Notes: Biggio to lead off; Thornton update

August 8th, 2020

Another day, another big lineup shuffle that’s indicative of a larger philosophical change for the Blue Jays as they try to wake up a struggling offense.

Ahead of the Blue Jays' 5-3 loss to Boston on Friday, manager Charlie Montoyo moved Cavan Biggio into the leadoff spot, putting one of the organization’s best plate approaches atop the lineup where he’s a natural fit.

Biggio wasted no time in the new role, either, as he launched a solo home run to lead off the top of the first inning. Biggio finished the day 2-for-4 with a walk, including a shift-beating single to right field to lead off the third.

The Blue Jays have been far too aggressive this season, and Bo Bichette had fallen into that group in the leadoff spot -- until now. The star shortstop put up seven strikeouts and zero walks (.273 OBP) through his first seven games. Biggio’s numbers are no better, but his .364 on-base percentage in 2019 and .375 mark in the Minors weren’t an accident.

“I know that Biggio’s going to get on base,” Montoyo said. “That’s just what he does. Hopefully, for Bo’s first at-bat, will be with somebody on instead of nobody on. That’s part of the idea, having a big on-base percentage guy in front of Bo. Bo’s going to swing the bat, we all know that. If Biggio gets on, Bo can bring him in and get going.”

This move should have more traction to it, but we’ve already seen this week how quickly Montoyo’s remodels can be pulled back. On Tuesday, Teoscar Hernández, the club’s hottest hitter, was moved into the No. 3 hole, shifting Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to No. 4 and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to No. 5.

That lasted two games. On Friday, Hernández was suddenly batting eighth as part of Montoyo’s idea to shake things up.

“That’s why I switched the lineup today, giving it a bit of a different look,” Montoyo said. “I’m just trying to get something going on the top, then on the bottom, so I stretched it out. That’s why Teoscar is hitting lower in the lineup, trying to get something going. It’s going to start pretty soon.”

Montoyo’s hope is that getting into a rhythm is what this lineup needs, ideally without the interruption of more unexpected postponements.

Latest on Thornton
A day after starter Trent Thornton hit the 10-day injured list with right elbow inflammation, Montoyo sounded optimistic that this would be a short stint.

“We have to be careful, because it’s a young kid,” he said. “If he wasn’t feeling right, we’re not going to rush him, but I don’t see him missing a lot of time. He should miss, at the most, one or two starts and that’s it.”

Miller takes the Taxi
Prior to Friday’s game in Boston, right-handed reliever Justin Miller was added to the Blue Jays’ taxi squad.

That group, which can now hold up to five players for the remainder of the season, includes Miller, right-hander Sam Gaviglio, catcher Caleb Joseph and infielder Santiago Espinal.

Miller joined the Blue Jays as a Minor League free agent this past offseason and competed for a role through Spring Training, before being added to the club’s player pool out of Summer Camp. The 2018 season was Miller’s best, when he posted a 3.61 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings for the Nationals, including a pair of saves.

The 33-year-old fits the type of reliever that the Blue Jays have targeted on smaller deals recently, given his fastball spin rate that sits in the 80th percentile in MLB, according to Statcast. That fastball averaged 93.9 mph in 2018, but his average velocity dipped to 92.2 mph in '19 with the Nationals.

• Right-hander Chase Anderson is expected to make his Blue Jays debut on Saturday in Boston. Anderson has been sidelined with an oblique strain, but has thrown sim games and live BP to build back up.

• Clarifying more of what happened Thursday, when Jacob Waguespack was deemed ineligible to pitch because he was not on the umpire’s lineup card, Montoyo said, “They had the four [p.m.] version and we had the six [p.m.] version.” Waguespack had been optioned earlier in the day, but was added back to the roster when Thornton hit the IL just prior to game time. Montoyo said he expects a change is coming in the lineup card process soon.