TORONTO -- Kevin Pillar wore Superman cleats on the first day of Players Weekend for a reason. The Blue Jays' center fielder added another gem to his growing highlight reel in Monday night's 6-5 loss at Rogers Centre, robbing Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts of extra bases with one
TORONTO -- Kevin Pillar wore Superman cleats on the first day of Players Weekend for a reason. The Blue Jays' center fielder added another gem to his growing highlight reel in Monday night's 6-5 loss at Rogers Centre, robbing Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts of extra bases with one of his best catches to date.
"I told him I think that was the best one I've seen live, to be honest with you," said starter Marcus Stroman. "I feel like I'm always on the mound, too, which means sinkers are usually up in the zone [and] get hit a long way because they usually play shallow when I pitch, and the way he goes back on balls is extremely special. He has to get a Gold Glove at some point. What he does every day is ridiculous."
In the sixth, Betts drove a Stroman fastball deep into the right-center-field gap with an exit velocity of 100.1 mph per Statcast™, but Pillar quickly raced back toward the warning track and soared through the air for the grab, covering 82 feet in just 4.6 seconds.
Pillar was running full tilt when he leaped and maxed out at a speed of 29.8 feet per second. Statcast™ scored the play as a 4-Star grab given its 38 percent catch probability. For context, the Twins' Byron Buxton and the Reds' Billy Hamilton -- who are tied for the fastest average sprint speed in the Majors -- average 30.2 mph.
These catches from Pillar tend to bring together a mix of shock and expectation. His teammates and manager have seen this show plenty of times before, but are still left in awe with each new installment.
"Kev never ceases to amaze you with everything he does out there," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He gets banged up. He won't let you know, but his body hurts. But really, those are the kinds of things that don't even surprise you anymore. He's a special defender out there."
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While Stroman called it Pillar's finest, first baseman Justin Smoak still gives the nod to Pillar's wall-climbing heroics against Luke Maile in October 2015 at Rogers Centre, which really thrust him into the spotlight while he was still playing in left field. Even his opponents were impressed Monday, with Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. taking notice.
"That was a great play. A great player," Bradley said, "and you have to give props where props are due. You definitely can appreciate that. On this side, you don't want him to make the play, but you can obviously see he's very good at what he does and it was a very special play."
Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.