TORONTO – Stretching in the on-deck circle ahead of his first inning at-bat Aug. 15 against the Tampa Bay Rays, Bo Bichette felt a pop in his right knee. For about 10 seconds it hurt, but the pain soon dissipated. The Toronto Blue Jays shortstop remained in the game until it was suspended after four innings because of rain, thinking nothing of it until he returned to the clubhouse.
“I sat down and it started to puff up,” Bichette recalled Saturday. “To be honest, I was like, I’ll probably feel better tomorrow, so I went home, I didn’t tell anybody. Woke up the next day and had to call Jose (Ministral, the club’ head trainer) and tell them that there’s no way I can go that day. So just kind of a freak incident and I’ll do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Bichette returned to the Blue Jays on Saturday after a four-week, 27-game absence due to a Grade 1 knee sprain, having prepared as best he could during a stint at the club’s alternate training site in nearby Rochester, N.Y.
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Though the entire rehab situation was “not ideal,” he made the best of it, playing every day and doing all he could to get his legs back in shape, trying to simulate “everything that I would do in a game.”
“The adrenaline down there isn’t very much,” he continued. “But I kind of forced myself to steal a base, forced myself to dive for a ball in the field. Just to make sure that I was comfortable doing everything, and everything was good. I’m ready to go.”
Bichette will return at shortstop and though he wants to play every day, he won’t right out of the gate, as the Blue Jays try to manage his workload. Given the concurrent absences of Teoscar Hernandez and Rowdy Tellez, both lost to injury in the past week, he had thoughts of trying to rush himself back, but was talked out of it by his parents.
“I was already ahead of schedule, so they weren’t too excited with me thinking that way,” said Bichette, whose dad Dante is a coach with the club. “But I did a really good job with the rehab. I think I’m four or five days ahead of the original plan.”
His return comes at an ideal time, with two-and-a-half weeks left in the pandemic-shortened schedule and the Blue Jays in control of their destiny in possession of a playoff spot.
When he hit the injured list Aug. 16, the Blue Jays lost both the completion of the suspended game he was injured in and the regularly scheduled contest that followed, falling to a season-worst four games under .500 at 7-11.
The club went 17-9 from there, and while Rowdy Tellez was among those to praise Bichette for being a leader from the sidelines, he rejoins a team now four games over the break-even point.
“I did what I could,” Bichette said. “Everything that they overcame is on them. They did an amazing job. For me, it was just about making sure that nobody knew that I was upset about being out. Making sure that people knew that I was still engaged in the game, help anyway that I could. At the same time, I wanted to stay out of their way. I always believed in these guys. And so, I’m not surprised at all that they kept on winning, kept on playing hard and kept on believing in themselves. It was really fun to watch and just excited to be back.”