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August 30, 2007 at 10:35 PM EDT
TORONTO — Toronto Blue Jays' star centre fielder Vernon Wells, who signed a $126-million contract extension last winter, might require off-season shoulder surgery.
So says general manager J.P. Ricciardi.
"I think we'll look at it a little deeper in the off-season and see if it's something that needs to be taken care of," Ricciardi said yesterday. "But I don't think it's anything major in the sense that it's going to be debilitating.
"I just think it's something that's gnawing at him and needs to get cleaned out." And no doubt gnawing at the Blue Jays' brain trust, too.
With the season winding down and a wild-card spot now virtually impossible to achieve, the last thing the Jays need is the additional problem of their meal ticket in less than optimum health.
Wells's offensive numbers have plummeted this season. His .256 batting average is down almost 50 points from last season. He has hit only 15 home runs, compared with 32 over a full season a year ago.
Ricciardi would not speculate whether Wells's shoulder problem has caused his power failure this season.
Wells offered a "no comment" when reporters in Oakland tried to discuss the matter with him on Wednesday.
The question begging for an answer is why Wells doesn't get shut down right now for the rest of the season.
Toronto hitting coach brought Mickey Brantley first brought up the injury on Tuesday.
Ricciardi said the centre fielder will undergo magnetic resonance imaging at the end of the season.
The Jays have been beset with injuries all season. B.J. Ryan, Gustavo Chacin, Reed Johnson, Lyle Overbay, Troy Glaus, A.J. Burnett and Gregg Zaun have all missed games to injury.
Ricciardi also said the exploratory surgery that pitcher Chacin had on his left shoulder in New York on Wednesday revealed a small tear in a rotator cuff that was repaired. Chacin should be ready to go by spring training, the GM said.
A club official said Wells's shoulder problem is not considered serious — at least serious enough to shut him down.
"Every player at this time of the year is playing with some sort of an injury," the official said. "Vernon, too. But it's not something that will force him out of the lineup."
Over the next few days, the Blue Jays are expected to name the minor-league players they intend on adding to their roster for September call-ups.
Ricciardi would not reveal whom he has in mind, but a good bet is outfielder Adam Lind, who played in 73 games with the big club this season, will be one who gets the call to move up from Triple-A Syracuse.
The club is also looking toward newly acquired pitcher Joe Kennedy and catcher Sal Fasano as additional call-ups, according to insiders.
As for the wild-card situation, Ricciardi wouldn't admit the season is lost.
"I think you've always got a chance when you've got a chance," Ricciardi said.
Now, that's not in the same realm as Yogi Berra's famous "It ain't over till it's over" mantra, but give it time to grow.
Who knows? If the Blue Jays, 67-66, manage to salvage a trying season with an unprecedented run over the final month of the season to qualify for the playoffs, Ricciardi-isms might suddenly become vogue throughout the major leagues.
While Ricciardi will tell you he has little interest in becoming the second coming of Berra, the part about the Blue Jays making a spirited run for the wild-card berth does catch his fancy.
And with the Blue Jays returning from a 4-3 West Coast trip to engage the Seattle Mariners in a three-game homestand that will begin tonight at the Rogers Centre, Ricciardi has every right to maintain his optimistic outlook.
Despite all the injuries, the nine-game losing string that kicked off the month of May and the continued subpar play from several stalwarts, the Blue Jays have still managed to cling to the fringes of the American League playoff picture.
Entering yesterday's play, the Blue Jays were in fifth place in the AL wild-card chase, seven games behind the Mariners and New York Yankees.
With 29 games left in the regular season, even the most diehard Jays fan would have to admit Toronto's postseason chances are slim and slimmer.
But when you consider that of those 29 games, 11 of them — three against Seattle, one against the Detroit Tigers and seven against the Yankees — are against teams Toronto needs to overhaul in the wild-card race, at least the Blue Jays can be the master of their own destiny — to some extent.
"We haven't had a hot month all year," Ricciardi said. "But if we just run the table at one point and win 20 games in a month, that might put us right there. I don't know.
"Obviously, we've got our backs against the wall, but any time you've got a chance, you've got to feel you've got a chance."
But it would take quite a run, something this club has not shown it is capable of doing this season.
A win tonight would give Toronto a record of 15-13 for August, its most successful month of the season.
But only once in franchise history — 1988, when they were 22-7 — have the Blue Jays been able to win 20 and more games in the final month of the season.