McGuire considers Seattle series a homecoming

'Pieces' grew up in nearby Kent as a Mariners fan

August 24th, 2019

SEATTLE -- When the gates opened in Seattle on Friday, wave after wave of blue jerseys raced down the bleachers as Blue Jays fans from western Canada and beyond arrived for their annual invasion of T-Mobile Park.

Seattle has become the Blue Jays’ home away from home in recent years, but for catcher , it’s just plain home. McGuire’s family is from nearby Kent, about a 20-minute drive from T-Mobile Park, so there will be plenty of McGuire jerseys in the bleachers this weekend while Reese dons “Pieces” as his jersey nickname for the third annual Players’ Weekend.

“It’s a dream come true,” McGuire said. “This is the ballpark I grew up in, watching the Mariners. I remember when it was Safeco Field. It’s going to be awesome. The family is one thing, but it’s more the teachers, classmates and everyone along the way that’s been a part of everything I’ve been able to do. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

McGuire and his brothers attended Mariners’ home games with their father, and often made the trip to Arizona to see them play in Spring Training.

Like any Mariners fan, McGuire was an Edgar Martinez guy. He liked Dan Wilson, too, the Mariners’ catcher from 1994-2005, and there was a Yunieski Betancourt phase mixed in there, too.

“That was right when I was in the Little League regionals, and we were preparing for the Little League World Series as a team,” McGuire said. “We’re like 12 years old. So I’m doing the, ‘Hi, my name is Reese McGuire, my favorite player is Yunieski Betancourt.’ I remember saying that.”

Manager Charlie Montoyo knows that this is McGuire’s hometown, and intentionally lined it up so that McGuire would get two of the three starts with his family watching. Montoyo has gone out of his way several times now to say that he wants to take a longer look at McGuire down the stretch, which means that plenty of opportunities await the 24-year-old catcher.

“With September creeping, we’ve got a month left," McGuire said. "The whole team, in general, is kind of in that spot. Showcase these guys, showcase these guys. Get these guys some time. I’m just going to make the most of the opportunities.”

Reinforcements on the way

Entering Friday’s series, Toronto’s starting rotation is Trent Thornton, who’s going by “Butters” for Players’ Weekend, and Jacob Waguespack. That won’t last, as help will arrive Sunday, when is expected to be activated from the 60-day injured list to make his first start since May 5.

Buchholz has been battling a Grade 2 teres major muscle strain in his upper back, but recently made three rehab starts -- two games in the Gulf Coast League before his final outing for Class A Advanced Dunedin, in which he allowed one run over four innings while striking out seven on 67 pitches.

Montoyo doesn’t expect to use the opener in front of Buchholz, but he’ll likely need another outing or two to build back to a full workload.

Reliever Ryan Tepera is also on his way back and has been promoted to Triple-A Buffalo to continue his rehab from right elbow surgery. Tepera last pitched for the Blue Jays on May 20. He posted a 6.55 ERA over 11 innings in 12 outings for the big league club, and has made two rehab outings over the past week.