Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays and Francisco Liriano could benefit from MLB’s postseason concussion rule

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Oct 7, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (45) is checked on by the trainer and would come out of the game after being hit by a batted ball during the eighth inning of game two of the 2016 ALDS playoff baseball series against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 7, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (45) is checked on by the trainer and would come out of the game after being hit by a batted ball during the eighth inning of game two of the 2016 ALDS playoff baseball series against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /
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On Saturday, the Toronto Blue Jays removed Francisco Liriano, who has been diagnosed with a “mild concussion”, from their ALDS roster in favour of right-handed relief pitcher Danny Barnes.

Had this been a shoulder, ankle, or any other variety of injury, replacing Liriano on the active playoff roster would have also disqualified him from pitching in the next series (ALCS). Under the MLB’s new rules, however, a player diagnosed with a concussion is eligible to return after sitting out for a minimum of seven days.

This would align Liriano with game two of the American League Championship Series, which is scheduled for next Saturday if the Blue Jays advance. This also relies on Liriano’s progress through concussion protocol, of course, and whether he is physically able to return.

In the meantime, Danny Barnes could have a short-term impact for Toronto due to his effectiveness against left-handed hitters. His changeup is a weapon in these scenarios, and helped catapult him through the minor leagues with a 0.88 ERA over 61.1 innings with double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo.

Losing Liriano is no small blow, though. The veteran left-hander was being counted on as a legitimate back-end bullpen option alongside Roberto Osuna, Jason Grilli, Joe Biagini, and Brett Cecil. Given that Cecil is coming off a one-batter, one-walk performance and still isn’t being trusted outside of situational appearances, the Blue Jays are left thin in that area.

Replacing Liriano on the roster with middle-infield depth like Ryan Goins may have been desirable for the Blue Jays, but playoff rules state that an injured pitcher must be replaced with another pitcher.

The Blue Jays’ next difficult decision will come just prior to the ALCS, should they advance, as rostering Liriano will require them to play one pitcher short for game one of the series on the road.

Next: Game 3 ALDS Preview: Sanchez vs. Lewis

Note:  The term “mild concussion” is problematic as it creates an opening to call Liriano’s injury “just a mild concussion”. That can be acceptable with an ankle or thumb injury, but should be eliminated from concussion conversation. Referring to Liriano’s injury as a “Grade 1 concussion” is more accurate.

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