With a unique summer training camp underway, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins says he is really encouraged by the club’s mindset and player’s reactions to new protocols in place due to the ongoing pandemic.
“Now that we are having camp here (in Toronto), the restrictions that are placed upon us are more strict than they are for other teams,” Atkins said during an appearance on Tim and Sid. “Our players are talking about that as an opportunity to make this more competitive and it’s that mindset that is very, very telling for organizations and teams that do exceptional things.”
The Blue Jays are entering the shortened 2020 season with its young core of players, along with several talented prospects that could end up making their MLB debuts this year. While players like Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerroro Jr. are often talked about frequently, Atkins suggested that a particular player may be flying under the radar: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
“He’s probably in the best shape of any of our players right now, and we wanted to make sure I called attention to it,” Atkins said. “He’s really a remarkable talent. It’s fascinating to watch how he took this time down to really maximize it.”
In a shortened, 60-game schedule, unexpected players can have a tremendous impact.
Ross Atkins joined @timandsid to share his thoughts on who they might be for the Blue Jays.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 9, 2020
Toronto’s pitching depth is another area of excitement for Atkins. Several new faces will be taking the field this season for the Blue Jays, including the team’s big-ticket free agent signing Hyun-Jin Ryu.
“It’s no wonder he’s been so successful,” Atkins said of Ryu. “He is as consistent as they come, he’s very steady, easy going. He makes others feel very comfortable around him, and he loves to compete and he loves to work.”
The left-hander had a 14-5 record with a 2.32 ERA with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. When the MLB season was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ryu decided to stay in Dunedin, Fla., and continued to work out at the Blue Jays’ spring training facility.
“He’s in great shape, he looks fantastic, he’s going to be stretched out and ready to go for opening day if we don’t have any significant setbacks and man, are we glad to have him. He’s a joy to be around.”
After signing his first pro baseball contract — a deal worth just over $7 million — Austin Martin will be joining the Blue Jays’ 60-man player pool for the upcoming season. Without a minor league season this year, Atkins said the majority of their time with Martin will be to learn more about him, including where he envisions himself playing defensively and how the club can help him develop in that position.
“His versatility, his athleticism, coupled with that offensive profile is really exciting,” Atkins said of Martin. “It’s a rare opportunity and we’re glad we had it to acquire him.”