This new Blue Jay is fired up

December 18th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson's Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

When started talking about his new chapter with the Blue Jays on Thursday during his introductory Zoom call with Toronto media, he couldn’t stop.

Perhaps it was the thrill of free agency for the first time at 32, 10 years into his MLB career. Perhaps it was the $9 million he’d just secured from the Blue Jays. Perhaps he was just excited to see me.

Kiermaier’s energy was genuine, though, filled with a drive to reestablish himself as one of the game’s truly elite defenders after hip surgery to repair a torn labrum cut his 2022 season short. Over and over, Kiermaier said that his repaired hip has “pumped life" into him, and the opportunity standing in front of him may be bigger than we expected.

In Kiermaier’s eyes, the centre-field job is his to lose. The Blue Jays didn’t discuss a platoon or a part-time role with him, and frankly, if you’re signing for $9 million, you tend to have a good feel for these things. That would mean more George Springer in right field if Kiermaier can stay healthy. But one thing’s for sure: He’s motivated.

Here’s what Kiermaier had to say:

On his big league journey:
“I was the 941st pick of the 2010 Draft and I’ll never forget that. I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder. Life is about taking advantage of opportunities, and I did that to become an everyday big leaguer with the Rays for so many years. This is a new opportunity with the Blue Jays, and once again, I’m going to give it my all.”

On “gracefully hitting” walls, not crashing into them:
“I know one speed. With that being said, I need to do a better job of doing what I can to stay on the field. To give you a life and baseball recap, I got drafted for the way I played. I got called up to the big leagues for the way I played through the Minor Leagues, then I got a long-term contract because of the way I played and how I handle my business. I take a lot of pride in that.”

Kiermaier’s interests include:
“I like to win. I like to pop champagne. I like to celebrate after games. They sent me a recruitment video that showed me the day-in, day-out of what they’ve got going on during the season. It looked like so much fun to be a part of. I cannot wait to get it going. I know I keep saying that, but these guys have pumped so much life into me. I’m ready to give them everything I have.”

How’s the hip?
“I’m 22 weeks out post-surgery, and through this entire rehab process, I feel like I’ve been ahead of schedule or feel better than what I originally expected. Right now, I’m probably 90 percent. I’m running and doing everything. It’s just about training my body to move at an optimum level, and I’m very close to that, but I’m hitting, throwing and doing everything.”

“This new labrum has pumped so much life back into me. In 2021 and 2022, with what I put my body through trying to get ready, be a speed guy, try to keep my game at a top level, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It was very mentally draining. But here I am with a new hip. It’s pumped life into me. I’m so happy now. I’m ready to go.”

Betting on his own upside:
“I haven’t scratched the surface on my offensive potential yet. Now that I have a better idea of what I want to do and I’m a little bit healthier, I think I’m going to have a great year offensively and I’m really excited to prove that. I like my approach. I like my plan and my game prep for each game, but I know I can learn a lot from these young, great hitters they have.”