George Springer will be out to get his first hit for the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night in the opener of a three-game series with the visiting Atlanta Braves at Dunedin, Fla.
Springer was 0-for-4 Wednesday night as DH and leadoff hitter in an 8-2 loss to the visiting Washington Nationals in his Blue Jays debut.
The Braves will start left-hander Drew Smyly (0-1, 7.20 ERA) against Blue Jays left-hander Robbie Ray (0-1, 2.81) in the opener.
The Blue Jays had Thursday off while the Braves were losing 9-3 to the visiting Chicago Cubs. The Braves still won three of four from the Cubs.
After being signed as a free agent in the offseason, Springer missed the first 22 games of the season with oblique and quadriceps strains.
He was signed to play center field but will be eased into his defensive role.
“We’re not just going to put him in center field every night; we’ve just got to be careful,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “That’s something we’re going to have to talk about every day with George and the trainers, to see where he is, but I see him DHing a lot at the beginning, just to keep him away from running every day in the outfield.”
It is one of the reasons that Rowdy Tellez, a first baseman and DH, was optioned to the alternate training site.
The Blue Jays take an 11-12 record into the series with the Braves, but Springer is impressed by the way they have handled several early-season injuries.
“It takes a lot to have the amount of injuries that this team has had,” he said. “For guys to step up in big spots and to do things they might not normally have to do or have had to do in the past, it’s a little bit of what this team stands for. Keep fighting every day. It’s obviously only April still, but I like the way that everybody has fought. It’s next man up and keep on going.”
Blue Jays right fielder Teoscar Hernandez (COVID-19 protocols) is also close to a return.
Smyly is 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 11 career games (eight starts) against the Blue Jays. Ray is 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA in four career starts against the Braves.
The Braves were held to a total of one hit en route to getting swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in a doubleheader Sunday. They lost 5-0 in the opener followed by Madison Bumgarner posting a seven-inning no-hitter (7-0) in Game 2.
“It just wasn’t our day on Sunday,” Braves first baseman Freeman said on Wednesday after his four-hit game. “That’s what good teams do. We put it right behind us. We have won three. Now, we’re back to .500. The bats are coming alive.”
The Braves are 12-13 after the loss on Thursday.
Freeman was 0-for-4 on Thursday, but in his previous 14 games after being moved to the No. 2 spot in the batting order, he was hitting .320 (16-for-50). Before the move was made on April 13, he hit .143 (5-for-35) in 10 games from the No. 3 spot.
Left-hander Sean Newcomb is expected to rejoin the Braves on Friday. The club was not given permission to say why he went on the IL on April 16. Newcomb cleared health and safety protocols and has been at the team’s alternate training site.
–Field Level Media