Blue Jays right-hander Kirby Yates is expected to miss “multiple weeks” due to a flexor-pronator strain in his throwing arm, the team announced. (MLB.com’s Keegan Matheson was among those to report the news.)
Signed to a one-year, $5.5MM deal in January, Yates was expected to provide some veteran experience at the back of Toronto’s bullpen, projected to get the bulk of save opportunities given his past track record. Yates was arguably baseball’s best reliever from 2018-19, posting a 1.67 ERA and 39.02% strikeout rate over 123 2/3 innings and racking up 53 saves. In 2019, Yates received an All-Star selection and finished ninth in NL Cy Young Award voting.
2020 was a lost year, however, as Yates made just six appearances before undergoing surgery to remove bone chips from his throwing elbow. More will be known about this latest injury after further examination, and naturally any sort of elbow problem is cause for concern, particularly given that Yates already has a Tommy John surgery on his record. He underwent that procedure way back in 2006, which resulted in Yates not being drafted and led to the righty beginning his pro career by signing a free agent deal with the Rays in 2009.
The Jays were certainly hoping that a healthy Yates would return to his All-Star form, but his absence now leaves a void in the ninth inning. Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis are the most logical candidates to serve as closer, or the Blue Jays might approach the role on a situational basis and use Romero, Dolis, and other pitchers for save situations depending on matchups.
In the bigger picture, Yates’ injury is another ominous loss to the Blue Jays’ pitching mix. Nate Pearson won’t be in the rotation to begin the season due to a groin injury, while the club is also still awaiting word on Thomas Hatch’s forearm/elbow problem. With a number of question marks in the rotation, a deep and productive bullpen was even more of a must for the Jays, but the relief corps is now down two arms in Yates and Hatch for the time being.