By Bob Elliott
NEW YORK _ His former and current teammate LaTroy Hawkins called it a freak accident.
Justin Smoak said the injury was not like losing a regular shortstop.
David Price said it was time for other to step up.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Kevin Pillar collided in shallow centre in the second inning of the first game of the doubleheader Saturday afternoon. The 6-foot-3 Tulowitzki caught the ball, was hit by the 6-foot centre fielder and shortstop had the ball his bare hand dropped it and fell backwards.
“We were both going for the ball,” Pillar said. “It was in that area where we’re both comfortable catching the ball. I guess he waved me off with his hand. I was calling it, but we never saw each other.”
After X-rays which were negative and an MRI six innings into the nitecap it was discovered the shortstop had small crack in his left shoulder blade (scapula) and upper back muscle bruises.
Tulowitzki had difficulty removing his shirt in the clubhouse and one player said he had trouble moving his arm walking through the dugout with trainer George Poulis.
“Last year he had the labrum surgery on his hip, he’d worked so hard, done all his exercises,” said Hawkins, who came with Tulowitzki in the July 28 trade with the Colorado Rockies. “I feel bad for him.”
And if you think Hawkins and others feel for Tulowitzki, multiply it 1,000 times and you reach Pillar.
“I couldn’t feel any worse,” Pillar said, “it’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever experienced on the field. I’ve been injured myself but to injure somebody else is a nightmare you never want to have happen.
Especially a guy like him who is so important to this team, on a play where it could have easily been avoided.”
No one knows how long Tulowitzki will be out. The Jays lost Marcus Stroman and Michael Saunders in spring training with serious injuries but outside of Jose Bautista aggravating his throwing shoulder (he remained in the lineup at DH) they have received any serious blows. Edwin Encarnacion missing six games with a finger injury.
Now Pillar’s chin may had knocked Tulowitzki out. Pillar thought his chin hit the shortstop and Tulowitzki told Pillar “it felt like an elbow, that might be right.”
Pillar had yet to see the replay.
“Losing a shortstop on any team is a big blow but he’s not a regular shortstop,” said Smoak as Tulowitzki has stabilized the infield with his range and strong throwing arm.
“I hope he’s only out a week or so. He’s not going to have to prove that he’s ready,” Smoak said. “If he says he’s healthy he’ll be playing.”
Second baseman Ryan Goins moved over to short, while Cliff Pennington took over at second.
“We did a great job in Game 1 and moved on the Game 2,” said Price. “Goins made all the plays at short and Cliff Pennington had a defensive walk-off play ... that ball was by him.”
Pennington slid to field a Greg Byrd one hopper with two out and the bases loaded in a tie game in the opener.
“That was an SEC play, the kind you expect from an SEC player,” said Price, who pitched for Vanderbilt Commodores. Pennington played for the Texas A&M Aggies.
In the nitecap, Pennington hit his first homer as a Blue Jay, a two-run shot as part of the six-run uprising.