Bo goes deep, shares confidence in Blue Jays

Shortstop homers in intrasquad game, believes team will compete in '20

July 10th, 2020

TORONTO -- is good, and he knows it. As this young Blue Jays team continues to adopt that same confidence, the 22-year-old shortstop is setting his sights high for the upcoming 60-game regular season.

A shorter season should improve Toronto's odds of making a postseason run ahead of schedule, and the “sprint instead of a marathon” should fit Bichette’s individual style of play just fine, too. But he’s not making much of it.

“Bottom line, we have a lot of really good players in here," Bichette said Thursday at Summer Camp. "Short season, long season, I’ve told you guys plenty of times that I think we were going to compete, regardless of 162 or 60. I believe in everybody in here. I believe we’re a lot better than people think.”

Like manager Charlie Montoyo did earlier in the day, Bichette stressed the importance of the Blue Jays staying healthy in front of anything else. Not only is it important to stay safe, but beyond that, it's a competitive advantage for teams to have their best players available all season.

Even with COVID-19 numbers in Toronto and the province of Ontario more encouraging than many other MLB markets, the Blue Jays will be adhering strictly to the unique rules surrounding their Summer Camp, where they’ll be staying at the hotel attached to Rogers Centre and not leaving the “stadium footprint at any time.” Bichette expects to have more team conversations about that, and when he talks, his teammates listen.

Bichette doesn’t look like he’s missed a step. Early in Thursday’s intrasquad game, he turned on a pitch from Matt Shoemaker and launched it deep into the second deck in left field.

That could be a common sight in Toronto this season. The only odd part? Hearing the ball clank among the empty seats.

“We’re getting ready for a different kind of season with no fans,” Bichette said. “When the season starts, we’re going to have to create our own adrenaline. I guess we’re practicing that now. There’s not a whole lot of adrenaline when you’re facing your teammates. It’s more of a practice scenario, so we’re going to figure out how to get as ready as we can and get that adrenaline going on our own merit.”

Decisions coming in the bullpen
Having nearly four months between the suspension of Spring Training and the beginning of Summer Camp was hard on all players, but particularly relievers. Given the already unpredictable nature of the position, Montoyo isn’t putting too much weight on Spring Training performances from February and March.

“I’m starting fresh, a little fresh, because I haven’t seen them in three months,” Montoyo said. “From what I’ve seen so far, they’re in really good shape. They looked really good [Wednesday], a lot of guys are looking good.”

There will also be some competition. Once the bullpen is set, it’s still not clear who the Blue Jays will lean on first as their setup man in front of Ken Giles. In spring, Montoyo mentioned right-handers Anthony Bass and Rafael Dolis as possibilities. They might also have some company.

“I’ll tell you what, if [Jordan] Romano keeps throwing 97-98 mph, he’ll be on that list,” Montoyo said. “He was impressive [Wednesday]. I was really happy watching him throw live BPs."

Intrasquad broadcasts
Sportsnet will broadcast a pair of Blue Jays intrasquad games next week on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both games will begin at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Of intrasquad interest

• Matt Shoemaker threw 60 pitches over five innings in the Blue Jays’ first intrasquad game, so the veteran right-hander should have no trouble being ready for the July 24 season opener. Bichette got to him with the home run, but otherwise, Shoemaker looked like himself, throwing 42 of those 60 for strikes while striking out four.

• No. 3 prospect Simeon Woods Richardson, still just 19, got some action, recording a groundout and a strikeout to go along with two walks.

• Rowdy Tellez has always performed well in Spring Training, and the same applies to Summer Camp. Tellez went yard with an opposite-field shot into the Blue Jays’ bullpen after lacing a hard single up the middle earlier in the game.

• Among the Blue Jays to see time in the outfield? The versatile Santiago Espinal and an option you’re less likely to see in 2020, bullpen coach Matt Buschmann.