During the final week of the season, general manager Ross Atkins and manager Charlie Montoyo held meetings with each member of the Toronto Blue Jays to discuss how things went in 2019, listen to the player’s assessment of his performance and talk about how best to push things forward. Since those conversations aren’t available to the public, here at Sportsnet.ca we decided to conduct our own exit interviews for fans to digest.
Wednesday, in the third instalment, the Blue Jays’ catchers assess their seasons. On Monday, we heard from the starters and Tuesday, the relievers. On Thursday, we’ll hear from the infielders, followed by the outfielders Friday.
384 PA | 13 HR | .207/.279/.360 | 31 BB | 99 K | 1.0 WAR
“There were a lot of pitchers that came in, first and foremost. The ability to learn how that is and adapt to that real quick — (the roster) fluctuates all the time. You’ve got to learn about them, catch them, communicate — that’s all good stuff that’s going to help me.
“I think I made a lot of good strides defensively. I’m pretty happy with the way it went. I came in this year and I changed my stance a little bit — I changed my glove position, changed how I threw a little bit. And I think the results were there. I threw better than I have. There’s always room for improvement, I’d like to do a lot better. But I felt good with the glove. I felt good blocking. I learned the scouting report and how that works and the feel of using that and your eyes and trusting your gut and being in the game — seeing that stuff and adapting to that.
“I struggled at the plate and I’m glad I struggled a little because I’m going to struggle. Everyone is going to struggle and I’m glad I got out of it and I know how to get out of it. I know what it’s like. So, I’m glad that happened just so I can learn from it. Hitting has always been something I put in the back seat to catching. I’m fine with it. I always have time to go to the cage. If it’s 30 minutes, that’s all I need.
“I figured out a plan for myself and routine this year, also, which is the biggest thing you can have. I figured out before the game — when I’m going to do my catching work with (John) Schneider in the bullpen, if I need to throw, I have a routine so I can do that. I have a hitting routine, a time I go to the cage. I give myself that time. But it’s always taken a back seat (to defence) and always will. Because I know I can hit. I know the adjustments I have to make and I know what makes me click and what I have to do and l learned that this year. I learned about myself through struggling, through communicating, through asking a lot of questions. I want to be the best catcher in the game and (defence) is so much more important to me.
129 PA | 2 HR | .151/.205/.235 | 8 BB | 33 K | -0.5 WAR
“Not too many positives from a personal level. From a teammate level, from a leadership role, I think I did a pretty good job. Obviously, there’s a ton of room for me to improve and I have to improve. It’s a really sour taste in my mouth. It’s definitely not the way you ever want to go into an off-season. But I’ve been in this spot many times and I’ve come out of it many times. So, there aren’t a lot of good things to say, to be perfectly honest, but it’s just part of the game.
“(Off-season focal points) are all the normal bullcrap stuff. You can talk about it but ‘hit the ball better’ is really all it is. Hit the ball better. The defensive part has been good but hit the ball better. That’s it.”
105 PA | 5 HR | .299/.346/.526 | 7 BB | 18 K | 1.0 WAR
“I came into spring probably in the best shape of my life, with the most drive, just ready to make a team. And then I was told I was going to be at triple-A. So, I was like, ‘OK, now what?’ I could either dwell on it and be bummed or take care of business down there and make myself better for the opportunity to come here. I feel pretty happy about that. I wasn’t watching box scores. I wasn’t, after the game, grabbing my phone really quick. I was trying to take care of myself, be the best I can be and learn from each game.
“It was cool being that veteran guy in triple-A. Even though I only had a year of (MLB) experience, it was a younger team. We had Bo (Bichette), Vlad (Guerrero Jr.,) Cavan (Biggio) and other guys from double-A come up for their first experience, and it was a fun couple months. It would be like, ‘Hey, where do we go for food around here?’ I was getting questions and just a year ago I was asking those questions. I was able to grow up a lot, learn a ton, and, for me, I felt like when that call came, I was ready. And that was the biggest thing I wanted for myself: to be ready, to be locked in no matter what. I wanted my mentality to never waver — the belief, the confidence, would take over. Now the opportunity is here, we get to go play baseball at the coolest level, the highest level, and be Reese McGuire. I’ve always felt confident in my ability and I feel like (the MLB) environment brings out the best in me.
“I feel like everything starts with my defence, for sure. I’m really happy with the results in the (Blue Jays’ proprietary) Strikes Looking Plus metric, which is what we look at as catchers for how many strikes you’re getting above league average. The league average is 1.03 and one day I had a 1.29, which is really high. I’m happy with the way I received, threw the ball, blocking, game management, dialing it up with the starter that day, coming up with a game plan and then executing it and making adjustments during the game. As the years have gone on, that’s something I think I’ve become very advanced at and continue to get better at every day. Hitting-wise, I love where I’m at right now. I feel confident in the box, getting my pitch. We’re all going to go through those lulls where you might not be hitting, but if you can control what you can — being on time, having that rhythm, keeping your confidence and swinging at your pitch, not chasing theirs — you’re going to be successful more times than not.”