'Down-to-earth' Vlad Jr. giving Smoak deja vu
Montoyo, Grichuk talk new Spring Training pitch clock
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- If Justin Smoak starts experiencing flashbacks at some point this season, it's pretty safe to say Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will be the reason why.
When Smoak began his career with the Rangers in 2010, one of the team's biggest stars was Vladimir Guerrero Sr. Nine years later, in a surreal turn of events, he is sharing a clubhouse with the Hall of Famer's 19-year-old son.
The two Guerreros are quite a bit different from one another. The father was a right fielder, the son is a third baseman. A free swinger, and one of the best bad-ball hitters in Major League history, against someone who embraces a walk.
But, according to Smoak, there are similarities, too.
"He's down to earth, a lot like his dad, honestly," Smoak said. "His dad was a really good player for a really long time, and his dad was quiet. He was a quiet leader. I feel like in the little bit of time I've spent with Vladdy, he has been the same way."
Smoak is one of only seven players on Toronto's 40-man roster who remain from the back-to-back postseason runs in 2015-16. The youth movement around the team is in full swing, as evidenced by the 61 players in camp with only 11 above the age of 30.
Most of the familiar names from the postseason runs are gone and have been replaced by the next wave of talent, including Guerrero, Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio. It's a big change, but the laid-back Smoak has remained positive and, at least to date, has been impressed with what he sees.
"There has been a lot of talk about them," Smoak said of the young prospects. "They don't act like they are the superstars of the game. They don't want to be that guy ... I feel like they know they're going to play in the Major Leagues, but clubhouse-wise they are down to earth, easy to talk to and just love playing the game of baseball. It's not all about the show, the flash or anything else."
Pace of play
Major League Baseball announced the implementation of a 20-second pitch timer on Friday afternoon to be used during Spring Training games. No decision has been made on whether the timer will be used during the regular season.
In a press release to announce the news, MLB stated the timer will be operated without enforcement for the first Spring Training games. Early next week, umpires will begin issuing reminders to pitchers and hitters who violate the rule. It's possible by the end of spring umpires will be instructed to begin assessing ball-strike penalties for violations.
Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo remained non-committal when asked for his thoughts on the rule change. He sees the benefits but would rather wait to hold final judgment on whether the move will be good for baseball.
"I want to see how it works, to tell you my opinion," Montoyo said. "From what I heard in the Minor Leagues, the 15 seconds worked out pretty good. So I would think five more seconds shouldn't be a big deal, but we'll see [Saturday]."
Most of the players in the Blue Jays' clubhouse don't seem too concerned with the latest change. Smoak seemed indifferent, and outfielder Randal Grichuk was among those who said they didn't feel like it would have a big impact on their routines.
"I step out to get a sign and then I'm back in there," Grichuk said. "I don't like to mess around. I'm kind of locked in in the box. If I step out, it might be to stretch after a swing, I might have tweaked something. Other than that, I try to stay in and get on with the at-bat. It won't affect me.
"I know some guys like to be a little showy, get that TV time at the plate, so they're going to have to be frustrated with it, but hopefully it cuts all of that out of the game and it's 'Let's go. Let's get on with it.'"
Up next for the Blue Jays
Left-hander Ryan Borucki will take the mound when the Blue Jays host the Tigers in their Grapefruit League season opener. First pitch is scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET and will feature a lot of the Blue Jays' regular position players. Toronto will be using Teoscar Hernandez, Kevin Pillar and Grichuk in the outfield. Smoak, Devon Travis, Freddy Galvis and Brandon Drury will be in the infield. Fans can listen to the game on Gameday Audio.