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SportsBlue Jays’ Guerrero Jr. quietly on fire as Bichette draws spotlight

16:35  29 august  2019
16:35  29 august  2019 Source:   sportsnet.ca

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Blue Jays’ Guerrero Jr. quietly on fire as Bichette draws spotlight© Provided by Rogers Media Inc Vladimir-Guerrero-Jr

TORONTO – For the first few weeks of August, Bo Bichette’s bat took centre stage for the Toronto Blue Jays. Considering the historic nature of Bichette’s debut, the hype was warranted.

Then, when the Blue Jays returned home to face the Atlanta Braves, the spotlight shifted to Josh Donaldson, the former MVP who returned to play in Toronto for the first time since the team traded him last summer. Again, Donaldson’s return was worthy of the attention.

But throughout the month of August, someone else has been just as productive: the player a few steps to Bichette’s right, the one who replaced Donaldson at third base this season. Quietly, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s been enjoying the best month of his short major-league career.

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He entered play Wednesday batting .350/.409/.613 in August, then added two opposite-field singles in the Blue Jays’ 9-4 loss to Atlanta. That gives him 10 multi-hit games this month and a .282/.353/.468 batting line on the season. Impressive stuff from a player who’s still younger than hundreds of players drafted this June.

As manager Charlie Montoyo said, “He’s just a good hitter, man. He’s fun to watch.”

Of course, Guerrero Jr.’s not yet a finished product and the error he made in the second inning was a reminder of the defensive work awaiting the 20-year-old. He mishandled an Adeiny Hechavarria ground ball, setting in motion a five-run inning in which two unearned runs scored. As expected, playing third base at the big-league level has presented some challenges.

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“I’m not reading the ball off the bat 100 per cent yet,” Guerrero Jr. later acknowledged through interpreter Hector Lebron.

“Sometimes I’m not sure if I have to attack the ball or not, so those are things that I’m working on right now.”

An outfielder as an amateur, Guerrero Jr. continues learning the intricacies of third base.

“I grew up playing outfield. I was an outfielder. I feel pretty good at third base, but I’m a natural outfielder, so it’s not like that,” he said.

“Every day I’m just going to keep working at third base until I feel 100 per cent.”

Even if he didn’t get much help from his defence, starter Jacob Waguespack wasn’t particularly sharp for the Blue Jays over three innings. He allowed five runs (three earned), and many of the six hits he allowed came on pitches that caught too much of the plate.

Ultimately, the dominant performance he flashed against the Los Angeles Dodgers last week proved tough to replicate against another one of the National League’s best offences, so the Blue Jays had to ask their bullpen for six innings of work. Along the way, the Braves added four more runs.

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Meanwhile, the offence was relatively quiet and the Blue Jays fell to 54-81 on the season. They’ll enjoy an off day Thursday before a formidable Houston Astros team arrives for three games this weekend.

Before the game, Montoyo and hitting coach Guillermo Martinez said the Blue Jays were looking for Cavan Biggio to be a little more aggressive within the strike zone. While the Blue Jays like Biggio’s keen eye at the plate, they don’t want him to let too many hittable pitches go by. With that in mind, they suggested a slight change in approach.

“Just being more aggressive, especially with the heater,” Biggio said. “I was definitely too passive the last couple weeks and I think the past two games I’ve just been like ‘whatever, let’s just go, hit the heater, the first one I see in the zone.’”

In his five trips to the plate, Biggio seemed to strike a balance between patience and aggressiveness, hitting a double to lead off the fifth inning then drawing a walk in the sixth. Those were encouraging signs for a player who has been struggling of late.

“His approach is a lot better,” Montoyo said. “That’s good to see. I knew that was coming, but I’m glad to see it now. He made the adjustment and it’s working.”

Of even greater importance for the Blue Jays: the continued progression of Guerrero Jr., who’s having the kind of month most 20-year-olds can only dream of with relatively little fanfare.

“I don’t know if it’s a hot streak or it’s just me,” Guerrero Jr. said. “(My work) is paying off right now and I’m feeling good at the plate.”

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