Blue Jays to debut four-man outfield Saturday

Hernandez gets fresh start from Montoyo after struggles in 2018

March 7th, 2019

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Bryce Harper's No. 3 Phillies jersey is not the only thing that will make its debut on Saturday afternoon. So too will the Blue Jays' four-man outfield.

Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo was recently asked about what it will be like to face Harper the first time he puts on a Phillies uniform. He paused for a moment, and then couldn't help but laugh about the fact that his club will have something special in store for that game as well.

"You might see a four-man outfield when Harper comes to hit," Montoyo said. "We’ll see. We’re planning for it."

Exactly who might be a part of the four-man outfield remains to be seen. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is the likely favorite for a corner outfield spot, while third baseman Brandon Drury is another option. The benefit of Drury is that he has played the outfield 89 times in his career.

Montoyo previously expressed an interest in the four-man outfield during the offseason. It's one of several unique strategies the Blue Jays are expected to implement this season as Montoyo looks to get aggressive with defensive shifts, platoons and possibly even using a reliever to start games every now and then.

Fresh start for Teoscar

If there's one player the Blue Jays want to start 2019 with a fresh slate, it's probably Teoscar Hernandez. The 26-year-old remains an intriguing prospect because of a prominent home run swing, but he has also endured regular misadventures in the field.

Hernandez was charged with eight errors last season, and there were a countless number of other balls he lost in the lights. His defense got so bad at one point that former manager John Gibbons had to leave him on the bench for large stretches of games.

The prolonged struggles had some people predicting Hernandez will have to become a full-time designated hitter. That's something Montoyo wants to avoid, and he made it clear to his new player that last year's issues are a thing of the past.

"I think it was almost he was a bit nervous," Montoyo said. "Giving the league too much credit maybe. He did say he couldn't see the ball good in Toronto, off the stands and stuff, but he is doing fine now. I don't want to go too much into what he did last year. I'm concentrating on what he's doing now, and he's playing very well in the outfield."

Hernandez spent a lot of time this offseason working on his defense. Blue Jays first-base coach Mark Budzinski traveled to the Dominican Republic to work with Hernandez, who also played winter ball in his native country.

"Back to basics," Montoyo said. "They've been working hard every day, and you can see the improvement. So far, he looks good to me. He looks like a good outfielder to me in the seven games he has played so far."

Up next

The Blue Jays are scheduled for a pair of split-squad games on Friday afternoon. At home, Toronto will be hosting the Pirates as right-hander Marcus Stroman takes the mound, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET at Dunedin Stadium. On the road, rookie right-hander Sean Reid-Foley will get the start vs. Pittsburgh. Other players scheduled to make the road trip include Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Kendrys Morales and Billy McKinney.