DUNEDIN, Fla. — With the Grapefruit League season having just passed the halfway point, the Toronto Blue Jays are going to be using their regulars more often in spring games, which means less time for younger players who the team wants to be getting regular at-bats somewhere.
One of those players is Dalton Pompey, and the 23 year-old was sent down Friday morning along with third baseman Matt Dominguez. They’ll both be playing every day in Buffalo.
"I understand (it) completely," Pompey said, after digesting the news. "It’s better than sitting on the bench, but at the same time everybody wants to be in the big leagues so it’s kind of like a Catch-22. For the most part, I’m just going to go down there and work, just prepare myself; thankfully I’ll be able to play every day and make myself better."
Pompey had a decent camp, though with Michael Saunders healthy he was destined to start the season at triple-A regardless. In 24 spring plate appearances, he hit .227/.292/.636 with two homers, two walks and looked shaky in left field more than once. Defensive issues factored into his losing the Blue Jays’ centrefield job early last season, but he said he got good feedback when he was told about his demotion.
"They said I had a great camp," Pompey relayed. "(I was told to) keep doing what I’m doing, stay level-headed, continue to work. There’s going to be another opportunity sometime soon and I’m looking forward to that day."
Pompey started his big-league career with a bang as a September call-up in 2014. He had a two-triple game against Baltimore Orioles’ then-ace Chris Tillman and took Felix Hernandez deep. The switch-hitter was the Blue Jays’ opening day centrefielder last season, but lost that job to Pillar by the end of April and was in Buffalo a week later. His minor-league journey took him down to double-A New Hampshire before he made it back to the bigs in September and played an important role both through the pennant drive and the playoffs as a pair of legs on the bench.
“I’ve been impressed watching Dalton Pompey — athleticism, tools, youth. You know, his ability has been dampened by the fact he was rushed so fast to the big-leagues,” team president Mark Shapiro said Friday morning on Sportsnet 590 The FAN in a guest appearance on The Jeff Blair Show.
The Mississauga native had no illusions coming to camp.
"I knew there was a pretty good chance that I would get sent down with Mike (Saunders) healthy and there’s really no opportunity at the moment," he said. But at the same time "I’ve seen things change in a heartbeat, I’ve seen guys like Colabello come up last year, (Ryan Goins) came up after two weeks. It’s not the end of the world."
Pompey will be a determined Buffalo Bison.
"I think I have a better idea of what I need to do and where I’m at, but at the same time there is stuff I can still improve on and I think that will come with repetitions and I’ll get that in the minor leagues," he said.
He knows the Blue Jays expect him to be a big part of things in the future.
"I’m trying to think big picture…obviously you want to be here right now but at the end of the day, if it helps me get to where I want to be for a long period of time, why wouldn’t I take that door? I’m going to do down and do what I need to do and I know I’ll be back."
And this time, when Pompey does make it back to the majors, the Blue Jays hope it’s to stay.