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Jansen offers bright spot on a rough day

Catcher sees results from solid at-bats, with two hits and an RBI
@baseballexis
June 9, 2019

TORONTO -- Danny Jansen has experienced his share of ups and downs in professional baseball. There were years in the Minor Leagues when the 24-year-old catcher got off to great starts, and there were periods of struggle. The beginning of this season saw more of the latter than the former,

TORONTO -- Danny Jansen has experienced his share of ups and downs in professional baseball.

There were years in the Minor Leagues when the 24-year-old catcher got off to great starts, and there were periods of struggle. The beginning of this season saw more of the latter than the former, but it seemed as though everyone was just waiting for Toronto’s Opening Day backstop to turn the corner.

In one of the few highlights from Sunday’s 8-2 series finale loss to Arizona, Jansen appeared to do just that. After several games with good at-bats, hard contact, and consistency -- but without results -- Jansen went 2-for-3 with his sixth double of the season and a walk on Sunday, his first game with multiple hits since May 19.

Box score

“I’m really pleased,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “And I’m really happy for that kid, because he’s going to be a part of our future and he’s hit so many balls hard and it was tough for me to watch, and see his average at .160 when I know he was having good at-bats. Finally, he’s getting hits now, so it’s good for him. His approach at the plate is a lot better for sure.”

Added Jansen: “It’s a good feeling. It’s something I’ve been preaching to myself, just stay with the flow, just keep hitting, just keep trying to barrel as many things up as possible and good things will happen. I’ve been sticking to that the last couple weeks and results are going to happen, that’s just baseball. Good day today, though, felt good.”

Though he has been consistently praised for his work behind the plate throughout his professional career, Jansen’s bat carried him as he rose through the ranks of Toronto’s farm system. He found stability in the Minors after a trip to the optometrist confirmed that he needed corrective lenses, but it was the mindset that followed that really provided some focus and clarity.

“I feel like I didn’t have [consistency] until the glasses, really,” Jansen said. “That being said, I don’t think my eyes were terrible when I first came in. But once I had my vision and stuff, I had a different attitude -- just not really caring about the results, just going out there and competing as much as I can, every single pitch, and that’s where I learned the most about myself.”

Bringing that attitude with him to the big leagues has been a work in progress for Jansen.

“I’ve had it and I’ve struggled with it,” he said. “Obviously, you want to succeed at the big league level, it’s the highest level, there’s no higher one. But I’ve struggled before in the past, big time, so I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like to start a season extremely well, so having that to humble myself [helps to] just to keep going, keep swinging.”

While Sunday saw a much-needed offensive outburst at the plate for the Wisconsin native, he also made some great plays in foul territory, and continued to impress behind the dish.

“[Jansen is] consistent, stable, he calls a very good game, he listens, he does his homework,” said Sunday’s starter Clayton Richard, who allowed seven runs on seven hits over 2 2/3 innings.

“Everything you could ask for from a catcher. We’ve had some good conversations on what we want, adjustments we want to make, the changes we want to make, and those plays today were fantastic and they really helped out.”

Ahead of Saturday’s game, Montoyo took Jansen and 24-year-old second baseman Cavan Biggio aside to ask them to bring the leadership skills they displayed in the Minor Leagues to the Toronto clubhouse, a conversation that offered the young players some added confidence.

“It was a message that he believes in us,” Jansen said. “He said he doesn’t care about the numbers, just be yourselves, just be leaders, just be who you are, because we have personalities that can transcend into team leaders and to have consistency at every level. It was an awesome thing for him to say that, and it gave us a sense of calm, for me especially.”

The hope going forward is that the calm and success Jansen found on Sunday will spread among the clubhouse when the team hits the road. The Blue Jays have lost 14 of their last 17 games, and the lineup is hitting just .161 with runners in scoring position over that span, with 18 hits in 112 at-bats. In the series against Arizona, Toronto went 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. (It was Jansen’s double that drove in Freddy Galvis from second.)

Following Sunday’s game, the Blue Jays begin a stretch where 12 of their next 16 contests are on the road. They will take on three division rivals in the Orioles, Red Sox and Yankees, with a series in Houston in between. Toronto’s 11-20 record on the road is among the worst in the Majors.

“We’re a team that’s going to keep battling, no matter what the standings show and what the records show,” Jansen said. “We’re going to keep having the joy in the game and we’re going to keep fighting, giving it everything we’ve got.”

Alexis Brudnicki is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.