McGuire's physical, mental journey pays off

May 21st, 2021

On the road and at “home” this year, has maintained an on-the-go lifestyle. He bounces from one hotel to the next, living out of a suitcase in the most literal sense.

Such is the case for all the Blue Jays -- whose temporary home in Dunedin, Fla., will be replaced by a temporary home in Buffalo, N.Y., next month -- but McGuire’s journey in the first two months of the season has included an extra stop or two.

McGuire failed to make Toronto’s roster for Opening Day, as Alejandro Kirk usurped him for the backup catcher role. On April 1, McGuire was designated for assignment.

“I was truly heartbroken when it all happened because I love these guys, love this clubhouse and was thinking there for a second I might be elsewhere,” McGuire said Friday. “And a lot of teammates thought the same.”

Instead, McGuire cleared waivers and was outrighted to the Blue Jays’ alternate site in Dunedin for a month. Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said McGuire spent that time working on “everything.” But primarily, the 26-year-old’s efforts were geared more toward the mental side of the game. McGuire wanted to regain the confidence that had carried him through 2018-19, when he posted a .297/.343/.539 slash line in 138 at-bats.

In early May, he was assigned to Triple-A Buffalo. At about the same time, though, Kirk strained his hip flexor and landed on the injured list. And then …

“Then all of a sudden, once I got to Trenton, another change of script,” McGuire said.

On May 5, McGuire was added back to the 40-man roster and selected to rejoin the Blue Jays. He’d been given a second chance.

And so far, as Danny Jansen’s backup, McGuire has made the most of that chance. He’s batting 6-for-15 (.400) in seven games, with one walk, one hit-by-pitch and three runs scored. With a restoration of his confidence, McGuire is hoping to continue to provide value from the bottom of the lineup.

One source of that confidence is internal, as McGuire tries to maintain an excitement for the sport. Instead of getting bogged down in his own statistics, he remembers that baseball is a game he has played since early childhood. On some level, it’s supposed to be fun.

Another source is his family, which keeps an active group chat and is always following along with his games, as well as those of his younger brother, Shane, who plays for the University of San Diego.

“Through the computer, on the TV, whatever it may be,” McGuire said. “So we’re kind of always our biggest fans and rooting for each other.”

There’s plenty to root for with McGuire’s performance of late, and that’s not lost on the Blue Jays.

“He deserves a lot of credit because when he went down to the [alternate site], he worked really hard on his game, his overall game,” Montoyo said. “It looks really good. It looks like 2019.”

Odds and ends
• Third baseman was held out of Friday’s lineup with “neck soreness,” which Montoyo said Biggio has been dealing with for a while.

“He’s been grinding it out,” Montoyo said. “He deserves a lot of credit for that, but today he just couldn’t go. He didn’t feel right swinging the bat.”

The hope is that rest will assuage the issue, though an IL stint hasn’t been ruled out.

• Reliever (10-day IL, strained forearm) is “close,” but not ready to return just yet, Montoyo said. Castro threw a bullpen session Wednesday and could be activated as early as Saturday.