'Long season': Bo's diligence paying off with hot stretch

May 25th, 2024

DETROIT -- is a proven hitting commodity, and if the Blue Jays are to reach a third consecutive postseason they need their shortstop and cleanup hitter producing as he has in two All-Star seasons.

Toronto (23-27) had won four of its last five games before Friday night’s 6-2 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park, and Bichette was a big part of the recent turnaround. He got two more hits on Friday for a third consecutive multihit outing, and he has batted .389 (21-for-54) with two homers and nine RBIs in the past 14 games. That hot stretch raised Bichette's batting average from .189 to .249 on the season.

Bichette smiled and downplayed his recent surge.

“Yeah, long season,” he said. “Long season.”

How did he cope with the dry spell?

“I don’t think anybody handles not playing well 'good,'” said Bichette. “But at the end of the day, I’ve been through long periods of not being myself. And I’ve come out of it every time. So, it really just came down to: ‘Do I believe in myself or do I not?’ If I do, then I keep working until it comes. When it comes, don’t feel you’ve got it figured out, and keep on coming.”

In other words, don’t waste time taking bows for the good times or bowing your head for the bad times.

This wasn't necessarily about making adjustments, either.

“There honestly wasn’t that many adjustments -- a couple tweaks here and there,” said Bichette. “I really don’t feel like I was having bad at-bats all year. Just the quality of contact wasn’t where I wanted it to be.”

The way back was what we've come to expect from Bo.

“In a way, I was more aggressive,” said Bichette, “But not in terms of swinging at more pitches. I just got more intentional and more convicted in what my approach was.”

That isn’t easy when the hits aren’t coming.

“Yeah,” Bichette said with a grin. “Baseball’s a mind game.”

He knows how to play that game, too.

Bichette has posted between 601 and 697 plate appearances in three consecutive seasons, appearing in 159 games in 2021 and '22.

He has the mental toughness to make it through the grind.

“I think it’s consistency,” the 26-year-old Bichette said. “Being the same guy every day. You’ve really got to believe in yourself to play that many games. Mentally, it is challenging -- especially when things aren’t going how you want. But that also comes with experience. I’ve been around enough at this point that I’ve been kind of through everything. It really is just consistency, preparation, hard work -- all that kind of stuff.”

What’s the source of the belief he has in himself and his process?

“I think I’ve always naturally had a confidence,” said Bichette, who carries himself with a quiet kind of swagger. “It comes from the work. I put in a lot of hours [into] every part of the game -- mentally and physically. I just know that stuff is going to show up at some point.”

His manager echoed those sentiments.

“Day in and day out, [Bo is] as consistent as anyone that we have here -- or anyone around the league -- with his work,” said manager John Schneider. “With Bo, it just comes down to hitting pitches he should hit. He can cover the whole zone, really, and then some.

“He’s definitely on the right track with what he’s trying to do -- his mindset, his mentality. And it’s a really proven track record.”

It's a big part of the reason why the Blue Jays have been able to turn things around offensively -- although the club couldn't climb back after Alek Manoah surrendered six runs (four earned) in 4 2/3 innings on Friday. Command and a pair of home runs allowed were what plagued Toronto's starter, who had come into the game riding two consecutive quality starts.

But in Bo's words, it's a long season.

Bichette has a .295 batting average and an .813 OPS in his career, hitting between 20 and 29 homers in each of the past three seasons. A two-time AL hits leader in 2021 and '22, Bichette has garnered MVP votes in each of the past three years as well.

But he became a student of the game long before that.

“I was 15 or 16 -- something like that,” said Bichette of his turning point as a hitter. “I’ve had pretty much the same hitting approach since I was that age. My dad [former Major Leaguer Dante Bichette] was coaching with the Rockies about that time, and I was able to spend time around some of those guys, and notice not only their routines but the fact that they were doing those every day.”

Troy Tulowitzki was his main influence, and Bichette still talks and works with the former Blue Jay. Dexter Fowler and Carlos González took him under their wings, too.

All of those guys set an example.

“So, I said, ‘I guess this is what I have to do,’” said Bichette. “I’ve had little tweaks since, but I’m basically doing the same thing.”