Rosie DiManno: Randal Grichuk gives the Jays a two-homer return on their investment
|Toronto Star 03 Apr 2019 at 19:32|
And, you know, that ball over his handsome head at the wall in centre? Kevin Pillar would have made that catch. Just sayin’.
Even if the Rogers top-down tone ’round these parts over recent weeks — months actually, extending back to 2018 — was that the acrobatic fielder had, you know, lost a step, as per defensive metrics.
Phooey. But Pillar is gone now and Grichuk, usually in right field, will apparently see more deployment in the middle of the meadow over months to come. That’s where he was situated in Wednesday 5-3 dispatch of the Orioles.
There was at least one grumbly patron out there not impressed by Grichuk’s inability to jump high enough to prevent Trey Mancini’s three run rocket from leaving the park in the top of the ninth.
“I had one fan on Mancini’s home run saying, ‘Pillar would have caught that.’ That’s definitely nice of him,” Grichuk said. “But it’s one of those things that I know I can play centre. Just go out there and play. Don’t think of what the fans are going to think if I’m not going to get to a ball or they thought Pillar would have got to a ball or something like that.
“I just can’t let that creep in. Just go out there and make the play and know that defensively I can make plays and make things happen and trust in my abilities.”
Those abilities have been richly rewarded, going very much against the miserly corporate grain, with Grichuk projected as a lynchpin for whatever the Blue Jays are in the process of becoming, surrounded by a posse of youth, the juvies already here and those expected to get here later.
Grichuk, the chiseled Texan, is all of 27. But he’ll wear “veteran” and “character’’ easily enough, especially if co-ordinated with long-ball thump, as he delivered with solo shots in the third and eighth innings of Toronto’s 5-3 win over Baltimore at Rogers Centre, concluding a seven-game home stand to launch the 2019 campaign.
“I think we’re going to sign a couple of more guys to $52 million,” manager Charlie Montoyo joshed afterward. “To get them going. I’ll talk to Ross about it.”
That’s GM Ross Atkins, so generous with the moolah, at least in the very narrow Grichuk circumstances. The Jays are otherwise cheapos, with the exception of more than $60 million shelled out to Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin and Kendrys Morales, to not play here.
Montoyo, with a third win under his belt, was downright giddy over 10 hits out of his lineup, when the best they ha previously managed over the past week was seven and everybody was feeling the stress of strikeouts. Not to be chippy about it but when Grichuk corked that first home run to left-centre, it brought the Jays to 6-for-67 in the first three innings of seven games – an .090 team batting average.
In any event, Grichuk — who really does have some of the Gatsby in him — was clearly in a zone, at the plate and between the ears, “set for life” as Montoyo put it. Loved, you know? By the Jays, anyway, now that they’ll be going steady for another five years.
“Any time a team commits to you like that, you want to go out here and perform well for the fans and for the team, kind of reassure them they made a good deal,’’ Grichuk said afterward — rather a long time afterward, taking ages to groom every multi-thousand-dollar hair on his head before meeting with the media.
“Obviously, if I went out there and went 0-for-4 it probably doesn’t change their mind, they know who I am at this point. But it’s definitely satisfying to go out there and have a good game after that.”
It was a dandy Randy game, in fact: two homers — his sixth career multi-homer game — and a double, scoring Toronto’s first run in the opening frame. So, he pretty much took care of all the offence single-handedly until Lourdes Gurriel Jr. finally had an eye at the plate, with a two-run double that pushed Jays ahead 5-0. They needed all those runs too, turned out, when Daniel Hudson gave up a ninth inning three-run laser that just cleared the wall in straightaway centre, bouncing back into the field of play.
Grichuk said a weight had been lifted from his shoulders after inking the gobsmacking deal that had been in the works for weeks. (We’ll ignore the pinch-hitting pfft on Tuesday, ninth inning.)
“A lot of the pressure is taken off, by having that extension.”
He did provide an overall assessment of how, to his (smouldering brown eyes) the Jays are stacking up, one week in to the season, albeit against a pair of chump opponents in Detroit and Baltimore, and still the Jays were racked up only 23 runs, with a 3-4 record.
“Obviously we started out a little slow offensively. The pitching’s been phenomenal. I’m excited to see that over a full season. If they can do that, or even close to that, I think we’re going to be in good shape.
“Offensively, it’s a long season for a reason and I think we know what we’re capable of offensively.”
Except they hadn’t been, before yesterday’s mini-eruption. And, as Grichuk notes, thank heavens for the yeoman pitching, both starters and relievers.
They ave received back-to-back seven inning performances from Matt Shoemaker, who gave up just two hits and no runs while striking out eight — his 500th career strikeout in there.
“It’s very gratifying,’’ the right-hander said of making it look so effortless. “My game plan — I want to fill up the zone with quality strikes, I want to be aggressive, put away hitters and I want to pitch deep into games.”