The Blue Jays announced that Erik Swanson has been placed on the 15-day injured list due to thoracic spine inflammation. Swanson will be replaced with another right-handed reliever in Jay Jackson, who has been called up from Triple-A Buffalo.
Swanson left yesterday’s game due to what was described at the time as right mid-back discomfort, so it isn’t a surprise to see him land on the IL. The reliever sounded fairly optimistic about his recovery in speaking with The Athletic’s Kaitlyn McGrath, so while back injuries can have a fluid timeline, it seems possible that Swanson might only miss the minimum 15 days.
That said, 15 days is still a big chunk of what remains of the 2023 season, so the Blue Jays will have to continue their fight for a wild card berth without one of their top relievers. During the offseason, the Jays acquired Swanson from the Mariners as part of the Teoscar Hernandez trade in the hopes that Swanson would help stabilize the bullpen, and the 29-year-old has done just that in posting a 3.10 ERA over 58 innings. His metrics this year aren’t as impressive as his elite numbers in Seattle in 2022, as his walk and hard-hit ball rates are both around league average, though Swanson’s 29.4% strikeout rate and 5.6% barrel rate are both still very good. Swanson’s .261 xwOBA is also one of the league’s best.
The Blue Jays have somewhat surprisingly been carried by their pitching this season, and the bullpen in particular has been one of the top relief units in baseball. Jordan Romano, Tim Mayza, Trevor Richards, and Yimi Garcia have all been good to great, Genesis Cabrera still hasn’t allowed an earned run in his 14 2/3 innings with the team, and Jordan Hicks has looked solid since coming over from the Cardinals in a deadline deal. Jackson has a 1.64 ERA over 22 innings, despite a few trips back and forth from Triple-A and some major off-the-field concerns in regards to the premature birth of his son.
With all this in mind, Toronto is theoretically better equipped than most teams to withstand the loss of a key reliever, even if Swanson has been a workhorse for the club. Swanson’s 60 appearances this season rank fourth among all pitchers, and Mayza and Garcia are just a step behind with 59 games apiece. The Blue Jays’ lack of offense has led to a lot of tight games, and Swanson has been the point man in many of these high-leverage situations.