Notes: Biggio leads off; Espinal; Springer

April 22nd, 2021

is one of many Blue Jays hitters trying to find his stride early this season, but there are some moving pieces involved, too.

Biggio has taken balls off his right hand three times dating to Spring Training, and recently had to miss some time in Kansas City when he could “barely even grip a bat.” He’s also adapting to a full-time role at third base, a transition that looked encouraging in Spring Training, but has looked more like a work in progress this April.

The versatile 26-year-old knows the realities of his slow start at the plate, though. Coming out of the series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Biggio is hitting .146 with 18 strikeouts over 15 games.

“It’s that time of year where some guys who didn’t really get off to the start they wanted to are putting pressure on themselves,” Biggio said. “I’m no one to talk because you see where my average is, so I’ve been a victim of it, too. This is the game of baseball. We’ve got to put more consistent at-bats together as opposed to chasing results on an individual basis.”

After batting second, fifth and sixth through the first few weeks of the season, manager Charlie Montoyo bumped Biggio to the leadoff spot for Wednesday’s game. It worked well enough, as Biggio took a pair of walks while picking up an RBI and a run scored in the 6-3 win. That’s a familiar role for Biggio, who posted a .368 on-base percentage between 2019 and ’20, and bumped veteran Marcus Semien, who’s also off to a slow start at the dish, down the lineup.

“It’s early. Everybody is trying to see how the league attacks them,” Semien explained on Tuesday. “We’re starting to face some division opponents and we’re seeing some trends, which I’m sure we’ll learn from during this tough stretch. Of course we all want to be hot at the same time. That’s going to be really fun when that happens, but right now, we’re not quite there yet.”

Biggio repeated several times on Wednesday that he likes where he’s at right now. The numbers still need some time to turn around, but he feels good about some recent swing adjustments and his overall approach at the plate.

“I feel like I’m the best hitting coach for myself just because I know myself the most and know my swing the most," Biggio said. "[Blue Jays hitting coach] Guillermo [Martinez] has helped me with seeing some certain things and I bounce some things off of him, just to have someone to talk to and someone who watches me hit every single day. I know myself better than anyone else, so what I’m feeling right now and what I’m seeing on video and how I feel in the box, I feel like I’m really close.”

The Blue Jays need Biggio to head into May with some momentum. Beyond him, the club’s options at third base are Joe Panik and Santiago Espinal, and while sliding Vladimir Guerrero Jr. across the diamond would be enticing, that would create more moving parts for a lineup that simply needs some consistency right now.

Long-term approach with Espinal

Espinal has been up for a handful of games this season, and given his versatility, he profiles as someone who could bounce up and down all season long. That might not be the case, though, especially when the Triple-A season opens in May.

“He could be a really good utility player in the big leagues, but we still think he can play every day,” Montoyo said. “That’s why we’re not going to just keep him here. Whenever it’s time for him to get at-bats, he’s probably going to get at-bats, because he might have a chance to be an everyday player someday in the big leagues.”

Injury updates

• George Springer (right quad strain) is still day to day, Montoyo said, but it’s clear that he’s getting closer to his 2021 debut. This weekend in St. Petersburg against the Rays is possible, but it could stretch into next week when the Blue Jays return home to Dunedin, Fla.

• Nate Pearson, ranked as Toronto's No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, will throw again on Thursday as he continues to build back up from a right adductor strain. Pearson is healthy now, but he is working through a simulated Spring Training style of buildup.