Blue Jays: Injury updates and reasons to believe

Mar 24, 2017; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ (33) walks off the field after being relieved in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox during spring training at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 24, 2017; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ (33) walks off the field after being relieved in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox during spring training at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /
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After 47 games played, the Blue Jays’ season hasn’t gone according to plan. At the same time, there are plenty of reasons to still believe in this club.

In a 162 game season, I’ve always used the 54 game mark (1/3) as the first real assessment of where things are at with MLB teams. Sure, I’ll admit that I’ve started thinking about the trade deadline already, as well as what the next offseason could bring for the aging roster.

That said, I really do think it’s important to give any team at least those 54 games before you can even begin to assess their position. In the modern Wild Card era, you could argue that half of the league is still making that assessment right up until the trade deadline.

At the moment, the Blue Jays have a record of 21-26, good for last place in the AL East, and 7.5 games behind the division leading Yankees. In the wild card standings, they’re 4 games behind the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox. Of course, they would have to leapfrog all but 3 teams in the American League, but it’s not as bad as it feels like it’s been. In fact, it’s not all that different than it’s been for the last two years.

Not that the Blue Jays want to make a habit of digging a hole to begin every campaign, but looking at the above graphic shows that the season really is far from over (thanks to @thejaysnation for the tweet).

As we all remember, it was the additions of Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, Ben Revere and more that gave the Jays the shot in the arm in 2015, sending them on a torrid pace to finish the season and take the AL East for the first time since 1993. Last season it was a different story, but they managed to hang on and sneak into the playoffs in the Wild Card game.

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Thus far, the Blue Jays have been one of the most injury afflicted teams in the MLB, at times seeing more than half of their payroll sitting on the disabled list (check out Hazel Mae’s tweet from Wednesday). That’s about to change in a real hurry, and it could be the shot in the arm the team needs to really change the tides for Canada’s team.

We’ve heard this before, but the expectation is the Jays will get both Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki back from the disabled list this weekend, a gigantic boost for the team on both sides of the ball. Ryan Goins has been outstanding on defence filling in at shortstop, but it’s hard to provide the two-way impact that Tulo is capable of.

Donaldson’s return will hopefully stop the carousel that has become third base in the Blue Jays lineup. They’ve used Darwin Barney, Goins, Chris Coghlan, Russell Martin, and most recently Jose Bautista at the hot corner. While most of the contributions in his absence have been admirable, Donaldson is the best player in the lineup when he’s healthy, and you can’t replace that sort of thing.

The club also had some great news with regards to J.A. Happ, who has been out since last month with elbow soreness. The good news is Happ is scheduled to make 1-3 rehab appearances before the Blue Jays consider activating him, which will likely be determined by how he feels and performs. In an ideal scenario he could be back in 10-15 days, but the Jays are unlikely to rush him. The same will likely be the case for fellow starter Francisco Liriano, who has also been throwing bullpen sessions and will likely make a rehab start in the coming days.

Finally, Dalton Pompey is back on the diamond as well, which is a great sign for the Canadian outfielder. He returned to the diamond on May 16th after sustaining a concussion in the World Baseball Classic, and will look to ramp up activities and try to catch up on organization mates who’ve been playing for almost two months in his absence. With his skill set, he could come in very handy for the Blue Jays at some point this season.

Next: Blue Jays lose Alford to broken hamate bone in wrist

And because of all of the the returning talent, and the fact that the Blue Jays are in almost the exact same position they’ve been in for the last two years, I’m suddenly cautiously optimistic again. Yes, I know they’re in last place in the AL East, but the talented roster is on verge of getting healthy, and there are still 115 games left after all.