It’s still only April, and the Toronto Blue Jays are in trouble. Or are they?
No one said winning a World Series was easy, despite all the pre-season hype and oddsmakers who touted the Blue Jays as world champions. Now they have a significant hole to deal with at one of the most important positions on the team. Shortstop Jose Reyes will be out until the All-Star break after twisting his left ankle in an awkward slide into second base on a steal attempt in a game last Friday, an 8-4 victory over the Royals.
No one should be shocked by this turn of events. Reyes’ history is filled with injuries: he’s always been a classic high-risk/high-reward proposition. This article in the New York Daily News from 2011 shows that Reyes has even injured that left ankle before, in 2003, although it’s time it’s much more serious.
Last Friday in Kansas City might have been one of the costliest wins in Jays’ history, but how they rebound from such a serious setback will demonstrate their mettle. It’s not like they don’t have options: for instance, the club is mulling bringing back Brett Lawrie from the injured list and have him play at second base. It’s an insurance move — at least, the Jays should hope it’s only to provide cover at that position.
Having Lawrie play out of position will enable Maicer Izturis to start at shortstop, which is fine — but it may be unnecessary. Munenori Kawasaki, a 32-year-old who has played almost all of his career in Japan, has done well so far as a stopgap at short. If he continues the way he’s started, the Jays won’t have to worry about raiding the prospects cupboard again to get a Jurickson Profar (Rangers) or a Tyler Pastornicky (Braves). That would also enable manager John Gibbons to have Izturis at second, move Lawrie to his natural position at the hot corner, and shift Jose Bautista from third back to right field.
That’s one of the benefits of Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos building the team the way he did, with so many versatile players on the roster. No one knows when a bad injury to a critical player will occur, and the team needs to ensure they’ve got not only depth, but talent at those positions should they need to adjust.
At 6-7, the Jays are 2.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East with 149 games remaining. At least this happened earlier in the season, when they still have time to figure out how to work around it. This would have been much worse for them had it happened in the stretch run while chasing after a wild-card spot. If there is ever a “fortunate” time for such a setback to occur, it’s now.