Blue Jays’ Kevin Pillar nominated for Roberto Clemente award

Kevin Pillar talks about being nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award and why he loves doing work for his community.

NEW YORK – A passion for community service was instilled in Kevin Pillar by the 60 hours of volunteer work Chaminade College Preparatory School in West Hills, Calif., required of all its students before their graduation.

That sense of duty has continued throughout his career, and on Tuesday he was named the Toronto Blue Jays’ nominee for Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award, honouring players for their community involvement and philanthropy.

Pillar is involved with a series of amateur baseball, education and health initiatives and has made several visits to children at Canadian hospitals. He’s also working with MLB’s Action Team to create volunteering opportunities at his former high school.

“Any time you get associated with Roberto Clemente it’s pretty special. Not only was he a great player, but I think he’s more recognized for what he was able to do off the field through his community service,” said Pillar. “As I got older and I was put on a bigger platform I realized how important it was to be able to give back. There are a lot of people that helped me get where I got and a lot of that was through some sort of community service, like Little League coaches donating time, and I fell in love with [community service].”

LIRIANO IMPROVES: Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said left-hander Francisco Liriano felt better Tuesday after leaving Monday’s game with back tightness.

Liriano worked two scoreless innings before exiting and would have gone longer if his back hadn’t flared up, delivering a much better outing in his second stint out of the bullpen than the first. While he may end up serving as the left-hander the team is seeking for the bullpen, Gibbons noted that “we haven’t eliminated him from the rotation.”

“It was just kind of the way things were stacking up, who we were going to pitch,” said Gibbons. “Figured keep him active in the ‘pen, and the thought is maybe he can be tough on those lefties, but he can be tough on the righties, too, when everything is working.”

SHORT HOPS: The Blue Jays have parted ways with Richie Hebner, the hitting coach at triple-A Buffalo. … Stephen Brooks, the former senior vice-president of business operations for the Blue Jays, is the new chief financial officer for the Ottawa Senators. … Former Blue Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola is the new hitting coach for the Tampa Bay Rays after they fired Derek Shelton on Tuesday.

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