A non-COVID illness has followed Blue Jays since spring training
Photo credit:John Jones-USA TODAY Sports
By Thomas Hall5 months ago
Feed a cold, starve a fever, as the old saying goes – a mantra the Toronto Blue Jays have likely turned to numerous times this season.
Part of enduring a 162-game schedule is surviving injuries and illnesses. While the Blue Jays have remained relatively healthy through these first two months, they haven’t been able to shake a nagging sickness that has made its way through the clubhouse since spring training, infecting a handful of players.
Alejandro Kirk and Brandon Belt were its first initial victims this past spring, causing both players to miss time with what was diagnosed as non-COVID-related illnesses. As both players showed, however, symptoms can vary from player to player.
Each player and coach has reacted differently to this viral illness. A few have been limited to just congestion and a sore throat, whereas others have only experienced body aches. A worst-case scenario has included extended periods of nausea/vomiting along with a lack of energy and appetite.
Danny Jansen and Matt Chapman – both of which missed time in April – fell on the more severe side of the scale, becoming the first players to miss regular-season games. Unfortunately, as the bug passed through their systems, its next target was George Springer.
Springer, dealing with fatigue, dehydration and nausea, was absent from Toronto’s lineup during the club’s series opener versus the Boston Red Sox on May 1. The All-Star outfielder only missed one other contest on that nine-game road trip before re-entering the batting order and trying to play through his ailment.
But, once the virus finally departed, Springer had lost 15 pounds – a less-than-ideal outcome midseason.
“I’ve been part of teams where colds and stuff happen,” Springer told Sports Illustrated’s Mitch Bannon. “Guys get stomach bugs and all sorts of stuff. It’s a locker room, guys are going to get sick. But this one seems to just pick one or two guys off at a time. It just kind of goes from guy to guy.”
Shortly after it was finished with Springer, Kevin Kiermaier felt under the weather following a 6-3 loss to the New York Yankees on May 16, marking the beginning of numerous unpleasant trips to the bathroom. And he ended up experiencing similar symptoms to Springer’s bout.
Most players would’ve been down for the count amidst these symptoms. But despite feeling ill, the former Tampa Bay Ray – who ended up losing five to six pounds – was the ultimate team player and acted as a break-in-case-of-emergency reserve across the final two games of the series against the Bronx Bombers.
With limited bench options at Yankee Stadium, the Blue Jays couldn’t afford to send Kiermaier back to Toronto to recover. Instead, the sick-ridden centre-fielder waited on standby in an auxiliary locker room in case he was needed off the bench.
“With how bad I was feeling I was like ‘Oh my gosh,’” Kiermaier said. “But thankfully avoided that.”
Belt is the illness’ most recent victim, though he believes his spring sickness included different symptoms. This time, however, a few days of rest and hydration had the veteran lefty back in the lineup for a weekend series at Citi Field against the New York Mets – where he delivered three hits, including Sunday’s game-winning two-run shot.
But in more severe cases, the Blue Jays have administered liquids via IV, allowing for quicker hydration.
The sickness’ relentlessness has been most surprising throughout the organization. Luckily, however, it hasn’t claimed more than a handful of individuals, displaying a slow spread within the clubhouse. Even if some have built an immunity, the team is still taking extra precautions – particularly at the Rogers Centre – to ensure surfaces are clean and disinfected.
“This has been a little bit extreme, I think,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “But, I think guys are handling it as best they can.
“Try to just wash your hands and be safe. You never know with a viral illness, it could just be a weird thing.”
Despite encountering a seemingly never-ending battle off the field, the Blue Jays swept the Mets over the weekend, outscoring them 11-5 in three games and extending their winning streak to four straight.
They will now fly home to begin a four-game series versus the Houston Astros on Monday, followed by a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins.
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