(Archive Post) This was originally written for Canuck Baseball Plus on March 28th, 2018.
The Toronto Blue Jays series in Montreal is really unique. Despite the awful artificial turf and terrible stadium, there’s been an atmosphere that’s truly special in the air over the last few years of the “Jays in Montreal” experiment.
It really shined last night, particularly when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was given a standing ovation while entering the game between the Jays and the St. Louis Cardinals. When his dad, Montreal Expos legend Vladimir Guerrero, tweeted “Thank you for letting my son wear No. 27,” it was a spectacular moment full of emotion.
In 2015, it was Russell Martin Sr. performing the national anthems with his saxophone that stole the show. In 2017, former Expo Tim Raines tossed out the ceremonial first pitch in front of the Olympic Stadium crowd that was celebrating his nod to Cooperstown.
It’s all about family connections, memories, and special moments during these games, and that’s something truly unique about this now five-year-long Montreal tradition. Even if the event doesn’t get renewed, Montreal will still have had iconic baseball moments in recent memory. There’s always hope for more baseball in Montreal, and a lot of people will be eagerly awaiting the future of the sport there.
Blue Jays/Cardinals Takeaways
- Marcus Stroman looked really sharp, which shouldn’t be a surprise. He was fantastic in last year’s World Baseball Classic, which also took place before the regular season. Danny Barnes and Ryan Tepera were solid as well, although Tepera walked a batter in his only inning. Aaron Loup was better than his final line in the box score (1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K) suggests, but he wasn’t great. Later in the game, Roberto Osuna was excellent, but Seung-hwan Oh struggled against his former team. He gave up three runs on four hits in his inning. The Blue Jays likely won’t wait long for him to improve once the regular season hits, so his pitch location has to get better in a hurry if he wants to keep his spot in the bullpen.
- Teoscar Hernandez is doing his best to keep the Blue Jays’ outfield race interesting. While it seems set that a Curtis Granderson/Steve Pearce platoon will be in left with Kevin Pillar and Randal Grichuk in center and right respectively, Hernandez may not be in AAA long. If he can prove his plate discipline has improved by striking out at a lower rate, the Blue Jays will have to respond. This means that Granderson, Pearce, and even Pillar will have to perform well to make sure they keep their current jobs.
- All the focus might be on Guerrero Jr., Hernandez, and Bo Bichette, but keep an eye on infielder Jason Leblebijian and outfielder Roemon Fields. Both of them could get some playing time with the major league club if someone gets injured.
- The Cardinals pitching staff has the potential to be really good. The rotation is led by the often-underrated Carlos Martinez and also includes free agent signing Miles Mikolas and veterans Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright. That’s good, to begin with, but add in young talent like Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, and potentially Alex Reyes, and the Cards could have one of the best rotations in baseball. Factor in the bullpen with Tyler Lyons, Matt Bowman, Brett Cecil and Dominic Leone? And add Luke Gregerson when he returns from the disabled list? That’s a formula for one of the best pitching staffs in the Majors, especially if the former Blue Jays Cecil and Leone pitch to their ceilings.
Tonight, the Blue Jays end Spring Training with their 2018 Montreal finale. They’ll send Joe Biagini to the mound to face St. Louis, who will counter with Luke Weaver. Biagini’s had a rocky spring, pitching to a 2-2 record with a 6.50 ERA. Weaver’s been the opposite of “rocky,” he enters with a 2-0 spring record and a 0.68 ERA.
“File:Blue Jays Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at Washington Nationals vs. Toronto Blue Jays at Nationals Park, July 27, 2020 (All-Pro Reels Photography) (50161540656).jpg” by All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
(Both images were altered for presentation purposes, you can find the originals at those links)