Semien earns AL Player of the Month honors

Ray showing sustained velocity

June 2nd, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- When the Blue Jays signed to a one-year, $18 million deal, both sides were betting on Semien returning to his 2019 form, when he finished third in American League MVP voting.

That’s what he gave the Blue Jays in May -- and then some -- winning the American League Player of the Month Award. Semien hit .368 with eight home runs and a 1.130 OPS over his 28 games.

“What a great month,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “I have front-row seats out there watching that guy play every day, getting big hits and playing good baseball. He deserves it, big time. I congratulated him today for a big month.”

This came on the heels of an April that looked more like Semien’s 2020 season, when he hit just .223 with a .679 OPS in a down year with the A’s. May was an incredible accomplishment for Semien, and while he seemed to flip that magic switch on May 1, this was the result of his work through late April. Semien relies on building off his daily routines as much as anyone on this roster, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by his younger teammates.

“I want to congratulate him for his work this month," Lourdes Gurriel Jr. said. "His experience has been great for us. Offensively and defensively, he’s always around talking to us and making sure we’re all good. We back up each other all the time. Semien has been great with us.”

Semien’s timing has been great, too. Without George Springer in the lineup, the Blue Jays have been without their presumed leadoff hitter for nearly all of 2021. Semien’s .429 on-base percentage through May certainly helped take care of that, and set the table in front of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernández. As long as Semien keeps hitting anywhere near this level, having Springer and Semien atop the lineup looks awfully attractive.

Ray opening doors with sustained velocity
Robbie Ray’s start on Tuesday against the Marlins looked a lot like his others, giving the Blue Jays six innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts and just two walks. How he did it, though, represents another step forward in his unexpected season.

Ray threw 46 fastballs and 46 sliders, a change from his more fastball-dominant approach of late. Ray felt his fastball’s life and slider’s shape in the bullpen and liked it, so he carried that even split over to the mound, almost abandoning his curveball and changeup completely. That fastball was up to 98.3 mph, too, and Ray was driving his hard slider on hitters, creating 13 swings and misses.

Doing this once was impressive, but it’s been two months of this now.

“It’s overall training,” Ray explained. “Training at that intensity, not only with my throwing programs but also in the weight room. Those are the two things that have helped me sustain that velocity. It’s about training hard.”

Blue Jays celebrate inaugural Lou Gehrig Day
The Blue Jays and teams across baseball are observing the first Lou Gehrig Day on June 2, which will include efforts at parks across the league to support charitable organizations and honor the legacy of the Hall of Famer who inspired the ongoing movement to end ALS.

The Blue Jays have teamed up with the ALS Society of Canada to expand its fan cutout section at Sahlen Field to include Canadians living with ALS and their families. They will also further assist the organization in fundraising efforts by donating game-used bases and memorabilia from Lou Gehrig Day.

McGuire goes back-to-back
The Blue Jays need more from their catching position and Montoyo, impressed with what he’s seen from Reese McGuire lately, is giving him back-to-back starts with Danny Jansen expected to start Friday with Hyun Jin Ryu on the mound. Minor lineup decisions like this aren’t often noteworthy, but with Jansen hitting .144 with a .499 OPS and Alejandro Kirk (left flexor strain) on the 60-day IL, this is one to watch.

“It’s about Reese,” Montoyo explained. “This is the first time he gets to play a back-to-back. He’s been doing a good job behind the plate, so I’m giving him another start. He’s playing really well. This has nothing to do with Danny Jansen, he’s just playing well.”