Blue Jays Notebook: Montoyo sees value in prospects winning together

blue-jays-guerrero-biggio

Toronto Blue Jays rookie Cavan Biggio, left, with teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. joke around prior to the start of their Interleague MLB baseball game against the Sand Diego Padres. (Fred Thornhill/CP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – There was genuine joy in the way Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., leaped from the bench in the Toronto Blue Jays dugout, arms up, big smiles on their faces, when Cavan Biggio hit his first big-league homer over the weekend.

“It made me laugh a little bit just because of the enthusiasm Gurriel and Vladdy had,” Biggio says of the reaction, which he saw video of afterwards. “It just goes to show we’re pretty good friends, almost family. To see the excitement they had for me is something pretty special that we can hopefully have for a while.”

In the eyes of Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, there’s a significance beyond that, too.

Biggio, Guerrero, Gurriel, Danny Jansen, Jonathan Davis and Rowdy Tellez have all played together at various levels of the Blue Jays farm system, enjoying both personal and team success. Biggio, Guerrero and top prospect Bo Bichette, for instance, won championships in 2017 at single-A Dunedin and in 2018 at double-A New Hampshire, and the Blue Jays feel an expectation of winning comes up the ladder with them.

Livestream the Toronto Blue Jays on the most popular devices. Plus, get over 150 marquee MLB matchups, the Home Run Derby, All-Star Game and Postseason.

“You’re teaching winning,” says Montoyo. “That’s what the Rays did. In the minor leagues, we were teaching championship baseball the whole way, so when those guys get here, they’ve been through playoffs already. That’s what we’re trying to do here now. Bichette and Vlad and all those guys won in double-A which is great, they know how to win together. I think that’s huge.”

The Houston Astros and 2015 Kansas City Royals, who won the World Series a year after losing to the San Francisco Giants in seven games, are recent examples of organizations that built around a group of players that rose through the ranks together, which isn’t lost on Biggio.

“A bunch of organizations have done it and they’ve had a lot of success with it,” he says. “Having that familiarity with teammates getting here, you’re not all in shock, trying to fit in. You have these guys you’ve played with for a while and that helps with holding each other accountable. I know myself the best, but the guy who knows me second-best is the guy I’ve played with the past couple of years. So I think we’re able to hold each other accountable and overall it just makes me a better as a teammate, me better as a player, him better as a player. We can make it a better team overall that way.”

And having a shared history allows them to enjoy each other’s successes the way Guerrero and Gurriel so joyfully enjoyed Biggio’s first homer.

Were such celebrations common on the way up?

“Not every home run – Vladdy hit a lot of them,” Biggio says with a grin. “You’re not going to do that every time because it’s exhausting.”

SANCHEZ STAYS POSITIVE

Aaron Sanchez is frustrated that he continues to experience trouble with his right middle finger, but he likes where the rest of his game is at, too, which is helping him stay positive.

“There’s always light at the end of the tunnel,” he says. “You see me start the game, I was 94, 96, issue happens I’m 91, 92. At least it’s there, I know it’s in there, I know it ain’t gone anywhere, it’s just a matter of getting this right. Once I get this thing right I’ll take off, I ain’t worried.”

The hard part, of course, is getting his finger right. After leaving Monday’s 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays having thrown three innings and 64 pitches, he’s had three of his 12 starts truncated by issues with the finger. He’s been fighting blister troubles since the latter part of his breakout 2016 season, missing much of 2017 along with a significant chunk of ’18.

“I guess the good thing is every single time something’s happened (in 2019) it’s all been different,” says Sanchez. “I don’t know. It’s been like this for a few years and I’m still having trouble so whatever, I’ll continue to find ways to go out there and pitch. I don’t have answers and I’m looking for them, just as much as everyone else is. It is what it is at this point. There’s nothing else I can do and have done to shake this but that’s not going to stop me.”

Sanchez has managed only 60 innings in his 12 starts, and has issued 33 walks, a by-product of his finger troubles. But he’s also struck out 56 batters for a career-best strikeout-per-nine rate of 8.4, an indicator that his stuff is as sharp as it’s been if he can stay on the field.

“This is the least of my worries in terms of the three (issues this season),” said Sanchez. The first one was a nail split, the second one was a blister, this one was just the lifting of my nail. Hopefully, it’s not anything too serious. Obviously, it affected me (Monday). I couldn’t really grip the ball after it initially happened. I don’t think it’s going to be anything big. I’m ready for it just to be over, to be honest.”

DAVIS GOES DEEP

Hits have been hard to come by for Jonathan Davis over the past three weeks since his promotion from triple-A Buffalo, and even harder has been trusting in his process and not chasing hits. His home run Monday, the first of his big-league career, offered him a bit of validation in that regard.

“It’s a big challenge,” says Davis. “I think for anybody, when you’re in a setting where you want to do good, want to perform, it’s hard to not let that get in the way, especially when things aren’t going your way, to control what you can control and not be so worried about the outcome. You’ve just got to continue to go and continue to grow and that’s what I’m trying to do here. I appreciate the Blue Jays giving me the opportunity to play.”

SHORT HOPS

Rays manager Kevin Cash pranked Charlie Montoyo when they visited Toronto last month, planting a stash of team giveaways in his office. Upon arrival at Tropicana Field on Monday, there was no similar surprise awaiting the Blue Jays manager, although he predicted that a different fate awaits Twins manager Rocco Baldelli when they arrive later this week. “(Cash) respects me too much. It’s the other guys around him. He’ll do it to Rocco when he gets here,” said Montoyo. So Cash doesn’t respect Rocco? “No, he doesn’t,” said Montoyo. … Tim Mayza, placed on the injured list Sunday, is with the team and isn’t expected to be absent beyond the 10 days. “He probably could have pitched (Tuesday) or the next day,” said Montoyo, but the Blue Jays didn’t want to take any chances.

QUOTABLE

“I think Anthony (Alford) got put in a little bit of a tough situation this year where he got called up, then he got sent back, they traded (Kevin) Pillar, they called him back up and he’s thinking he’s going to get a shot at it and then he gets sent down, I mean it’s a tough way to start your year. He’s been grinding through it, he hasn’t really let that get to his head. He’s trying to be the best player he can be, he’s in there hitting early every day. He went through a tough stretch but when I left he was picking it back up. When you see a player do that with the situation he’s been in, it’s pretty positive.” – Cavan Biggio on outfield prospect Anthony Alford, who’s picked things up the past couple of weeks at triple-A Buffalo after a slow start.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.