Vlad Jr. shows he's a quick learner on D in loss

September 14th, 2019

TORONTO -- Saturday’s 13-3 loss to the Yankees at Rogers Centre didn’t see much go right for the Blue Jays, but it did offer an opportunity to right a wrong and take a step forward defensively.

It started in Friday’s opener against the Yankees, in an ugly defensive fifth inning when Guerrero fielded a ground ball with runners on the corners. Instead of taking the aggressive play at home or the easy out at first, Guerrero whipped the ball across his body to second base, and everyone was safe.

Manager Charlie Montoyo pulled his young star aside to talk about it. Guerrero knew it was the wrong play, but he’s 20. Coming from a player development background in the Minor Leagues, Montoyo knows this as well as any manager in the Majors.

A cornerstone of player development is learning from mistakes and executing better the next time that situation comes around. Guerrero didn’t have to wait long, and he nailed his next chance.

In the top of the third inning on Saturday, the Yankees had runners on the corners once again with no outs when Gleyber Torres ripped a grounder to Guerrero at 104.1 mph off the bat, according to Statcast. Guerrero didn’t flinch as he scooped it up and fired home to for a quick and successful rundown that ended with DJ LeMahieu retired and Bo Bichette playing the role of traffic cop as he covered the bag.

It’s not all roses, of course. Guerrero is 7-for-42 in September with only two extra-base hits and, later in the game, he committed his team-leading 17th error of the season.

“He’s slumping right now,” Montoyo said. “That happens. It’s his first time [playing] in September, so he’s got to make an adjustment when that happens. I might give him tomorrow off, and then it’s two days off [with Monday’s off-day], and he might get going again.”

The important distinction on Saturday's error is that it could be categorized as a physical error, not a mental error. The latter type of mistake is what frustrates Montoyo, and there have been too many in September, especially over the past few games at home.

“That error that he had, it doesn’t bother me, because it was a tough play,” Montoyo said. “The ball bounced up a little bit with [Brett] Gardner running. He’s been playing really good, and he did a good job. He adjusted today on that ball that went home, and he got the guy. It’s good to see that he’s learning from yesterday. He already did.”

Another reliever injured

For the second consecutive game, the Blue Jays lost a reliever to injury. Hours after learning that would have to undergo Tommy John surgery, was hit by a comebacker in the top of the eighth inning and injured his right ankle while falling to the ground, and had to be helped off the field by the training staff.

The Blue Jays announced following the game that the ankle is sprained.

Bichette was also removed from the game late, but Montoyo clarified that the move was made to give the 21-year-old a few innings off his feet after a heavy workload.