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Springer’s return, pair of Guerrero Jr. homers spark Blue Jays win

Springer’s return, pair of Guerrero Jr. homers spark Blue Jays win

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TORONTO – Shortly before 4 p.m. ET, George Springer wrapped up a series of baserunning drills and met Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, head trainer Jose Ministral and head strength and conditioning coach Scott Weberg near the pitching mound.

They chatted briefly, smiled, exchanged fist bumps and then picked up GM Ross Atkins, seated inside the dugout, on their way to the clubhouse to finalize the decision: Springer’s sprained left knee was strong enough for the star outfielder to be activated from the injured list.

The tipping point came “when we were comfortable with the risk and what the medical assessment is and understanding from our doctors that he is not putting his knee at more risk from running and from moving forward with the next step,” Atkins, back in the dugout, said shortly afterwards. “More importantly, from his comments and his desire, which we have pushed him very hard on to make sure that he’s not masking anything or covering anything up.”

Hours later, Springer looked like his old self, sliding into second base on a double steal with lead runner Jarrod Dyson in the third inning, and later starting the decisive three-run rally with a leadoff single in the sixth inning of a 7-3 victory Monday over the Baltimore Orioles.

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Springer scored on Bo Bichette’s game-tying RBI single, a hit that was followed by Teoscar Hernandez’s two-run double, and the star outfielder reached base a third time with a walk in the seventh to set up Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s second homer of the game, a three-run shot.

For a team that over the past two weeks has struggled badly putting up runs and hitting with runners in scoring position – 14-for-107, or .131 in the past 12 games – it was the type of outburst long in the making.

By no means does beating up on the dreadful Orioles cure all that ails the Blue Jays, but any step toward reigniting their dormant offence is essential in fuelling their hopes of charging back into relevance in the chase for the post-season.

Springer, for the time being, will be limited to DH duties as he reacclimates to regular at-bats. The goal is to progressively build up his workload, reps and drills into the outfield eventually translating into defensive innings in the field but “it’s the point in the season where we’ll take the DH at bats,” said Atkins.

That will certainly help, especially if Springer continues to impact the games the way he did Monday.

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Orioles starter Chris Ellis went through the first eight batters unscathed before Dyson worked a two-out walk in the third and stole second before Springer was hit by a pitch. They promptly pulled off a double steal but Marcus Semien lined out to deep centre to end the threat.

Guerrero’s solo shot in the fourth tied the game 1-1 and after the Orioles scratched out a run in the sixth on Ryan Mountcastle’s RBI single, Springer started the decisive rally in the bottom of the frame to light up a crowd of 14,406.

The outburst ensured the latest Robbie Ray gem – seven innings, four hits, two runs, a walk and 10 strikeouts – didn’t go to waste, giving the bullpen a rare night of low leverage, even after Trent Thornton couldn’t mop up the ninth, forcing Jordan Romano to extinguish a small fire.

Nate Pearson and Julian Merryweather may soon be ready to reinforce the relief corps, with Atkins calling their most recent outings over the weekend “really encouraging. Both are recovering well. Both are feeling strong. Their stuff is there. It’s just more about refining and command at this point.”

They’re due to pitch again at triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday and each is being assessed outing-to-outing at this point. The possibility of adding more leverage options and Springer delivering impact from the DH spot is one of the reasons Atkins feels the Blue Jays have “enough season left to really make a good run” at a post-season berth.

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“We have yet to have a time where all things have been happening for this team,” Atkins added. “I’m very confident that it’s in our future and certainly hopeful that it starts sooner and quicker to increase those chances.”

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