KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The Blue Jays' clubhouse was subdued, it didn't feel as though they'd just beaten the Royals 8-4. There was concern for an injured teammate, a team leader and the igniter of the offense.
"Obviously our prayers are with Jose and hoping for the best," said starter J.A. Happ, who pitched five innings for his second victory of the season. "We don't have all the answers right now but we're all hopeful for a best case scenario, which I don't even know exactly what that would be. We're anxious to hear."
Jose Reyes, 29, sprained his left ankle sliding awkwardly as he stole second base in the sixth inning. After the game he was taken to hospital for an MRI, which will better reveal the extent of the damage.
Best-case scenario, Reyes misses a month. General manager Alex Anthopoulos didn't rule out the possibility his star shortstop could be gone until the All-Star break or beyond. The club won't know until they get back the test results.
"He felt something pop," said manager John Gibbons. "It's a nightmare. He's a big part of this team, in a lot of ways the face of this team, we've got to deal with it … The train keeps moving, the game keeps going on. You've got to regroup and pick up the slack but that definitely won't be easy."
Anthopoulos, while regretful of losing a core player, had no time for sentimentality. There's a game to be played, and won, on Saturday; another on Sunday; and Monday; and, well, you get the picture.
"Honestly, your reaction is you start thinking 'Okay, what are our options, who can we call up, who can we get here?'" said Anthopoulos. "Already starting to look at players outside the organization, already actually reached out to some GMs for small trades, things like that. It's part of the game, you never want to see it, but at the same time you've been through it enough times (to know) it's going to happen over the course of the season."
From Triple-A Buffalo, the only player on the 40-man roster with experience at shortstop is Ryan Goins. Mike McCoy is another short-term option but he is not on the 40-man roster; to add him would require the deletion of someone else.
Just prior to the play on which he was injured, Reyes extended his hitting streak to nine games with a two out, two RBI single in the sixth that increased the Blue Jays' lead to 8-4. He's batting .395 for the young season; he leads the club with five stolen bases.
The club has played the entire season down an infielder as Brett Lawrie rehabs a strained ribcage muscle. The 23-year-old third baseman played in a second-consecutive extended spring training game on Friday and reported good health. The Blue Jays want to get Lawrie 20 to 25 minor league at-bats, four or five games, before he makes his season debut. Gibbons is hesitant to stray from the plan despite a cavernous hole on the left side of the infield.
"You still want to be cautious with him too," he said. "You don't want him coming back too soon, now he's done and now we've got that big, big hole. We've still got to be smart with that."
Asked if Reyes' injury could be a rallying point for a club plagued by poor starting pitching, a lack of quality infield defense and spotty offense, Gibbons was hopeful.
"I've seen it happen before; it'd be nice if it did," said Gibbons. "It's on everybody's mind. Regardless of what kind of player it is and it doesn't matter whether it's our team or another team, in the baseball world, the baseball community, everybody's heart goes out to whoever it might be. In his case, he's one of the top guys in the game so to us personally it's a greater magnitude but everyone in the baseball world feels for him right now."
Anthopoulos believes the loss of Reyes, and the other issues plaguing the club, can be smoothed over with improvement in the game's most important area.
"The biggest thing for us, we need to pitch and if we do I think everything else will work itself out," said Anthopoulos. "Hopefully Jose will be back during the season and we'll be right there."