DUNEDIN, Fla. – Blue Jays outfielder George Springer was his usual easygoing self at spring training on Tuesday, hamming it up at times with his teammates as everyone gets settled into the regular pre-season routine and flow.
An injury-plagued 2022 season behind him, Springer is feeling energized and healthy after undergoing off-season surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow.
“I’m in a good spot and I’m very happy about it,” Springer said. “It feels good to feel good.”
The elbow issue bothered him for most of the season and the discomfort was evident in the second half of the campaign. Springer noticeably grimaced at times after some swings as he tried to play through the pain.
“I learned fast it’s really hard to play baseball with a bad arm, but it’s all good … I was just glad I was able to get through it and contribute to some degree,” he said.
Springer still managed to post solid offensive numbers with a .267 batting average, 25 home runs and 76 runs batted in.
“When he’s fully healthy, he is a definite game-changer,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “Our job is to try to keep him fully healthy as much as we can with mixing him into the DH spot and giving him days off here and there.
”We’ve probably seen glimpses of him fully healthy and hopefully that glimpse can be over seven months this year.”
Springer’s post-season ended in Game 2 of the American League wild-card series against Seattle when he was carted off the turf at Rogers Centre.
He collided with shortstop Bo Bichette as they tried to catch a blooper in shallow left-centre field. Springer suffered a concussion and sprained his shoulder on the play.
The Blue Jays’ brief playoff appearance ended shortly thereafter as Toronto blew a seven-run lead in a 10-9 loss. Springer addressed the team after the stunning collapse.
“I think it puts us in a better state of mind for this year to know that every little thing that we do, it counts,” he said. “To take that into this year, to learn from last year and we’ll see what the next 162 brings.”
Springer didn’t appear limited at all on a warm, sunny morning at the team’s player development complex. He took some big cuts in the batting cage and participated in outfield drills.
Springer will shift to right field this season as part of Toronto’s new-look outfield. Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., were traded last fall and new additions Daulton Varsho and Kevin Kiermaier will give the Blue Jays a stronger defensive look.
“I’m here for the team and I’m excited about it,” Springer said.
Springer, 33, signed a US$150-million, six-year contract with the Blue Jays in January 2021. Schneider said he helps the team in a number of ways.
“We’re talking damage, on-base, energy, presence, a guy that can work an at-bat that just rubs off on everyone one through nine,” Schneider said. “You’re looking at arguably one of the best leadoff hitters in the game over the last handful of years.
“I think if you have him in there regularly, you’re really off to a good start.”
Early camp kicked off Monday at the team’s Florida base. The Blue Jays’ Grapefruit League opener is set for Feb. 25 against Pittsburgh.
The regular-season opener is scheduled for March 30 in St. Louis and the home opener at the renovated Rogers Centre goes April 11 against Detroit.
Also Tuesday, the Blue Jays invited internal non-roster outfielder Cam Eden to big-league spring training.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2023.
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