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SportsClock’s ticking on outfielder Anthony Alford’s shot with Blue Jays

15:11  11 september  2019
15:11  11 september  2019 Source:   thestar.com

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Anthony Alford remembers his big-league debut in May 2017 like it was a moment made for the bright lights of the big screen. The 25-year-old outfielder was immediately slotted into the Blue Jays lineup that day against the Baltimore Orioles two years ago, a luxury he was not afforded when was recalled

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Clock’s ticking on outfielder Anthony Alford’s shot with Blue Jays© Tom Szczerbowski Blue Jay Anthony Alford has hit just .162 in 35 big-league at-bats.

Anthony Alford remembers his big-league debut in May 2017 like it was a moment made for the bright lights of the big screen.

“I felt like I was in a movie. Everything was moving so fast ... I was worried about the ball getting lost in the lights,” he said. “I hadn’t played much left field and I was starting in left field. I wasn’t really nervous about hitting. Even though in my first at-bat I was numb in the box, I felt like I forgot how to get into my batting stance. I was more nervous about defence at that time.”

The 25-year-old outfielder was immediately slotted into the Blue Jays lineup that day against the Baltimore Orioles two years ago, a luxury he was not afforded when was recalled on Sept. 3 for his fifth stint in the major leagues. Alford pinch-hit after the day he joined Toronto, ahead of the second of two games at the Atlanta Braves last week, and has played just one complete game since with a couple more appearances as a pinch hitter or pinch runner.

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The Toronto Blue Jays placed Anthony Alford on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday with a wrist injury and recalled fellow outfielder Dwight Smith from triple-A Alford recorded one more at-bat and played three innings in the outfield . Smith played in two games with the Blue Jays earlier this season.

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Using those small chances to his advantage is as crucial as ever for Alford, a former two-sport star out of Mississippi who split his time between baseball and football before committing to the Jays full-time. Alford, selected in the third round of the 2012 draft and ranked as high at No. 2 on the Jays’ list of top prospects, is out of options after this season. He needs to start proving himself worthy of next season’s big-league roster now.

“I’m going to try to play him just like anybody else,” manager Charlie Montoyo said Tuesday, before starting fellow September call-up Jonathan Davis in centre field over Teoscar Hernandez and leaving Alford on the bench once again for the series opener against the Boston Red Sox at the Rogers Centre.

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- Outfielder Anthon - Outfielder Anthony Alford was recalled from triple-A Buffalo by the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon. Right-handed p

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Time in the outfield comes at a premium with Hernandez, Derek Fisher, Randal Grichuk ahead of him in the pecking order, and Davis and Billy McKinney also in the mix. The competition could become even tighter later this week with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hoping to make a return from a left quad strain before the end of the homestand.

Even with recent defensive mistakes from Fisher and Hernandez, there is little indication that the Jays will sway from their preferred three very often, including Grichuk. Montoyo made it clear that Hernandez didn’t sit Tuesday because of a failed play on a catchable line drive in a loss to the Tampa Bay on Sunday, an error that opened the door to a big inning for the Rays.

“That’s something I can’t control,” said Alford, who played 24 games in centre field and 26 games in right for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons this season, where he hit .259 with seven homers and 37 RBIs.

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Alford , 23, is the Toronto Blue Jays ’ most promising outfield prospect. Both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline rank him as the No. 3 player in the organization’ s farm system and he made good on such evaluations with his tantalizing play this past spring training. However, despite Alford ’ s plus bat and

“I just got to keep confidence in myself that I know I can play up here. I know that I have the ability to play up here. It’s just a matter of getting the opportunities.”

The confidence Alford professes to have in his game doesn’t yet match the numbers he has posted in the majors, with a .162 average in 35 at-bats. He was a late call-up last year, managing to appear in parts of six games from the 20th of the month. Alford has never had a stint in the big leagues longer than seven games.

When he’s not on the field, Alford pays close attention to how opposing pitchers are throwing and their sequencing, working what he calls 27 “mental at-bats.” Physically, he takes pitches off the machine, focusing on facing high velocity and curveballs, to try and mimic in-game reps.

First base coach Mark Budzinski, charged with working with the Jays outfielders, also likes to see Alford shagging balls off the bat, the closest he can get to game reps during batting practice. Honing his baseball instincts, forgetting the football player in him, has been a challenge. His throwing has improved and he is taking better routes since spring training, Budzinski said, but the work continues.

“Throwing-wise, it almost looks like sometimes he’s throwing over top of a line, like he kind of stands up ... We talked about it in spring training, get more in his legs and using the strongest part of his body, his legs, to help throw the ball,” Budzinski said. “You can see he’s getting better at it, though. The ball’s coming out of his hand better.”

Those are the kind of things Alford will try to showcase when he has the chance.

“I just can’t be afraid to fail,” he said. “I’ve got a mindset of just locked in, give it my all. Whatever happens happens.”

Laura Armstrong is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @lauraarmy

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