Pillar latest addition as roster remains in flux
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' game of musical chairs continued on Tuesday afternoon as the club promoted Kevin Pillar from Triple-A Buffalo and optioned infielder Jonathan Diaz to the Minor Leagues.
The moves came less than 24 hours after Diaz was recalled from Buffalo. Toronto has made 44 transactions this season, which trails only the Yankees for most in the American League East.
Pillar's arrival gives the Blue Jays a suitable replacement in center field while Colby Rasmus remains day to day with a sore right hamstring. Pillar also comes with some experience, after appearing in 36 big league games last season, and says he feels more prepared this time around.
"I can't say I was overwhelmed, but I didn't perform the way I know that I can perform," Pillar said. "Hopefully, second time is the charm and I'm definitely coming in with a different attitude, way more prepared this time, know what to expect. I don't have those same butterflies that I did six months ago when I came here the first time. I kind of feel like I'm here on a business trip and I feel prepared."
Pillar arrived in Toronto on a hot streak after hitting .405/.435/.667 over his past 10 games in Buffalo. Earlier this year, he enjoyed an 18-game hitting streak, and had reached base at least once in each of his past 26 games at the time of his promotion. On the season, Pillar is hitting .305 with 17 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs for the Bisons.
That's the type of production the Blue Jays have come to expect from Pillar in the Minors over the past couple of years. The same can't be said about his limited experience in the Majors, as Pillar hit .206 with a .583 OPS while recording three homers and 13 RBIs in 36 games.
Opposing teams began to expose his lack of discipline at the plate. There were plenty of times when a pitcher was able to get Pillar to chase a breaking ball in the dirt with two strikes. That led to 29 strikeouts, and Pillar knows all too well that the scouting report was out on him last year.
"That's definitely one of the biggest things I worked on this season, was some plate discipline," Pillar said. "Just getting a better approach, maybe not getting to two strikes as easily, being more aggressive. But once I did get to two strikes, learning where I had to look -- not to chase that slider down and away."
Pillar's addition gives the Blue Jays some much-needed depth in the outfield, but it does leave the club noticeably thin around in the infield. The decision to stick with an eight-man bullpen, combined with Rasmus' hamstring injury, meant Toronto had a two-man bench for Tuesday night's game against the Indians.
Toronto had made a seemingly endless list of roster moves in recent days. There have been 22 transactions this month and 10 in the last three days alone, which includes Minor League outfielder Kenny Wilson being claimed off waivers and assigned to Double-A New Hampshire.
That has put Buffalo in a constant state of flux, but at least it's better than the long commute Blue Jays players used to have to go through when the Minor League affiliate was located in Las Vegas.
"When they decided to move the team to Buffalo, I think maybe that's what they had in mind, being able to call-up guys," Pillar said. "With [Chad] Jenkins, it seemed like every other day he was going up and down. I think everyone [in Buffalo] realizes how close they are, Triple-A, and being an hour away, they can get called up at any time. It has been kind of a crazy week with guys going up and down but it's a deep roster down there."