Notes: Kay's changeup; Panik at short

February 29th, 2020

LAKELAND, Fla. -- When is good, he’s aggressive. When Kay is at his best, he’s able to pair that aggression with a side dish of finesse.

Kay’s changeup was working in the Blue Jays’ 5-4 win over the Tigers on Friday afternoon at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. It’s a versatile pitch for the young left-hander when he has the feel for it. After Kay had Tommy John surgery in October 2016, his changeup was inconsistent and slow to come back, but his confidence in the pitch slowly has been rebuilt.

“I feel like I can throw [the changeup] in any count, if I get behind or to force contact and hopefully get groundouts with it,” Kay said. “I feel like I can [also] use it when I get ahead, for a strikeout pitch, when I can get a little bit lower and bury it to have them swinging over the top of it.”

Over his two scoreless innings on Friday, Kay allowed two hits and struck out three with one walk, while his fastball peaked at 95 mph. Having veteran Caleb Joseph behind the plate gave Kay the confidence that the right pitches were being called at the right time, so he worked noticeably quicker than in his first start of the spring on Sunday vs. the Twins.

A quicker pace keeps Kay’s delivery more consistent. It also helps feed the attacking mentality that Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo mentions every time Kay’s name comes up.

“I like Anthony Kay,” Montoyo said. “It was just three starts that I saw him in the big leagues, but he’s aggressive. He’s not scared, and that’s what I like about Anthony Kay. He pitches inside with his fastball.”

seems to have the inside track on the No. 5 job in the rotation ahead of Saturday’s starter Shun Yamaguchi, but it’s safe to assume that a Major League team will need numerous starters in a season. A strong Spring Training could put Kay in the conversation to be that “next man up”, along with Triple-A Buffalo No. 1 starter Nate Pearson, who is Toronto’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 8 prospect in the league, according to MLB Pipeline. Kay’s fastball and curve are impressive, but it’s the changeup that will set him apart.

Panik back at shortstop
got the start at shortstop on Friday, and Montoyo wants to see more of him there this spring. The manager is reminded of Eric Sogard when he looks at Panik, and he thinks the second baseman could play some at short and at third.

“He was a shortstop coming up through the Minor Leagues,” Montoyo said of Panik. “Then, when he got to San Francisco, [Brandon] Crawford was there, the Gold Glover, so [Panik] moved to second base. He took ground balls the other day and he looked good.”

Teo’s pop
looked great in his first two plate appearances against the Tigers. The 27-year-old pulled a double down the left-field line in the first, then launched a triple off the wall in center field his next trip to the plate. Hernández’s hits drove in three runs, supporting Toronto’s belief that he can still make a leap at the plate, which he showed signs of in late 2019.

“His at-bats have been outstanding,” Montoyo said. “I want him to build from what he did in the second half last year. His OPS was [.939] and his approach is outstanding. He’s another guy who deserves all of the credit for making that adjustment.”

will make his spring debut on Monday against the Pirates.

will throw a live batting-practice session on Saturday. His start to the spring was slowed by the flu.

• Montoyo plans to use in center field sometime soon. His versatility is enticing, but it remains clear that Biggio is a full-time second baseman for now.

Up next
Yamaguchi makes his second start of the spring on Saturday at 1:07 p.m. ET at TD Ballpark against the Phillies and Zack Wheeler. Yamaguchi struggled in his debut, allowing three runs on three hits, a walk and a hit batter while recording just two outs. Among the many variables in making the transition from Japan to MLB is the ball, which Yamaguchi feels moves a bit more. This time out, the right-hander hopes to start making more of an adjustment.