TORONTO — Bo Bichette is back in the Blue Jays lineup, and he believes that Toronto can still make the playoffs despite losing catcher Danny Jansen for the rest of the regular season.
Bichette was reinstated from the Blue Jays' 10-day injured list and slotted back in at shortstop for Friday's game against the visiting Kansas City Royals. The all-star has been out since Aug. 27 with a strained right quadriceps.
The Blue Jays held the third and final wild card berth in the American League heading into that game, half a game up on the Texas Rangers.
"I've always had confidence in this group," said Bichette in the home dugout at Rogers Centre. "This is when you find out what we're made of.
"Nothing else matters up to this point. It's all about now and we'll find out."
Bichette's return is timely, as Toronto begins a critical 10-game homestand that includes a four-game series against the Rangers that begins on Monday. The Blue Jays are two games back of the Seattle Mariners for the second wild-card spot.
"Nothing's changed from what I always say: we have to just win every game," said Bichette. "But obviously, with the standings, those are big games and every game from here on out is big.
"We definitely have to play good baseball."
Infielder Mason McCoy was optioned to the Blue Jays' triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y., to make space for Bichette on the major-league roster.
Bichette's .314 average leads Toronto and his 18 home runs are second most on the team behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s 21. He's a two-time all-star and was the AL's hits leader in 2021 and 2022.
Despite not playing for weeks, his 152 hits this season are still tied for 10th most across Major League Baseball.
"Huge addition at the top of the order. We all know what he can do," said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. "I think we're still going to have to ease him in a little bit in terms of just watching his workload the first handful of games.
"If it's a DH day or an off day even, we don't want to take a step back from this injury."
Jansen was already on the 10-day injured list with a fractured right middle finger but he had surgery on Thursday, ending his regular season. Bichette said it was tough to see Jansen hurt.
"He was definitely heartbroken when it happened," said Bichette. "He's one of the leaders of this team. He brings it every day. He prepares, really takes charge of the pitching staff.
"So it's tough. I know he'll be back soon and he'll be a big cheerleader out here."
Jansen is hitting .228 with 17 homers this season.
Alejandro Kirk will serve as the team's starting catcher, backed up by Tyler Heineman. Outfielder Daulton Varsho has also played catcher at the major-league level, if required.
Schneider didn't have an exact timeline for Jansen's return.
"We'll know probably in the next couple of days or after the initial swelling kind of gets out of there from the procedure," he said in his office. "So right now just saying regular season."
Schneider also had updates on right-handed reliever Erik Swanson and all-star third baseman Matt Chapman.
Swanson, who has been out since Aug. 27 with thoracic spine inflammation, will pitch an inning of relief for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons on Saturday.
Chapman resumed hitting and throwing on Friday as he recovers from a right middle finger strain. He's been on the 10-day IL since Aug. 28.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2023.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press