BUFFALO, N.Y. -- There’s been nothing flashy about Randal Grichuk’s development over the past four seasons in Toronto -- no sudden breakout or drastic overhaul to who he is as a player.
That’s how Grichuk likes it. He wants to live under the radar a bit, and while steady, year-to-year progressions don’t grab as many headlines, Grichuk’s work has suddenly snuck up on people.
It starts with Grichuk’s approach. Only five players in Major League Baseball have dropped their strikeout rate in each of the last four seasons (minimum 200 PA) -- Max Muncy, Chris Taylor, Jesús Aguilar, Carlos Correa ... and Grichuk. The 29-year-old has all of the physical tools he needs, but this change has been mental.
“It’s night and day. Night and day,” Grichuk explained. “Before, I’d kind of have a plan, but sometimes, you let your mind think of what he might throw you versus what you want to do or what you plan on doing. You don’t really stay convicted to either thing. Lately, I’ve been able to have a plan, have an approach, stick with it and not try to do too much in situations where I don’t need to do too much.”
His manager sees the same. Charlie Montoyo has leaned heavily on Grichuk this season with George Springer on the IL, and he’s been rewarded.
“The way he practices, the way he hits the ball the other way during batting practice, he’s taking that into the game,” Montoyo said. “He’s been really good. He’s been steady the whole time, and that’s just because his approach has been 100 percent [since] I first met him.”
This isn’t the way anyone expected it to play out, though.
When Springer was signed, it was difficult to see where Grichuk fit in with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in left field and Teoscar Hernández in right. Sure, DH reps and some injuries along the way would balance things out for the group, but when you stepped back and looked at the group of four, Grichuk seemed to be the odd man out.
He was realistic about this. It all ended up working out in his favor, and in hindsight, Grichuk sees how it became the catalyst for his continued growth in 2021.
“Not thinking I was going to play,” Grichuk said. “Going into the year, I wasn’t expecting to play much. I really wasn’t trying to do too much. I didn’t think I was going to play, so I didn’t think it mattered how I did. It allowed me just to go out there and play, not overthink things and not try to do too much. I stayed within myself. It happened early, I got off to a good start and here we are.”
Springer moving in the right direction; rehab assignment TBD
For the second consecutive day in Buffalo, Springer (right quad strain) was out running sprints with the Blue Jays’ medical staff. All signs indicate he is nearing a rehab assignment, though the club has not detailed any potential timelines for that.
“It’s been extremely encouraging,” said GM Ross Atkins. “The energy he has on the field and how excited and encouraged he is by being back to baseball activity. He’s recovering well, responding well, obviously he’s moving around very well. All of the feedback we’re getting from our medical staff and George is extremely encouraging.”
Biggio beginning rehab assignment
Cavan Biggio, who’s been out with a cervical spine ligament sprain in his neck, began a rehab assignment Sunday with the Triple-A Bisons, Atkins said. Biggio last played on May 21.
Biggio shouldn’t need many reps in Triple-A to get back into form, and once he’s back, he should resume his role as the regular third baseman, which will take some reps from both Joe Panik, who’s played well of late, and Santiago Espinal. Biggio was hitting .205 with a .630 OPS prior to his injury.