Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons

Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons

Jays questions grow as Saunders injures knee in freak accident

A Blue Jays roster already dotted with question-marks became a little more uncertain Thursday. News that Canadian Michael Saunders had suffered a knee injury in a freak sprinkler head accident added a red flag in left field and left Toronto manager John Gibbons with another spring training headache.

DUNEDIN, Fla. — A Blue Jays roster already dotted with question-marks became a little more uncertain Thursday.

News that Canadian Michael Saunders had suffered a knee injury in a freak sprinkler head accident added a red flag in left field and left Toronto manager John Gibbons with another spring training headache.

The 28-year-old Victoria native is expected to undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus and not be back until the mid-July all-star break, GM Alex Anthopoulos said.

Slugger Edwin Encarnacion arrived Thursday to see Saunders hobble out.

“I drove my car inside and I see Saunders with the two crutches. Wow,” Encarnacion said. “A little frustrating.”

“Before spring training starts, it hurts,” he added.

“That’s very hard for him and for the team because we need him.”

Friday marks the first full workout for the team involving star position players like Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes.

Gibbons already has to sort out second base, settle on a centre-fielder, figure out his first base and designated hitter permutations, decide on his catching options beyond Russell Martin, choose a closer, and flesh out both his bullpen and the tail end of his starting rotation.

He remains optimistic, citing key additions like Martin and third baseman Josh Donaldson. “I think this is the best team we’ve had.”

But he acknowledged it is setting up to be one of the more challenging spring trainings.

“It’s probably the most important, because we’ve got some decisions we’ve got to make that we’ve got to get right. There’s some jobs at stake.”

The six-foot-four 225-pound Saunders, who arrived in a December trade that sent pitcher J.A. Happ to Seattle, had reported to camp early to get a head start with the Jays. He was shagging balls Wednesday morning at the team’s training complex when he jammed his foot on a sprinkler head indentation.

Saunders said the pitch was a little wet at the time.

“It was a tiny bit slippery, I just think I stepped in the wrong spot.”

Saunders’ left-handed bat will be missed. He hit .273 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs over 78 games in 2014.

The Jays had planned an outfield of Saunders in left, Canadian Dalton Pompey or Kevin Pillar in centre and Bautista in right. Pompey and Pillar have 96 big-league games between them.

Anthopoulos has already started making calls about possible outfield replacements but said any move would likely come at the end of the spring and would have to be tempered by what happens when Saunders returns.

“Ideally for us the guys that are in that clubhouse are going to take the opportunity. We’d prefer not to go outside,” said Anthopoulos.

The Jays do have a bargaining chip in catcher Dioner Navarro, who has asked for a trade after losing his job to Martin.

Non-roster outfielder invitees at camp include Ezequiel Carrera, Chris Dickerson and Caleb Gindl. Dickerson has the most experience with 355 games with the Reds, Yankees, Orioles and Indians.

Gibbons said infielders Danny Valencia and Chris Colabello could also see outfield time.

Saunders, who underwent shoulder surgery in 2007, has been frustrated by shoulder and oblique injuries in recent years.

“I will be working my ass off to make sure that I’m ready to go as soon as possible,” he said.

Anthopoulos said the club had not had any similar problems before but is reviewing the issue. The recessed sprinkler heads move up and down, and are hard to see, he said.

The outfield section of the field in question is not being used for the time being.

“I guarantee you they’ll take care of that,” said Gibbons.

Saunders, who almost wiped out on his crutches after meeting the media, said the mental part of rehab will be the toughest.

“Last night was really tough for me, especially when we got the prognosis,” he said. “I’ve got a good support system out here, though.

“I’ve described this to a lot of people that nobody’s more excited to be here than me. For me, I think the biggest thing I will have to overcome now is mentally rather than physically. I know I’m going to be in good hands, I know I’m going to be OK. It could be worse, it’s not an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).”

Just Posted

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured in a pharmacy in Boulogne Billancourt, outside Paris. Questions remained Wednesday about the future of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Canada, as Manitoba limited use of the shot and Ontario announced it planned to save an incoming shipment to use as second doses.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Christophe Ena, File
Alberta could receive 76,500 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine next week

Alberta should be getting a large shipment of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine… Continue reading

An anti-lockdown protest went ahead outside a café in central Alberta on Saturday, despite pouring rain and a pre-emptive court injunction. (Photo by The Canadian Press)
RCMP investigating whether credible online threats made against officers

Online images purportedly showing officers attending weekend rally at Mirror in rifle crosshairs

Bowden Institution Black Press file photo
Bowden Institution inmate dies from COVID-19 complications

Bowden death the sixth in Canada’s federal prison system

(Contributed)
FOUND: Police locate Red Deer missing youth

Red Deer RCMP thank the public for their assistance

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and several members of city council helped kick off the spring Green Deer cleanup campaign on Wednesday. Veer said city workers do their best to keep the city looking good, but need volunteer help to get rid of litter that has blown into bushes onto road sides over the winter. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)
Red Deer city councillors launch spring Green Deer campaign

Volunteers are needed to keep the city looking good

Adam Feller reacts as he gets his Pfizer-BioNTech shot at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Montreal. Quebec has become the latest province to stop giving Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot as a first dose.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Ontario keeps stay-at-home order; Quebec pauses Oxford-AstraZeneca shots

Ontario has announced it’s keeping its stay-at-home order in place until at… Continue reading

The flag of the Supreme Court of Canada flies outside the building following a ceremony in Ottawa, Monday March 15, 2021. The owners of a horse that was disqualified after initially winning the Canadian Derby more than three years ago might have run out of legal room to reclaim the title. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Supreme Court won’t hear appeal from horse owners over derby dispute

OTTAWA — The owners of a horse that was disqualified after initially… Continue reading

People take part in a protest called 'Justice for Joyce' in Montreal, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, where they demanded justice for Joyce Echaquan and an end to systemic racism. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Quebec coroner’s inquest into death of Joyce Echaquan begins as her family testifies

MONTREAL — The husband of an Indigenous woman who was subjected to… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, centre, speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec tables revamp of French-language law, toughens rules for businesses, schools

MONTREAL — The Quebec government reasserted the right of Quebecers to live… Continue reading

Permanent residency
Canada announces new pathway to permanent residency for families of crash victims

Ottawa is launching a new policy to help the families of victims… Continue reading

Co-founders Craig (left) and Marc Kielburger introduce Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau as they appear at the WE Day celebrations in Ottawa on November 10, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ethics watchdog: PM didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity, but Morneau did

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not breach the Conflict of… Continue reading

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, center, celebrates after scoring a goal against the Columbus Crew with teammates from left, forward Tsubasa Endoh, defender Omar Gonzalez and forward Patrick Mullins during the second half of an MLS soccer match, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Bradley, Altidore scores in Toronto FC’s 2-0 win over Crew

ORLANDO, Fla (AP) — Michael Bradley had a goal and an assist,… Continue reading

A football with the CFL logo sits on a chair during a press conference in Winnipeg, Friday, November 27, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Former defensive lineman Klassen tackling retirement as he did opposing quarterbacks

Klassen spent seven CFL seasons with Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa

Most Read