Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. pulls out of WBC due to knee issue

Guerrero Jr. was slated to represent the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic.

Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won't participate in the World Baseball Classic. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won't play for the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic due to a knee injury.

Guerrero Jr. left Friday's spring training game early and an MRI revealed some minor inflammation in his right knee but no structural concerns. He is considered day-to-day and Toronto will take every precaution to protect its superstar ahead of the 2023 season.

"I think putting the team at the forefront is what drove him," Blue Jays manager John Schneider told reporters on Saturday, per Sportsnet's Arden Zwelling. "He's frustrated he can't play.

"It's a cool thing to do. But he understands the team is going to come before the WBC. So, we'll take it a day at a time and get him back out there."

The 23-year-old is coming off a disappointing 2022 campaign in which he hit .274 with 32 home runs and 97 RBIs in 160 games. Those numbers are still excellent, but a far cry from what he achieved in a breakout 2021 season that saw him finish as the runner-up to Shohei Ohtani in the American League MVP race.

Guerrero Jr. has appeared in five Grapefruit League games so far this spring, hitting .300 with two home runs. The Blue Jays open their regular season on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 30.

Even without Guerrero Jr., the Dominican Republic is considered one of the favorites to win the WBC. Their roster is led by offensive powerhouses in Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Julio Rodriguez and Rafael Devers, among others. Miami Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara fronts a pitching staff that has plenty of depth behind him.

This year's tournament runs from March 8-21.