Toronto Blue Jays

Matt Shoemaker injury leaves Toronto Blue Jays scrambling

Toronto Blue Jays’ RHP Matt Shoemaker’s season is done after suffering a torn ACL in Saturday’s game against Oakland.

It was an innocent looking play, one Matt Shoemaker ran countless times on the back fields of Spring Training. Only this time something went terribly wrong, derailing what has been a career-resurgence for the 32-year-old Toronto Blue Jays right-hander.

The play happened in the bottom of the third inning of the Blue Jays game in Oakland against the Athletics on Saturday afternoon. With two outs and Stephen Piscotty at the plate, Shoemaker threw a pitch in the dirt that was blocked by catcher Luke Maile. Matt Chapman, on first base, strayed too far and Maile threw to first in an attempt to get him out.

Caught in a rundown, Chapman ran towards second. Shoemaker went to cover first and received the ball from second baseman Eric Sogard. As he chased Chapman back to second, though, he made an awkward tag and started limping right away.

Shoemaker left the game with what was described as a knee sprain and put on the 10-day IL. On Sunday, however, came the bad news: Shoemaker’s season is done with a torn ACL.

Shoemaker could barely hold back the tears when meeting with the media after receiving the news. “You can’t put words to it. Extremely frustrated,” he said. “But at the same time, you got to stay positive. I know I’m really upset right now. I just got the news. But stay positive, keep fighting.”

The injury comes just as Shoemaker was beginning to re-establish himself as a dominant starting pitcher. In his rookie season back in 2014 with the Los Angeles Angels, Shoemaker went 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA. In four seasons since then, though, he’s gone get 24-28 while his ERA jumped to 4.28. Let go by the Angels after the 2018 season, Shoemaker caught on with the Blue Jays in December by signing a one-year, $3.5 million deal.

In five starts in a Blue Jays uniform, Shoemaker has gone 3-0, surrendering only five earned runs in 28.2 innings pitched. Thanks largely to their starting rotation, which ranks fourth in the Majors in ERA, the Blue Jays have won four games in a row and are now 11-12 in what was expected to be a rebuilding year.

Now the Blue Jays are left with a big hole to fill in their rotation, one made only more glaring after Aaron Sanchez left Sunday’s game with a finger injury. The Blue Jays are already missing Ryan Borucki, out with elbow soreness until late May, and Clayton Richard who has yet to play a game in Toronto.

The obvious replacements for Shoemaker come from their bullpen. Sam Gaviglio started 24 games for Toronto last season and has made seven appearances in long relief this year, giving up two earned runs in 15 innings for a 1.20 ERA. LHP Thomas Pannone has also been used out of the bullpen this year after being part of the Blue Jays rotation late in 2018.

Among their minor leaguers, Sean Reid-Foley began the year with the big league club before being demoted to Triple-A Buffalo on April 4. Reid-Foley, though, has struggled mightily this year, surrendering 16 earned runs in three minor league appearances. Their other option is a player who has yet to play in the Majors, Jacob Waguespack. The 25-year-old RHP was acquired at the trade deadline last July from Philadelphia for reliever Aaron Loup. In three starts at Buffalo this season he’s 2-1 with a 4.11 ERA while striking out 18 batters in 15.1 innings.

The Blue Jays do get some relief from their schedule. With three off days in the next eight days, the decision on who should be the fifth starter can be put off for a little while longer. Shoemaker, though, doesn’t get any such consolation. He’ll have to sit and watch until 2020, knowing he was in the midst of a career season that ended much too soon.

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