Whether it's in Toronto or Buffalo, the start to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s season is now in limbo.
Spring training is apparently over for baseball's No. 1 prospect as the Blue Jays announced Sunday morning that Guerrero will be out for at least the next three weeks with a Grade 1 strain of the left oblique muscle suffered in a Grapefruit League game Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Guerrero, who turns 20 on Saturday, is not expected to play any more this spring and will miss the Blue Jays' games against the Milwaukee Brewers in Montreal on March 25-26 that close the exhibition schedule. Guerrero's namesake father, the Hall of Fame outfielder, spent several seasons playing for the Montreal Expos and the younger Guerrero gave Montreal fans a moment to remember last March with a walk-off home run to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the Blue Jays' final game of the spring.
Guerrero chatter has been rampant through the offseason and spring as the Blue Jays were expected to start Guerrero in Buffalo and let him play with the Bisons for a couple of weeks. By cutting back on his major league service time a few days, they could extend his free agency by another year.
"All my life I've learned to control what I can control," Guerrero told The News in January when he visited Buffalo for the Bisons' Hot Stove Prospect Showcase. "I'm focused on doing the best. When I go on the field, my mind is focused on just doing what I need to do. I trust the team knows how to make decisions. I'm just focused on doing the best I can."
The point is moot now. Guerrero will have to start his season in the minor leagues to make up his lost at-bats. It's uncertain, however, if that would be in Buffalo. The Bisons open April 4 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in newly named Sahlen Field and the Blue Jays may not want Guerrero rehabbing a muscle injury in cold weather.
They could opt to keep him in their extended spring camp or assign him to Class A Dunedin of the Florida State League rather than Buffalo. The Jays could then move him up to Triple-A for a few games or perhaps call him directly to the big leagues once the service time issue has passed.
Guerrero won every minor league player of the year award possible last season after batting .402 with 14 homers and 60 RBIs for Double-A New Hampshire and then batting .336 with six homers and 16 RBIs in 30 games for the Bisons. He showed remarkable plate discipline in Buffalo, striking out just 10 times and drawing 15 walks in 110 at-bats.