TORONTO (AP)After a winter of workouts more intense than any he’d experienced before, Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is feeling strong.
The Blue Jays laid out a detailed offseason plan for their star third baseman, asking him to drop weight and boost endurance, increasing his resistance to baseball’s inevitable wear and tear.
Less than one month before spring training, Guerrero spoke positively about the team-designed workout plan he’s been following.
“I feel a lot better and it’s been working well for me,” Guerrero said through a translator. “I feel a big change in me. I feel lighter.
“The most important thing is I’m going to start the season healthy,” he said. “Right now I feel a lot of strength, and I think I’m going to have a good start.”
Guerrero, who will turn 21 on March 16, hit .272 with 15 home runs and 69 RBIs in 123 games as a rookie, delivering a series of big swings en route to the finals of the All-Star Home Run Derby.
Still, he flagged late in his first full season, hitting his final homer on Aug. 16. He injured his left oblique muscle in spring training, and later missed occasional games because of right knee pain.
Guerrero isn’t interested in projecting his performance at the plate in year two. His primary goal is staying healthy enough to play.
“I just want to be in the lineup every day,” he said. “The rest will come.”
Toronto’s biggest changes are in the starting rotation. Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu signed a four-year, $80 million contract and becomes the new ace. Right-hander Tanner Roark signed a two-year, $24 million deal, while Japanese right-hander Shun Yamaguchi signed for two years and $6 million. Toronto also acquired right-hander Chase Anderson in a trade with Milwaukee. After using a club-record 21 different starters in 2019, the Blue Jays are hoping for health and consistency from their rebuilt rotation.
ROOKIE TO WATCH
Most of Toronto’s top youngsters debuted in 2019, including Guerrero, shortstop Bo Bichette and second baseman Cavan Biggio. Next in line is hard-throwing right-hander Nate Pearson, who rose from Class A to Triple-A last year, posting a 2.30 ERA in 25 starts at three levels. Pearson’s 101 2/3 innings in 2019 were a career-high, and his 2020 workload will be monitored closely.
Right-handed hitter Danny Jansen and left-handed hitter Reese McGuire, each 24 years old as camp begins, give the Blue Jays an enviable platoon behind the plate. Jansen and McGuire provided dependable defense and promising offensive performances in 2019, combining for 18 home runs and 54 RBIs.
Center field is Toronto’s least stable position. The leading candidates as camp opens are two former Astros prospects, Teoscar Hernandez and Derek Fisher. Toronto also has Anthony Alford, who is out of options. Hernandez hit a career-best 26 home runs last year but remains streaky, strikeout-prone, and far from dependable on defense.
With their everyday lineup mostly set, the Blue Jays will use spring training to settle on a fifth starter and sort out bullpen roles behind closer Ken Giles. Toronto begins the regular season at home against Boston on March 26.
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