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Notes: Biggio in center; Yamaguchi improves

@KeeganMatheson
February 29, 2020

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Despite the countless hours spent discussing Cavan Biggio’s defensive versatility this offseason, not much has changed, even with Biggio starting in center field for the Blue Jays on Saturday. That’s been in the plans all spring, for Biggio to see some time in center after taking fly

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Despite the countless hours spent discussing Cavan Biggio’s defensive versatility this offseason, not much has changed, even with Biggio starting in center field for the Blue Jays on Saturday.

That’s been in the plans all spring, for Biggio to see some time in center after taking fly balls there. Spring Training is the blank canvas that begs for experimentation, so it’s sensible for the 24-year-old to get his feet wet, but manager Charlie Montoyo made a point to mention the obvious.

“He’s my second baseman,” Montoyo said.

Biggio was named the No. 8 second baseman in the big leagues in MLB Network’s Top 10 Right Now series this past offseason, a ranking that Montoyo has referenced nearly daily here in Dunedin. This center-field experiment still matters, though, so the conversation shifts to the situations in which the Blue Jays would move Biggio off second base.

Joe Panik’s candidacy for a roster spot -- and it’s a strong one -- is a major variable. Prospect Santiago Espinal could enter this picture down the road, too, and is impressing this spring -- but the domino effect seen in Montoyo’s daily lineup will be real.

On days that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. serves as the designated hitter, Travis Shaw will move across to third. Biggio could play some first in that scenario, depending on Rowdy Tellez’s status.

On days that an outfielder starts at DH, Biggio could move to a corner outfield spot if the Blue Jays wanted to get Panik in the lineup at second base. Teoscar Hernández will move to center on days when Randal Grichuk is not there, so there are several hurdles standing between Biggio and center field.

There’s plenty of “if” involved in these scenarios, but as 2019 showed, Montoyo never shies away from changing his lineups and defensive positioning day to day.

The bottom line is that when Biggio is moved off of second base, it will most likely be to accommodate better lineups catered to an opposing pitcher or game situation. Biggio won’t be moved around the diamond for the sake of experimentation alone.

Yamaguchi bounces back

Shun Yamaguchi looked much better on Saturday in the Blue Jays’ 6-5 win over the Phillies, his second start of the Grapefruit League season. The Japanese right-hander allowed just one run, on a solo homer, over three innings of work while striking out three.

Yamaguchi was clearly adjusting on the fly in his first outing, when he couldn’t escape the first inning, but Saturday’s start was much closer to what the Blue Jays expected when they signed him to a two-year deal.

“I wanted to focus on throwing fastballs, lower outside,” Yamaguchi said. “Then, after getting two strikes or ahead in the count, I wanted to throw a splitter. Those are things that I spoke with [catcher Danny] Jansen about before the game.”

Alford roster watch

Anthony Alford’s chase for a roster spot is one of this spring’s more interesting stories, and it’s changing by the day.

“His first game was really good, actually. He stole bases and he won us that game,” Montoyo said. “But after that, he has struggled. But again, that’s just a couple of games. We’ll see what he does after this.”

That first game, in which Alford singled and stole all three bases to score, was a perfect example of what he could bring as the potential 26th player on the roster. Some of the inconsistencies since have shown why he’s still fighting for that spot after several opportunities. Alford is out of options and a model for character, so he’ll be given every opportunity to control the narrative.

Up next
Chase Anderson will make his second Grapefruit League start at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday against the Pirates, but all eyes will be on No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson, who is also scheduled to pitch. Pearson needed just 12 pitches to strike out the side in his spring debut and touched 98 mph on radar guns at TD Ballpark in Dunedin. Fans can watch the action on MLB.TV or listen live on Gameday Audio.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.