It appears that the Toronto Blue Jays are about to welcome their core players back from injury just in time to get ready to start 2017.
The Toronto Blue Jays need to get off to a good start in 2017. They see a good number of their games in the first month against AL East opponents. So, it is an opportunity for them to assert themselves in the division. Not that a terrible April will sink their season, but it certainly makes things more difficult. In order to avoid a rough skid, they’ll need all of their stars aligned, which appears to be more of a reality each and every day.
John Gibbons spoke to the media Monday morning and we got updates on Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson. In unsurprising Gibby fashion, he wasn’t too clear on the exact schedule for either player, having left the official word likely on his desk, or stuck in an email he couldn’t open. So, he asked each guy to answer for themselves in a funny clip at Sportsnet.
When Travis was called over, he indicated that he would get into a minor league game – on both sides of the ball – Monday and then Wednesday and then “hopefully next game is here [Dunedin in a big league game]”. He couldn’t keep the smile off his face when asked about playing defense. He replied: “I get to be a full baseball player”. If all goes well, he will have a good stretch of time to make strides toward getting his timing, etc down to start the season on time.
That is good news for a team that has had a dilemma presented to them with regards to the leadoff spot. While there would be some reasonable options to go to, it is widely assumed that Travis is the most ideal choice to bat first in Toronto’s lineup. So, his return provides lineup clarity for the club.
The second part of Gibby’s interview featured Josh Donaldson filling everyone in on his progress. When asked to explain his timetable because Gibby was confused, Donaldson’s response was “Welcome to the Blue Jays organization”, which we’ll just leave at that. He then said he would be ‘DH-ign Monday and hopefully in the field on Wednesday.’ Gibby told him his answer was well spoken and JD replied “Thanks, Dad”.
Obviously, it is no exaggeration to say that Donaldson’s healthy return to the lineup is a huge boost for this club. Starting the season with Travis at the top and Donaldson in the 2nd spot, this lineup could be quite dangerous. Without them, it could be quite the opposite.
Arden Zwelling (of Sportsnet) passes on an update on Marco Estrada and his back. The change up artist is noticing an uptick in velocity on his fastball lately. When asked for an explanation, he kept it simple: “It’s actually pretty simple. My back isn’t locked up.”
Battling back issues all season last year, Estrada entered camp with questions around whether the back would be a lingering source of discomfort. There were times last year when he was in a great deal of pain, but gutted out 5 inning performances anyway. Arden describes the rituals he would go through just to take the mound last year: “On start days last season, Estrada had to endure through a long, arduous pre-game process to get his back loose enough to pitch. He’d take painkillers, let trainers stretch him out, and have his back both cooled and warmed with different rubs. He also received a number of cortisone shots throughout the year, which helped, if only temporarily.”
But, it would appear that that is not an issue at this point, which means he can start the season healthy. Just as Travis and Donaldson are important to the lineup, Estrada is to the rotation. Having a healthy starting 5 – who were among baseball’s best in 2016 – will put the Blue Jays in a good position to start the season.
Finally, there was some concern over Jose Bautista missing time from the World Baseball Classic due to a stiff back, but it would appear that issue is “minor” and the Blue Jays are not concerned with the status of their right fielder. Even if there is a minor issue, there is enough time between now and April 3rd for him to get the treatment required to alleviate any concern.
So, it would appear that the Blue Jays roster is coming together at the right time. They are getting all of their core players back and ready just in time to begin the 2017 season. The timing couldn’t be better. They are going to need a good start as they face their division rivals in 22 of 31 contests. Having Donaldson, Travis, Estrada and Bautista active and healthy will provide them with the right pieces to do that.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
THANK YOU FOR VISITING JAYS FROM THE COUCH! CHECK US OUT ON TWITTER @JAYSFROMCOUCH AND INSTAGRAM. LIKE US FACEBOOK. BE SURE TO CATCH THE LATEST FROM JAYS FROM THE COUCH RADIO