Bo Bichette to make return to the Blue Jays lineup on Saturday

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette will be activated off the IL on Saturday

The Toronto Blue Jays got a welcome sight on Friday when Bo Bichette returned to the club after a stint at their alternate site. They’ll get an even better one on Saturday when their star shortstop steps back into his familiar spot at the top of the Blue Jays batting order.

Bichette, out since Aug. 15 with a right knee injury, is expected to be activated off the IL in time for Saturday’s game against the New York Mets at Sahlen Field, according to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.

Bichette’s injury came at the worst time for the 22-year-old. When he went down, Bichette was in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak, batting .444 with five home runs and a 1.404 OPS in that span. Between Aug. 6 and 14, he became the first shortstop in MLB history with an extra-base hit and RBI in seven straight games. Bichette, who still has only played in 60 games in his MLB career, is hitting .361 with five home runs, 13 RBI, and a 1.063 OPS in 14 games this season.

He first hurt the knee while stretching before a game against Tampa Bay. Although it was feared at first Bichette would be out more than a month, he received a second opinion and was diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain of his lateral collateral ligament. Bichette has been playing in simulated games at the Blue Jays’ alternate site in Rochester over the past week before rejoining the club on Friday.

In his absence, the Blue Jays have turned to Joe Panik, rookie Santiago Espinal, and the newly-acquired Jonathan Villar to fill in at shortstop. Panik and Espinal have been reliable bats; Panik is hitting .345 over his last nine games, while Espinal is hitting .348 over his last 10. What they haven’t provided is power. Panik, Espinal, and Villar have a combined slugging percentage of .344 since Bichette’s injury, more than .300 points lower than Bichette.

But the Blue Jays have managed to elevate themselves into the playoff hunt, going 17-10 without Bichette, the third-best record in the American League in that span. At 24-20, the Blue Jays are a half-game ahead of the New York Yankees for second place in the AL East and have a 92.6 percent chance of making the postseason, according to Fangraphs.

The Blue Jays have also gotten good news as they attempt to get over their other injury woes. Closer Ken Giles returned to the lineup for the first time since July on Friday. Nate Pearson and Teoscar Hernandez, meanwhile, are both progressing and expect to be back by the end of the regular season.

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