the mountain while short a few hands.
The recent slide has really taken its toll on the Blue Jays, both mentally and physically, as the team has endured lackadaisical play only to be bitten by the injury bug once again. Jose Reyes didn’t start on Sunday after fouling a pitch off his leg and coming out of the game on Saturday. Adam Lind has been limited to pinch hitting duties over the last four games due to a sore right foot, further shortening the Blue Jays bench.
And that was all before Sunday happened.
The first blow came in the second inning, when Brett Lawrie was plunked on the hand by Johnny Cueto, the third time in a week the Blue Jays third baseman was hit on the hand. This time, he wasn’t able to escape with a bruise, as a broken index finger on his right hand will likely land Lawrie on the disabled list for the better part of the next two months, as Michael Wray discussed yesterday.
Making matters worse, Wray also had to report that the Blue Jays were dealt further damage in the third, when slugger Jose Bautista opted to lay down a bunt in the third inning and tweaked something in the back of his left leg. It was a decision that resulted in loading the bases and lead to two runs in the inning, but also saw Bautista lifted from the game.
Bautista is considered day-to-day and will be evaluated on Monday by an MRI in Toronto, but considering it was a lingering injury, he’ll likely at least sit on Monday for the opener with the Yankees. Bautista leads Major League Baseball with a .433 on-base percentage and is hitting .305 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI.
Brett Lawrie was slashing just .244/.299/.419 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI, but had really made some strides over the last four weeks with his slash-line rising to .274/.340/.429 and limiting his strike-outs to just 14 over that span.
The Blue Jays bench and minor league depth will certainly be tested with these latest injuries. Even if Toronto can get Jose Reyes back on the field without issue, Toronto is looking at a steady dose of Juan Francisco at third base, with some mixture of Munenori Kawasaki and Steve Tolleson at second base, and perhaps Tolleson in right field. With Lawrie hitting the disabled list, expect Toronto to recall an outfielder (likely Kevin Pillar or Darin Mastroianni), which could aid in that regard, but still.
Francisco has been a nightmare in June, slashing an Arencibia-esque .160/.208/.420 with 3 walks and 22 strike-outs in 53 plate appearances. Steve Tolleson has somehow managed to be worse, putting up a paltry .111/.172/.111 slash-line in June. And that says nothing of Kawasaki, who has been, well Kawasaki.
No friends, these are dire days and the Blue Jays will need some of these guys to step up if they expect to survive a three-game set against the Yankees and a tough match-up with the powerhouse White Sox to close out the month.
Maybe a move is on the way, because this team needs something to pull out of the tailspin. They need a spark, not a set of handcuffs.