Notes: Grichuk likely for CF; new park ready

February 14th, 2020

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- One of the Blue Jays' most important competitions expected to play out at Spring Training might not be a competition at all.

Speaking for the first time in camp on Friday, general manager Ross Atkins said that starting in center field is the “most likely scenario” this season, which quickly changes the dynamics of Toronto’s outfield.

Grichuk saw plenty of time in center last season, starting 56 games, but he spent the latter half of 2019 in right field after was given the reins in center. This should put the starting three outfield positions into focus, leaving two depth jobs open for competition behind them.

“Lourdes [Gurriel Jr.] has established himself pretty well in left field, and we feel good about Teoscar Hernández running around in different positions,” Atkins said. “He's continuing to work very hard at his defense. He's passionate about it. And then we have some other alternatives to be in the mix for our team. But those are the three that probably are the most established and, right now as we sit today, would get the bulk of the playing time.”

The impact of this decision will eventually stretch beyond just the outfield, too. Designated hitter figures to be more of a revolving door for Toronto compared to recent years, and that could be on purpose.

With as the projected starter at first base, the DH spot could be a combination of or the young core players cycling through to stay fresh. It could also be a home for Hernández some games, as the Blue Jays believe that his swing still contains plenty of untapped power potential. That situation will become clearer as March 26 approaches, but Atkins stressed that it’s not just about the Opening Day roster.

“It’s really early and it's interesting,” Atkins said. “I think oftentimes we as a front office, fans, understandably so, everyone [makes predictions]. The excitement around the Opening Day roster and what 162 [games] could look like and trying to position that course is human nature. And what we also want to add to that is ensuring depth and ensuring options.”

Grand tour of TD Ballpark
The Blue Jays and local media were given a tour of the extensive renovations at TD Ballpark on Friday by Shelby Nelson, the club’s director of Florida operations.

Over 92,000 working hours went into the project, Nelson said, which has increased the stadium’s seating capacity from 5,500 to 6,400 and includes standing areas around the ballpark to increase the total capacity to around 8,000. The Blue Jays prioritized creating different fan experiences, with additions including:

• An enclosed air-conditioned bar down the left-field line
• An elevated concourse that allows fans to walk around the entire field
• Wider stairwells and an added gate to improve the flow for fans
• A new video board in the outfield
• A new sound system with 105 new speakers
• Extensive netting that rolls up on the bottom to maintain player access
• A Dunedin version of the WestJet Flight Deck with a large bar
• New washrooms and concession stands
• New visitors' clubhouse
• New soil, drainage and grass for an improved field
• Larger renovated dugouts on either side

Yamaguchi after the No. 5 job
Japanese right-hander Shun Yamaguchi has an opportunity to win the No. 5 starter’s job, but his track record of success as a reliever in the Japan Central League gives the Blue Jays options. For now, he’s singing a similar tune to several other pitchers in camp: he wants to start.

“I obviously have the mentality of going in as a starter,” Yamaguchi said through an interpreter. “I’m looking to win the competition there.”

Atkins addresses McGuire
Atkins addressed the recent arrest of catcher in Dunedin for “for exposure of sexual organs.” McGuire is due to appear in court next month, and while Atkins stressed that this is a difficult situation the organization is “struggling with,” he couldn’t comment much further out of respect to the legal process. He did admit, though, that McGuire will not be impacted from a baseball standpoint as things stand today.

“In due time, we will have more specifics on the legal process, and Reese will definitely be addressing the fans and he wants to be doing that,” Atkins said.