Phillies slugger Jay Bruce exited Tuesday evening’s contest with a strained right oblique muscle, the Phillies announced. There’s no word on a a trip to the injured list, but the Phillies will likely have additional info after the game.
The majority of oblique strains send players to the injured list, and it’s not uncommon for position players to miss around a month with even a Grade 1 strain. Losing Bruce would be a blow to the Phillies’ lineup; while he’s only mustered a paltry .277 OBP since his acquisition, Bruce entered play Tuesday hitting .266 and slugging a whopping .574 with the Phils. He’s already drilled 10 long balls and six doubles with Philadelphia, and he’d plated 29 runs in his first 32 games with the team.
Bruce’s acquisition helped to offset the loss of Andrew McCutchen, who suffered a torn ACL earlier this season and won’t return until 2020. An absence for Bruce could open the door for the return of Nick Williams — the one-time top prospect who has yet to solidify himself as a big league regular in the manner most envisioned when he was rising through the minor leagues. The 25-year-old Williams logged an ugly .173/.221/.259 slash through 86 plate appearances with the Phillies earlier in 2019 before being optioned to Triple-A, but that poor output came in an extremely limited role that was surely foreign to him.
Since being sent to Triple-A for regular at-bats, Williams has laid waste to International League pitching. In 120 trips to the plate, he’s recorded a superlative .358/.417/.651 with six homers, 10 doubles and two triples. He’d be the obvious candidate to replace Bruce on a short-term basis, but one can only wonder whether the Phils would again look to the trade market for another outfield option. While the Phillies have quickly faded in the NL East race, they’re still very much in the thick of the NL Wild Card mix. And after such an aggressive offseason, it’d be a disheartening concession for the team’s decision-makers to operate as anything other than a deadline buyer.