Center fielder George Springer will make his long-awaited Blue Jays debut Wednesday against the Nationals, the team announced. Springer will serve as Toronto’s designated hitter and bat in the leadoff spot. In other moves, the Blue Jays placed left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu on the 10-day injured list with a right glute strain, optioned first baseman/DH Rowdy Tellez to its alternate site and recalled lefty Travis Bergen.
The Blue Jays signed Springer to the offseason’s richest free-agent guarantee, a six-year, $150MM pact, but have not gotten a single at-bat from the ex-Astros standout this year. Springer suffered an oblique strain during the spring, and just when it appeared he would return, he went down with a quad strain. The three-time All-Star didn’t recover from the latter injury as quickly as expected, so the club has spent the month relying on Randal Grichuk and Jonathan Davis in center.
Grichuk has hit a more-than-respectable .289/.345/.500 with four home runs in 84 plate appearances, thus helping the Springer-less Jays stay afloat in the early going with an even 11-11 record. Springer has enjoyed a much better career than Grichuk, though, having slashed .270/.361/.491 hitter with 174 homers over 3,587 PA. The 31-year-old is also above average in the outfield, where he has posted 26 Defensive Runs Saved and a 10.4 Ultimate Zone Rating since entering the league in 2014.
Springer’s activation spells bad news for Tellez, who has gotten off to a poor start this year with a .183/.222/.267 line and one homer in 63 trips to the plate. Those numbers are a far cry from Tellez’s output in 2020, when it appeared the 26-year-old broke out with a .283/.346/.540 showing and slugged eight HRs over 127 PA.
The Springer addition is a welcome one for Toronto’s offense, but the Ryu loss is a tough blow for its pitching staff. Ryu’s IL placement is retroactive to April 26, but he’ll still miss at least one start. The Jays’ ace exited his latest start this past Sunday after throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rays, and has recorded a 2.60 ERA on the season over 27 2/3 frames. Ryu, Ross Stripling, T.J. Zeuch and Nate Pearson represent starting options on the IL for the club, which will somehow have to battle through those absences and cobble together a rotation.