Posted on April 22, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The injury bug has struck in the cruelest of forms north of the border. The Toronto Blue Jays announced Sunday night that starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Shoemaker suffered the injury Saturday while playing his part in a rundown. The injury is a massive blow to both the Blue Jays and Shoemaker, who was one of the best pitchers in baseball early in the 2019 season.
Over his first five starts of the season, Shoemaker was 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA. He was in the midst of pitching another gem Saturday in Oakland when he suffered the injury. Shoemaker has been derailed the last two seasons by arm issues while pitching for the Angels. The Blue Jays signed him over the winter with a guaranteed spot in their rotation and he has quickly become the leader of their pitching staff. But just as he was getting his career back on track, Shoemaker has been struck down by another unfortunate injury.
“You can’t put words to it,” Shoemaker said Sunday night as he fought back tears. “Extremely frustrated but at the same time, I just have to stay positive. I know I’m really upset right now, I just got the news. But stay positive, keep fighting, get this thing right and be back when it’s ready to go.”
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Initially, Shoemaker was holding out hope that he merely sprained his knee. But an MRI performed Sunday confirmed the worst-case scenario, which Shoemaker admits he was expecting deep down.
“He was one of the best pitchers in baseball for the first month,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “I feel bad for him. I feel bad for all of us, worse for him because he was doing so great.”
The good news for the Blue Jays is that Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman have also started the 2019 season in good form. Those two should be able to pick up some of the slack and lead Toronto’s rotation. However, the rebuilding Blue Jays have little margin for error this season if they expect to remain competitive. Toronto has barely stayed afloat with three excellent starters early in the year. Being down to two may not be enough.
Unfortunately, starting rotation depth is not a strength of the Blue Jays right now. Veteran Clay Buchholz has had two decent starts, but he’s probably more of a back-end starter at this point in his career. Rookie Trent Thornton has struggled in his last couple of starts after a brilliant big league debut. Neither is likely to match what Shoemaker has done early in the season.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are also waiting for Ryan Borucki and Clayton Richard to return from injury. Both could be viable mid-rotation starters upon their return. However, just finding five healthy starters is a challenge for Toronto at the moment. It’s a bit unrealistic to think they can find another frontline starter who can complement Sanchez and Stroman at the top of the rotation.
Ultimately, the Blue Jays were always unlikely to stay competitive in 2019. Losing Shoemaker will make that climb even steeper. It’s perhaps more disappointing to see a pitcher like Shoemaker perform so well after being hindered by injuries suffer yet another serious injury. Now there’s no telling how good of a season Shoemaker may have put together in 2019.