Vlad Jr. plates run, scores in spring debut

'I was very happy,' said top prospect, who hustled for tying RBI

February 24th, 2019

SARASOTA, Fla. -- There are going to be days when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hits almost everything out of the park. But there are also going to be games when he barely hits the ball out of the infield. Sunday afternoon fell into the latter category.

Guerrero, who batted fifth, struggled to make hard contact in his Grapefruit League debut -- though he picked up an infield single in the Blue Jays' 9-8 loss to Baltimore. The phenom finished 1-for-3 with an RBI in the first of many games he will play this spring.

Baseball's No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline also made a couple of routine plays at third base. It was an uneventful day, but one that had people talking after each at-bat because of Guerrero's prominence and intrigue.

"I was very happy," Guerrero said through an interpreter after he came out of the game in the fifth inning. "First game of Spring Training and everything seemed to go really well, so I feel good. I was just happy to be playing ... I'm just trying to give 100 percent, just do my job and give the best of me in every single game."

Guerrero's debut began when he stepped into the box with two runners on and two outs in the first inning. Baltimore right-hander David Hess fell behind the young slugger, 2-1, but then Guerrero's bat got on top of the next pitch, which he rolled over for a very weak grounder to shortstop for the final out of the inning.

His second at-bat was similar. This time, Guerrero stepped into the box with runners on the corners and one out. Guerrero worked the count to 1-1 before he once again got on top of the ball and barreled it into the ground. The final result was a dribbler that rolled approximately 7-8 feet.

It wasn't pretty, but the placement got the job done. Orioles pitcher Tanner Scott was slow reacting to the play, and by the time he got to the ball, it was too late. Guerrero hustled down the line and beat a throw to first that was wide of the bag. He was rewarded with a single by the official scorer.

More adventures on the basepaths followed later in that third inning, when Guerrero attempted to score from second on a single by Dwight Smith Jr. Guerrero succeeded -- but instead of a regular slide, he awkwardly rolled into home like a bowling ball trying to knock down a few pins.

"For a big man, he runs pretty good," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. "And for a big man, he moves pretty good at third base. So far, it looks pretty good to me ... I cannot relate to being 19 and having those kind of instincts."

Guerrero made better contact in his final at-bat of the game, but it only resulted in a lazy fly ball to right field. Guerrero was then removed from the game in the middle of the fifth, putting his spring debut in the books.

Another day, another step closer to the Major Leagues for someone who is expected to become one of the game's biggest stars. Guerrero's work is only just getting started, but that's also not how the Dominican star is approaching it.

"I don't see it as a job," Guerrero said. "To me, I do it because I enjoy it, I love it. I enjoy doing this every day ... It's just about working hard, trying to get better every day. Giving 100 percent every day and continuing to learn and grow."