George Springer injured in loss to Rays

George Springer injured in loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — For weeks, Blue Jays running backs in scoring position have remained running backs in standing position.

That has left the offense asking for each night’s starting pitcher to be perfect, and even with a pair of opportunistic hits in Friday night’s 5-2 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field, the Rays’ fifth straight loss. Blue Jays, it felt like more of the same. These issues will only become more challenging, too, if George Springer misses any time after leaving with a sprained left ankle.

It was already an all too familiar scene for Blue Jays fans when Springer ran Brandon Lowe’s drive into the center-field wall in the bottom of the second inning. Springer jumped to the edge of the warning track and landed hard near the base of the wall, his right foot planting first on the ground. The awkward angle sent him crashing into the wall, though he hurt his other ankle, when Lowe moved into third with a 3-pointer.

It was eerily similar to Springer’s injury last August in Seattle, when he jumped into the wall and landed awkwardly on his left ankle. Add in a pair of quad injuries that plagued Springer earlier in 2021, and it’s been a challenging 14 months for a max-effort player who’s gotten an extra dollop of bad luck. For now, manager Charlie Montoyo calls this ankle sprain “minor.”

Springer was visited by Montoyo, a coach and a host of his teammates as he tried to walk in center field. He initially stayed in the game and batted in the third, recording a ground ball, then was replaced in center field by Raimel Tapia in the bottom of the inning.

“Obviously the first thing you think of is the worst case scenario, like if he broke his leg,” said Kevin Gausman, whose more than seven solid innings went unrewarded. “That’s what you’re thinking. Fortunately, it looks like it’s just a sprained ankle, so that’s the most important thing once the game is over. Let’s find out how George is. He’s a guy that brings a lot not only to the lineup, but to the clubhouse every day. He is one of our leaders. I’ve never seen an entire team be in center field for one player.”

That only added to the frustration of a rough stretch, one that included a player meeting recently hosted by Springer himself.

“They want to win so bad,” Montoyo said. “We all do. Of course. That’s part of trying too hard, when you get frustrated. They’re talking to each other, and the coaches too. Hopefully, they get going. At the end of the day, it’s their clubhouse and they talk to each other. them. They had their meeting the other day. That’s what we want.”

In a perfect world, Springer recovers either on Saturday or after an extra day of rest. However, baseball is about preparing for hundreds of scenarios outside of the best case scenario.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez and Tapia would make up the new starting outfield, with Bradley Zimmer also seeing some time in center where he excels defensively. However, Zimmer has hit just .075 with 19 strikeouts and one walk in 42 plate appearances, so something would have to change quickly.

Beyond that group, the Blue Jays might need to get creative. Cavan Biggio is recovering in Triple-A Buffalo after a season on the COVID-19 disabled list and went 1-for-3 in six innings Friday night. He is capable of playing in the outfield corners along with utility man Vinny Capra, who recorded his first major league hit on Friday.

At Triple-A, camp curiosity and 14-year MLB veteran Dexter Fowler was released by the club on May 3, leaving Nathan Lukes as one of the top options off the roster. Lukes had a very impressive spring training and has carried it into the season, hitting .328 as Buffalo’s leadoff hitter. Blue Jays veteran prospect Josh Palacios likely would have been next in line, but the Nationals claimed him on April 15.

Regardless of how this plays out and who is in the box, the Jays need to hit, period.

Montoyo said several times after Friday’s loss that he’s encouraged by the players taking it upon themselves to work on this, encouraging each other not to push themselves too hard or try to do too much. It’s counterintuitive to try “less” in professional sports, but that’s one of baseball’s great challenges.

“George has a good feeling for that. He felt like we needed to talk and reiterate the things that we’re trying to keep doing,” Gausman said. “It’s about being a good teammate and being there for the guy next to you. He just said this is routine, but we’re going to get out of this. When we do, we will be better because of it.”

Springer is right. A lineup headed by him, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Hernandez will eventually drive some teams out of stadiums.

However, that’s much easier to do with Springer on top. And at this point, the Blue Jays need some good news.

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