Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to bat fifth, play third base in Blue Jays debut

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to bat fifth, play third base in Blue Jays debut
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will start at third base and bat fifth for the Blue Jays when he makes his major-league debut Friday night against the Oakland Athletics.

A horde of media — somewhere in the range of 80 journalists and 10 camera operators — greeted Guerrero at the Rogers Centre before batting practice, which the organization opened to members of the public who were eager to get their first peek at baseball’s No. 1 prospect doing his thing at the plate.

Jays employees were hurriedly trying to sort through T-shirts with the name Guerrero and the No. 27 printed on their backs as the slugger prepared for his first big-league game.

“I’m just going to give 100 per cent, the best I can do and if I do that everything’s going to be okay,” Guerrero said of managing the high expectations that surround him, through translator Hector Lebron, at his introductory press conference.

Baseball is the same game be it at the minor-league or major-league level, Guerrero said, something he planned to remind himself as he tried to control his emotions during his first plate appearance.

Seeing Guerrero in the Blue Jays clubhouse on Thursday put a massive smile on general manager Ross Atkins’ face, something he expects many others will experience when they see him play Friday night.

“It’s one of the many reasons we love sport,” Atkins said. “It’s an exceptional day, for many reasons.”

Rosie DiManno: A new Jay day is coming with Vlad Jr. making his debut Friday

Guerrero has handled the expectations he has already faced so well that Atkins seems confident he will be able to manage being in the big-league spotlight. The Montreal-born native of Dominican Republic has a way of putting others at ease that also makes Guerrero comfortable enough to be himself, the general manager said.

The number of minor-league at-bats Guerrero has under his belt, the environment in the Jays clubhouse and his health were all factors that made now the right time for a promotion.

To make room on the 25-man roster, the Blue Jays optioned infielder Richard Urena to Triple-A Buffalo.

This will be the first time Guerrero plays regularly on turf. The Jays will see how his body responds to the surface to determine how often he will play, but Toronto wants to play him as much as possible in his rookie season.

“I would think that there were going to be moments of excitement and I think there’s going to be moments of growth, too, for him,” Atkins said. “There almost always is, even with the best players.”

Atkins has seen a lot of great players transition from the minors to the major leagues, but Guerrero is on a level all of his own.

“This is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Yet Guerrero, wearing his dad’s No. 27 on the back of his white Jays jersey, seemed to take it all in stride. Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr. was among the numerous family members in town to catch Junior’s debut, hanging out on the field as batting practice took place.

Earlier in the day, Guerrero had arrived at the ballpark wearing his dad’s old Montreal Expos jersey as a tribute to his father.

“He is very proud of (me) and he just told me to go out there and do my best and things are going to be fine.”
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