BOSTON — The countdown to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s arrival with the Toronto Blue Jays started Thursday when baseball’s top prospect suited up for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons, although it’s uncertain how long is actually on the timer.
Service-time accrual won’t be a factor in the decision, since as of Friday, the 20-year-old third baseman won’t be able to collect the 172 days needed to be credited with a full season in the majors.
That leaves the matter up to Guerrero and the Blue Jays, who’ll need to be convinced that he has his timing down at the plate and has built up the physical base needed to withstand the grind of the big-league season.
The Blue Jays won’t want Guerrero both getting up to speed and acclimating to the big-leagues simultaneously, so the likelihood is that his time with the Bisons won’t be especially brief.
Guerrero, who batted third as the DH on Thursday, appeared in six Grapefruit League games before suffering a left oblique strain. Since returning, he played in four games with single-A Dunedin, going 4-for-17 with a walk, ahead of the promotion to Buffalo.
MORE HELP COMING?
Set-up man Ryan Tepera (elbow inflammation) is slated to pitch for Buffalo on Friday and Sunday, positioning him for a possible return next week barring any setbacks.
He’s been up to 92–94 m.p.h. in recent bullpen sessions and if his progress continues without issue, the right-hander will help lengthen the back-end of the Blue Jays bullpen.
A Tepera return will follow the addition of starter Clay Buchholz, who is set to make his season debut Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays. He threw a bullpen Thursday and declared himself ready to go.
The Boston Red Sox later honoured him with a video tribute at the end of the first inning. This is his first visit back to Fenway Park.
Justin Smoak was back in the Blue Jays lineup Thursday after the neck stiffness that had sidelined him in four of the previous five games eased up.
The slugging first baseman hadn’t played since Saturday in Cleveland. When the tightness he was fighting didn’t ease, he stopped all baseball activities, although he did come to Fenway during Wednesday’s day off “just to run around and do something.”
“The off-days helped, not playing helped,” he said. “I’d been getting work done for a while and I feel like the last few days of doing nothing, just letting it relax a little bit, made things better.”
“I’m open-minded so I believe in stats, but if you believe in stats too much, now you don’t have any judgment. It’s about human beings and how they’re feeling and that’s why our lineup changes so much. Not so much for matchups but also how they’re feeling.” — Charlie Montoyo, on giving context to the information data provides