George Springer’s contributions shifted from intangible to the tangible Tuesday, when he returned from the injured list and logged nine innings in centre field during a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins.
TORONTO The challenge for George Springer over the past 2.5 months, beyond getting healthy enough to take and stay on the field, was to contribute to the Toronto Blue Jays as a spectator rather than a participant.
To that end, he stayed with the team as he recovered from an oblique strain, first, and then a pair of quad strains, doing his work in the afternoons and supporting his teammates during the games at night. The star centre-fielder sought to be available to anyone seeking some input, maybe to answer a question, maybe for a second opinion, intent on being a positive presence even as he concedes that he wasnt necessarily in the best place mentally.
All of that meant Springer had a fine line to walk as the new guy, with the big contract, sidelined by injury, trying to be a factor, while not taking daily lumps like everyone else.
Oh, yeah, 100 per cent, he said. It was about trying to find the balance between not playing and playing, which I know may sound nuts, but it’s really hard, especially for somebody used to playing every day. For me, it was about kind of not trying to sound like I’m overly happy, but at the same time not trying to show emotion because it’s not fun being hurt. I didn’t have to go through the physical, the mental grind of what the guys on the field were going through, the late travel, the early rising I knew I wasn’t playing. I didn’t want to rub that in anybody’s face or rub anybody the wrong way. I just kind of wanted to make sure that I was there. I got my stuff done that I needed to do and then at the end of the day, I was there for the guys.
Springers contributions shifted from intangible to tangible on Tuesday, when he returned from the injured list and logged nine innings in centre field during a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins. He went 0-for-4 at the plate, but his teammates did the heavy lifting, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., tying the game 1-1 in the sixth with an RBI single and consecutive doubles by Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., plating the winning run in the ninth.
The runs eked out ensured the Blue Jays capitalized on another good start by Ross Stripling, who allowed only a Jesus Sanchez home run in the second over six innings of two-hit, seven-strikeout work, while Tyler Chatwood, Tim Mayza and Jordan Romano (helped by an excellent throw from Reese McGuire to get Starling Marte trying to steal second) each followed with a dominant inning of relief.
A third straight victory came with manager Charlie Montoyo serving an automatic one-game suspension tied to the five-game ban Alek Manoah received after Major League Baseball ruled the rookie intentionally threw at Baltimores Maikel Franco on Saturday. Manoah is appealing, an option unavailable to Montoyo who watched from the stands while coach John Schneider stood in his place as the club moved over .500 at 36-35, with the expectation of a momentum push from Springers return.
It’s not going to be very long before he’s really making big contributions on every side of the ball for us, Schneider said. Hes that talented and we view him that way.
Questions about Springer’s quad will linger, of course, after his previous return in early May ended after four games when he re-aggravated the injury, but the clubs approach indicates hes feeling much better.
Back then, he returned as a DH only with the Blue Jays intending to build him up until he was ready to play the outfield. This time, he immediately played the outfield and wont have the DH safety net until weeks end when they return to American League rules in Buffalo.
The difference, Springer said, is that now, I feel great, whereas in May, he felt fine, I felt good. He also has a rehab stint at triple-A Buffalo behind him, rather than simply a series of simulated games; playing time that allowed him to go out there and do what I needed to do.
Still, by no means is he in mid-season form, and thats why, rather than returning to his customary leadoff spot, he was batting fifth on Tuesday, leaving the top four of Marcus Semien, Bo Bichette, Guerrero and Teoscar Hernandez undisturbed.
Montoyo had conversations with them all leading into Tuesday because people deserve a chance to know what I’m thinking and what our coaching staff is thinking, he explained. That way, there are no misunderstandings. Everybody’s on the same page. And that’s one way to have a good clubhouse.
Springers response was straightforward, telling Montoyo that I think it’s very important that guys stay where they are, the outfielder said. I believe strongly in the way Marcus, Bo, Vladdy, all those guys have swung the bat, the way that they’ve gotten comfortable in those positions hitting with guys. I told him I’m willing to do whatever he wants me to do, what’s best for the team and that eventually we’ll see what that is. But what whatever he decides to do, I’m on board with it.
The gesture is demonstrative of the way Springer has considered team along with self since signing an $150-million, six-year deal with the club back in January. He easily could have demanded a return to the leadoff spot, or headed off to the clubs complex in Dunedin, Fla., to heal, but sought to act for the greater good.
I think we all respect him for it, said Stripling, whose recent resurgence has been a pivotal development. It’s hard, especially when you sign a deal like that and you basically agree to be the face of the franchise for the next six years and you get off to a tough start, at least physically not being able to be on the field. I think it would be easy to kind of shy away and he didn’t do that. He showed up with a smile on his face every day and was in the dugout every inning. He’d go inside and do some rehab every now and then, but for the most part spent the whole time in the dugout, into the game, yelling, cheering for us.
It’s hard to bring that energy every day, especially when he was really very frustrated with how he felt and knowing that he had months, weeks left before he could help us on the field and contribute, Stripling continued. For him to bring that kind of energy every day into the dugout, I think says a lot about how he is as a person and as a teammate and why we’re lucky to have him for the next six years.
From largely in spirit to this point, to in reality on the field now.