TORONTO -- You could almost hear the collective hearts of Blue Jays fans drop on Thursday night as Jose Bautista writhed on the ground in considerable pain after turning his right ankle while sliding into third base.
The 30-year-old slugger was running into a routine forceout in the fourth inning when he slid feet-first and caught a cleat in the dirt beside the bag.
He immediately left the game for X-rays, which came back negative. He will be re-evaluated on Friday morning before likely going for an MRI to determine if there is any muscular damage.
"We'll talk with him first thing in the morning when he wakes up and schedule an MRI at that point," manager John Farrell said after the game. "That will likely be the case, just to take all precautions with him."
The play seemed innocent, the same type of slide Bautista makes hundreds of times a year. But on this one, his ankle flexed in before kicking out vigorously under the force of his slide.
He immediately grabbed the ankle as he popped up, hopping on his left foot once before landing and collapsing. He would remain there for several minutes being examined by trainer George Poulis before walking off the field under his own power.
The encouraging news is that the X-rays revealed no breaks or fractures, but the team will have to wait until Friday before determining how much time, if any, he will miss.
"Structurally, in terms of bone structure, everything is fine," Farrell said. "He's got a little bit of swelling in there."
The injury comes just two days after Bautista made a dramatic sliding catch in right field at the All-Star Game in which he appeared to jam his right ankle into the wall. But Farrell told reporters after Thursday's game that Thursday's ankle injury is an isolated incident and not related to the catch in Arizona.
Bautista also appeared to be walking gingerly after beating out a ground ball at first base earlier in the fourth inning. He noticeably pulled up on his right foot after hitting first base in full stride and took a few steps to walk it off, but he remained in the game until injuring the ankle three batters later.
Farrell also said that the play at first is unrelated to the injury.
"The replays show that there was some hesitation on his part when he hit the bag, but in talking to him, he felt like it was unrelated," he said. "When he slid into third, he caught his spike in the dirt and that's where he turned it -- at that moment."
Bautista is undoubtedly the Blue Jays' most valuable player, and he leads the team in virtually every hitting category. After going 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored on Thursday, he is hitting .336 with 31 home runs and 65 RBIs. He leads the Majors in home runs, walks (75) and on-base percentage (.470).
An extended absence would leave a gaping hole in the lineup. Bautista missed five games in May with a neck injury, and the team went 2-3 over that span.
"When he went down ... Certainly what he means to us speaks volumes," Farrell said. "And hopefully this isn't a prolonged situation where he's going to miss any length of time."
Bautista was receiving treatment after the game and was unavailable for comment.
Arden Zwelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.