Bo leads comeback win with athleticism, big bat

April 9th, 2022

TORONTO -- Bo Bichette’s swing uncoils with a graceful thrash as 100 moving parts fire off all at the same time to produce moments like Saturday’s. 

Bichette’s 425-foot home run to left field drew the Blue Jays even and set the stage for another win over the Rangers at Rogers Centre, 4-3, to open the season 2-0. It’s something you’ll need to get used to seeing, as the young star has put himself in position to blow up in 2022. 

With his left knee lifted to his beltline to set his swing in motion, Bichette adjusted to the outside pitch he got from Dane Dunning, pulling a pitch that most wouldn’t. As his hips and chest turned through his swing with the torque that makes it all work, the pendant on one of Bichette’s gold chains bounced from his jersey and up into his mouth. 

Bichette casually flicked it out, watched the ball climb and trotted out of the box with the same calm, quiet confidence he always seems to wear. 

“One of these years -- I don’t know if it’s this year, next year or whenever -- he’s going to lead the league in hitting,” manager Charlie Montoyo said after the win. “I’ll tell you that right now. With his approach, he’s only going to get better.”

Just five minutes earlier, it was Bichette who ended the top half of the inning with another sharp play that perfectly showcased his unique style. With a runner on first and one out, Nathaniel Lowe grounded to Bichette’s side of second base, drawing him over. It was an awkward middle ground where Bichette could have flipped the ball to the bag, but he kept his body low and balanced while he shuffled to the bag himself before firing to first for the double play.

From the positioning of Bichette’s body to the sidearm angle he used for the throw, his natural athleticism took over. It happened again in the ninth inning, too, when Bichette shot into the air to rob Willie Calhoun of a base hit, snagging the line drive at the peak of his jump. 

Bichette, like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and other young stars who come from Major League bloodlines, seems to digest the game mentally with the ease of a veteran. There were frustrations at times in '21, even in an All-Star season, but that rarely bled into his performance. Bichette feels like he’s been the same guy all along, but the ceiling of his talent is clearly still rising.

“I don’t think our confidence has jumped at all in the past few years. We’ve always believed in what we’re capable of,” Bichette said. “We’re capable of being the best offense in the league, so we go out there every day and prepare. If we work hard and play hard, it will take care of itself."

You can add speed to this conversation to round out the total package for Bichette. He stole 25 bags in 26 attempts last season, so with him being a safe bet to play in nearly all 162 games, the counting stats will just continue to pile up.

While Bichette’s heart rate doesn’t seem to rise or fall much, there’s no denying the energy around this team to open 2022. Friday’s massive comeback in the home opener was the perfect way to set the stage for a season in which the Blue Jays have a realistic shot at a World Series run. 

“This is fun. I love coming in here early and seeing everybody happy, seeing everybody dancing,” said Santiago Espinal, who drove in the go-ahead run with another loud double. “This is just the first two games and we have a lot of games left, but this is going to be the same team every day, having fun, dancing and making fun of everybody. We make sure everybody stays in a good mood for any situation. It doesn’t matter where you’re at, that’s what we do.”

Espinal has been the Robin to Bichette’s Batman so far, entering each game as a midway replacement for Biggio and immediately contributing. Combine that duo with Matt Chapman at the hot corner and Guerrero at first base and you’ve got one of the American League’s best infields, whether Bichette wants the hype or not.