New Core Four? Youth leads way for Blue Jays

Bichette, Biggio, Gurriel and Vlad take top spots in Toronto's order for first time

August 3rd, 2019

BALTIMORE -- What transpired Friday could be just a tease. Maybe a foreshadowing, if you will. It was not the first time the cornerstones of the Blue Jays' rebuild -- Bo Bichette, , and -- were in the lineup together, but it was the first time the quartet occupied the first four batting spots, in that order.

And while the four were not at the front lines of Toronto’s first first five-game winning streak since Aug. of 2018 thanks to a 5-2 win over the Orioles at Camden Yards on Friday, they still provided a glimpse at what the Blue Jays could look like a few years from now when the club aims to be a force in the American League.

“I love it,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said of having his four youngsters leading off the game. “I’m a player development guy, so I love those guys. I love to see them get better every day. It’s been fun for me having them at the top of the lineup.”

That lineup design quickly proved beneficial Friday. On a history-making night, the Blue Jays struck first, thanks to back-to-back two-out hits from Gurriel and Guerrero in the opening frame, giving the latter his 17th RBI in his past six games and making him the youngest player in MLB history to collect more than 17 RBIs over any six-game span.

With the fickle nature of daily lineups, it remains to be seen just how much more the group bats in order like they did Friday. Regardless, the injection of youth has come in chorus with Toronto playing its best baseball of the season, outscoring opponents 45-20 while going 5-1 in its last six games.

“I think that we are having really good at-bats, being aggressive on the bases,” Bichette said. “Just bringing in energy. It’s been really cool.”

Bichette -- who set the Blue Jays' rookie record Friday with his ninth hit in his first five games -- continues to serve as a catalyst atop the lineup. And batting leadoff for the fourth consecutive game, he’s been able to slot smoothly into a Toronto offence that has picked up its play as of late.

“It’s almost like perfect timing with the changes that are happening in the clubhouse,” Montoyo said Thursday of Bichette’s arrival. “A lineup that was already swinging the bat good now gets even better with Bo in the lineup.”

“He’s a good leadoff hitter,” catcher Danny Jansen added Thursday night, “and [we're] probably going to see him do that a lot for a long time for this team.”

All eyes will be on this quartet for the remainder of the season given their pedigree, hype and, yes, their family lineages. Even though winning baseball in Toronto is still a work in progress, excitement for them comes in the form of finally realizing their dreams at the big league level. The amount of time they spent together in the Minors has not just made the collective jump all the more exciting, but easier as well.

“Definitely sweeter, definitely smoother,” Bichette said. “Just having people around me that know what I can do, aren’t worried about me being out there, they know I’m going to perform, they know I’m going to play hard. It’s been really good for me.

“Lourdes is already doing his thing, Vladdy is already doing his thing, Cavan is already doing his thing,” Bichette added, “and I’m just trying to follow them up.”

All told, Friday was not quite the banner night in the scorebook for the rookies. The four combined to go just 3-for-15 with two walks before Biggio was replaced in the eighth by , who, for his part, made a superb running catch an inning later, which Montoyo labeled a game-saver.

The streak-extending win also came behind lights-out pitching from opener and bulk-man , and homers from and , showing the youngsters that despite the expectations and pressure that may come with being the faces of a rebuild, squeezing out a win won’t always be contingent on their performance alone.

Those pitchers, too, feel part of the vibrant rebuild currently playing out.

“Even though we lost all our pitching, the guys that have stayed back are doing well,” Montoyo said. “They are getting the chance to show what they can do. So far, so good.”