Already dealing with injuries to two key players, the Toronto Blue Jays will have to weather the storm without another starting pitcher for at least the next 10 days.
The team placed J.A. Happ on the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday, two days after he exited his start against the Baltimore Orioles in the fifth inning with tightness in his pitching elbow. After undergoing an MRI, Happ was diagnosed with elbow inflammation.
Given the delicate and sometimes uncertain nature of elbow injuries in pitchers, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said there was a sense of relief that it wasn't more serious.
"It was a scare for everybody," he said.
Happ, the 33-year-old left-hander, won 20 games last year but is 0-3 this season with a 4.50 earned-run average. He told reporters ahead of the Jays' series opener against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre that he didn't want to go on the DL, but he was glad to learn there was nothing seriously wrong with his arm.
"It's actually really good news compared to what it could've been, or what I thought it was leaning toward," Happ said, referring to worst-case-scenario for pitchers, which is ligament damage in the elbow that can require invasive surgery to fix.
Although Happ isn't expected to miss more than his allotted 10 days, losing a starting pitcher at this juncture is problematic for the struggling Blue Jays, who own the worst record in the majors.
The team is already without Aaron Sanchez, who was sent to the DL Saturday after leaving his start against the Orioles a day earlier because of a blister on a finger of his throwing hand. The right-hander, who has allowed six earned runs in 12 1/3 innings, underwent a procedure to remove part of the nail on his middle finger and is expected to resume throwing this week.
"They take a portion of that nail around where the blister was, and cut it back," Gibbons said. "It heals up pretty quick."
Sanchez is not expected to miss any additional time beyond his next scheduled start, which would have been Friday in Anaheim. Happ was scheduled to go the next day. The Blue Jays will need to call up a pair of pitchers to pick up those two assignments against the Angels, but the team has not said who it will promote.
The Jays are already without Josh Donaldson, who is dealing with a nagging right calf injury that flared up during a game against the Orioles last week. Reports Tuesday suggested the all-star third baseman could miss up to four weeks, which would leave Toronto without its best player until mid-May. Donaldson, who is hitting .310 (9-for-29) with two homers and two doubles, missed most of spring training after injuring the same muscle.
"He's moving around pretty good," Gibbons said of Donaldson's status, without providing any update on his recovery timeline.
Injuries to three impact players come at an inconvenient time for Toronto. Already some fans and commentators are writing the Jays out of the playoff picture despite being fewer than 15 games in.