The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.
Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.
With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.
The Braves placed closer Arodys Vizcaino on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, per a team announcement on Sunday. The assignment is retroactive to June 21. While the right-hander will be eligible to return to the team within the week, it’s not clear yet how long his recovery will take.
Vizcaino, 27, has already been sidelined a week after experiencing discomfort in his right shoulder. While he was treated with a cortisone injection earlier this month, it doesn’t appear to have had the effect the Braves were hoping for. The injury derailed what has otherwise been a productive season for the right-hander: Through his first 30 appearances, he logged 15 saves with a 1.82 ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 10.0 SO/9 over 29 2/3 innings. Per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, the club is prepared to give more closing duties to rookie left-hander A.J. Minter as Vizcaino takes some time to recover, though it seems conceivable that the up-and-coming Evan Phillips will earn a few looks in the spot as well.
In corresponding moves, infielder Phil Gosselin was designated for assignment and right-hander Phillips was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. The 23-year-old righty is poised to make his major league debut after four years in the Braves’ system. He currently sports a 2.31 ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 12.9 SO/9 through 35 innings at the Triple-A level this season.