TORONTO — After a massive road trip that earned him AL Player of the Week honours, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was primed to show Toronto Blue Jays fans what he could do, in the flesh.
Sure, before this week he’d played eight games at Rogers Centre, but that was “getting his feet under him” Vladdy, not “destroyer of worlds” Vladdy. Now the 20-year-old phenom was ready to show the Blue Jays faithful what they were promised.
Things got off to a bumpy start on that front Monday when Guerrero Jr. sat, launching a major controversy. The train was back on the rails Tuesday with a 2-for-5 day, but that outing was more productive than memorable.
Coming into Wednesday’s action, the rookie had hit .265/.324/.324 in Toronto - a line about halfway between Joey Gathright and Alberto Callaspo’s career marks. Seeing as Vladdy is neither a speed demon with a noodle bat or a remarkably unremarkable jack-of-all-trades, those numbers were bound to improve.
They did in dramatic fashion during the Blue Jays’ marathon 6-5 loss to the Boston Red Sox as Vladdy made a Rogers Centre memory. More specifically, he crushed a 109.7 mph drive that looked like it was shot out of a ballista:
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“He’s fun to watch because he can do thing others guys can’t do,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “Every time he comes to the plate he has a chance to do that.”
Guerrero Jr. may hit 100-plus home runs at Rogers Centre before it’s all said and done. Even 200 could be on the table, maybe more. The sometimes-visible sky is really the limit for the damage he’ll do in the concrete bunker the Blue Jays call home.
He made that first one count, though. The 424-foot shot was a beauty, even if you have to dock a couple of style points for falling short of landing in the WestJet Flight Deck. There aren’t too many guys who are going to hit a straightaway rope like that on a fastball hugging the lower-outside corner.
Guerrero Jr. kept the impressive moments flowing on the defensive side of the ball in the seventh, tracking down a rogue bunt attempt from Sandy Leon.
It might not have been the prettiest dive you’re going to see, but it’s hard to fault the motor even if the form didn’t remind anyone of Kevin Pillar. Although Guerrero Jr. is unlikely to win Gold Gloves, the Blue Jays have to like seeing him engaged on the defensive side making high-effort plays.
The only tough moment of the day came when he seemed to favour his ankle reaching first on a single, but according to Montoyo there’s nothing to be concerned about.
“It was his ankle, he rolled it leaving the plate,” he said. “But he taped it and it was fine. We thought it was the knee at first.”
By the time the game was done he had a milestone homer, a multi-hit day, and the type of defensive play, that might warrant an asterisk in a scorebook. That’s the Vladdy the 18,285 in attendance were hoping to see.
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