Biggio enjoys ‘surreal,’ historic big-league debut with Blue Jays

Cavan Biggio went 0-for-3, striking out twice in his debut and the San Diego Padres handed the Toronto Blue Jays their third straight loss.

TORONTO – Midway through the drive from Buffalo to Toronto Thursday night, Thomas Pannone turned to Cavan Biggio and pointed to the skyline in the distance. 

"See the tower?" Pannone said from the passenger seat of Biggio’s pickup truck. "That’s where we’re going. We’ve got to get to that tower."

Hours earlier, they had played a triple-A game in front of 7,965 at Frontier Field, home of the Rochester Red Wings. Now they were heading to the big-leagues. 

"It didn’t even hit me until I saw the skyline," Biggio said. "It’s kind of breathtaking. I’ve been in New York City and Chicago and the skylines are beautiful, but I think here in Toronto, in Canada, it’s a bit different."

So were the circumstances surrounding Biggio’s big-league debut, a 6-3 loss to the San Diego Padres in which he went hitless with two strikeouts in three at-bats. For the first time in major-league history two sons of Hall of Famers played together on the same team. Biggio, the son of Craig, batted eighth and played second base while Vladimir Guerrero Jr. batted second and played third.

"It’s just exciting," Craig Biggio said from the field while watching his son take batting practice. "As dads we’re done. We’re old guys now. It (doesn’t) even matter. But now you’re like ‘your kid’s in the big-leagues.’ It doesn’t get any better for me than that."

Afterwards, Biggio said it took until his first at-bat for the nerves to subside.

"The first three innings weren’t normal," he said. "It felt like I wasn’t on a baseball field. It felt like I was on a different setting that obviously I’ve never been in. It just felt weird and awesome."

While Guerrero Jr.’s been a top prospect for years now, Biggio took a different path to the majors. A fifth-round draft pick in 2016, he didn’t truly break out until last year when he hit 26 home runs with an .887 OPS on the double-A New Hampshire team that won the Eastern League title.

He built on that success at triple-A this spring, batting .306/.440/.507 while playing first, second, third, left and right. While no one’s expecting those numbers in the majors, it’s reasonable to expect a strong plate approach along with power and versatility from the 24-year-old.

In recent weeks, the Blue Jays had started thinking seriously about adding Biggio to the roster. Late Thursday, they made the call.

"He continued to show the power with the plate discipline (and) how much better he’s gotten on the infield is remarkable," general manager Ross Atkins said. "He’s a really hard guy to put a ceiling on."

Now that he’s here, Biggio will play regularly at second base. Eventually, the Blue Jays will tap into his versatility and mix him in more at first base and right field, but they don’t want to overwhelm him just yet. When that ask comes, he’ll be ready for the challenge of playing all over.

"I saw a lot of opportunity to it," Biggio said. "Being glued to one position limits yourself, I think. When they brought it to my attention I was all for it."

The Blue Jays will have a similar approach with the recently recalled Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who homered Friday in his first big-league game since April 14. Gurriel Jr. will spend most of his time in left field, but the Blue Jays still consider him an option at second and shortstop now that he has worked on his throwing in the minors.

"I’m working very, very hard on my new role–playing utility, infield and outfield,” Gurriel Jr. said through interpreter Hector Lebron. “I’m ready to go."

Meanwhile, Randal Grichuk becomes the everyday centre fielder with Jonathan Davis shifting to a bench role. That leaves Brandon Drury as a utility player who sees lots of time in right field, where he started Friday.

Bottom line, it’s time for the kids to play.

"I think it’s pretty cool," manager Charlie Montoyo said. "They’re part of our future, so I’m excited."

Both of Biggio’s parents made it to Toronto for the debut along with his brother, sister, girlfriend, grandparents, cousins and some friends.

That wasn’t the only large entourage at Rogers Centre Friday, as Mississauga native Josh Naylor made his big-league debut for the Padres in front of 50-60 family members and 200-plus friends. Adding to the family feel, Port Hope Ont.’s Cal Quantrill will pitch on Saturday in front of his father, Blue Jays special assistant Paul Quantrill.

Eventually, Bo Bichette will join Biggio and Guerrero Jr. in Toronto. Though he’s now recovering from a fractured hand, Bichette ranks among the game’s best prospects, too. As the son of former big-leaguer Dante Bichette, Bo has a common bond with Biggio and Guerrero Jr.

"It’s an unspoken thing," Biggio said. "Us three had a lot of success together in high-A and double-A. I think we all know how special and how bright the future can be here in Toronto. It’s just the start of it."

Soon enough, there will be pressure to produce. For now, though, it’s worth appreciating the work it took to get here.

"It’s really hard to get to the big-leagues," Craig Biggio said. "I’m just proud of him. He’s worked hard. He’s busted his tail. He’s doing all the things you’d want him to do. As a family and as a father that played in the big-leagues for a little while, to see your son now have the opportunity in the big-leagues is pretty exciting."

After all, Biggio was driving in from Buffalo just yesterday. Now he’s a big-leaguer.

"It’s just surreal," he said. "It’s just everything you dreamed about. You’ve got your last name on the jersey, you’ve got your name in the lineup, you’re playing in a big-league stadium. It’s all pretty special."

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