Belt's experience showing value in Blue Jays' stretch run

September 30th, 2023

TORONTO -- There’s a secret to ’s continued success, and the key lies in not trying to hide it.

It’s what’s allowed him to maintain a 13-year career in the Majors and earn two World Series rings. It’s also what’s fueled him to a scorching return from a two-week absence due to a back injury.

Quite simply, Belt knows -- and trusts -- who he is, quirks and intricacies included.

“His personality mirrors his at-bats,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “They’re kind of boring and the same, but they’re funny [and fun] at the same time.”

It’s true that Belt’s dry humor and steady mindset have endeared him to Toronto’s fanbase just as much as what he’s done at the plate. There’s nothing boring about homering on back-to-back nights, though.

Belt hit his second long ball in as many games on Friday night, as part of the Blue Jays’ 11-4 win over the Rays at Rogers Centre. It was no cheap homer, either, leaving his bat at 106.7 mph and traveling a Statcast-projected 420 feet to right-center field to extend Toronto’s lead to 5-0 in the fourth inning.

The previous night, when the Blue Jays retrieved their offensive form to earn a 6-0 victory over the Yankees, Belt was the main difference-maker, launching a three-run homer to double Toronto’s lead in the sixth.

If you spoke to Belt right after, though, you may be hard-pressed to guess if he went 0-for-5 or played the hero.

“He’s just very consistent,” Schneider said. “He never wavers.”

With two games left in the regular season and an American League Wild Card spot within striking distance, that trait has never counted more.

“There’s no substitute for experience,” said teammate George Springer, who’s also a postseason veteran and a fan favorite in Toronto. “[Belt] has played in these games before, he knows how to do it. He knows how to navigate the game, how to navigate his at-bats, and to have a guy like that is huge.”

That experience was one of the main reasons why the Blue Jays signed Belt to a one-year deal in the offseason. A team with high postseason aspirations took a chance on the 35-year-old veteran returning from arthroscopic knee surgery.

At the time, it seemed like a perfect depth move, instantly improving Toronto’s bench and giving the club a valuable option at DH. But through mindful at-bats and tongue-in-cheek self-imposed MVP labels, Belt has made himself into much more with his new team.

It came after a discouraging start to the season, too, when Belt hit just .170 with a .534 OPS and 27 strikeouts between March and April. Since May 1, he has posted a .270 average with an OPS north of .900. Since Aug. 1 (28 games), his OPS is 1.056 with 10 homers and 16 RBIs.

What’s been the ill-kept secret to his resurgence, then?

“I’m just trusting myself,” Belt said after Thursday’s win over the Yankees. “I figured some stuff out in August that helped me pick up the pace a little bit, as far as my numbers go. So, I was just able to hold onto that throughout the time I was hurt.”

If the Blue Jays have their way, this intense Wild Card race is just the beginning of a deep October run. Having Belt’s World Series-caliber experience carries a weight of its own for this club.

“When you get into games like this, that are so intense and matter so much, just being who you are in those big spots, to me, that’s the definition of clutch,” said Schneider. “And when you have so many of those reps at the highest level, you can really slow down some situations.”