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Blue Jays can’t forget lesson learned with Josh Donaldson’s injury

TORONTO, ON - JULY 7: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays talks to George Springer #4 of the Houston Astros as he stands on third base in the first inning during MLB game action at Rogers Centre on July 7, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JULY 7: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays talks to George Springer #4 of the Houston Astros as he stands on third base in the first inning during MLB game action at Rogers Centre on July 7, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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George Springer might be itching to debut with the Blue Jays on Opening Day, but the club has to remain patient with their new star, and they can’t forget some recent lessons that they should have learned from just a few years ago.

When I think about George Springer’s grade 2 strain of his oblique, all I can think is that the Blue Jays should exercise extreme caution in bringing back their prized new centre fielder. Ross Atkins spoke a few days ago and expressed a ton of optimism about Springer’s condition, but if the doctors are calling it a grade 2 strain then it’s not insignificant. He might be able to play through the injury, but that’s exactly what the Jays should want to avoid.

You could point to the tricky nature of the injury, or the fact that Springer is on the wrong side of 30 and these things can take a little longer to heal. However, the best argument that I can think of is the fairly recent experience the Jays went through with Josh Donaldson in 2018, when the former MVP tried to play through the pain several times that year.

For Donaldson it was a calf injury that repeatedly slowed him down (although he had oblique injuries of his own as a Blue Jay), and he ended up not playing a game between May 28th and Sept 11th that year. While he didn’t re-aggravate the injury in a game by coming back too early, you could easily make the argument that his effort to get healthy in advance of the trade deadline ultimately worked against him. His still questionable health at the Aug 31st trade deadline was why the Jays were only able to get Julian Merryweather in return for him.

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It’s not a perfect comparison, but I see enough parallels that I think it’s a worthwhile consideration, and again, a lesson the Blue Jays should have learned from a few years ago. Not having Donaldson available in 2018 not only contributed to their terrible season, but also completely tanked his trade value as well. That’s obviously not going to be the case with Springer after he just signed a fresh six-year deal, but I think most of us would agree that it’s important the veteran starts off on a positive note.

In Springer’s case, it’s likely that he’s in the midst, or even nearing the end of his prime, so it’ll be important that the Blue Jays get as much value as possible out of the front end of the six-year pact. While it’s not ideal to have him missing time, it’s better to nip the problem in the bud now rather than have it carry on throughout the year, or maybe even become a bigger issue that could eventually require surgery.

On the bright side, the Blue Jays should have the outfield depth to get by for a few weeks or longer until Springer can return to the lineup. Atkins looks wise for having kept Randal Grichuk rather than trading him over the winter, and that depth could prove to be important over 162 games. Jonathan Davis has also had a strong spring and has reportedly made team as well, and with the rest of the talented hitters available to Charlie Montoyo, they shouldn’t be lacking for offence even without Springer.

That said, they won’t be able to reach their greatest potential without the best version of Springer on the field, which is why the Blue Jays can’t afford to take this injury lightly. We’ve seen Yankee sluggers like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton deal with nagging problems because of similar oblique injuries, landing each of them on the IL more than once.

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After dealing with a nagging injury issue with Donaldson a few years back, the Blue Jays need to remember to take all the time that Springer’s oblique needs to calm down and heal 100%. If that means a week, two, four, or even longer, it’s ultimately in the best interest of the long-term success of this season.

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