Thoughts from the booth: Gurriel Jr. playing at MVP level since return

Ben and Arden discuss Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s breakout and Cavan Biggio’s plate discipline before making sense of Aaron Sanchez’s struggles.

Every Friday, Blue Jays Talk host Scott MacArthur will weigh in with his observations on the Blue Jays from the past week.

This recent run of Blue Jays baseball has been decidedly more fun — now if we could just do away with this annoying high percentage of nine inning games which take more than three-and-a-half hours to play, that’d be great. I don’t have my hopes up; baseball can’t outlaw teams from employing rag arm middle relievers who don’t throw enough strikes and take far too much time walking up, down and around the mound in-between pitches.

Venting over for at least this moment!

THOUGHT: It’s time to discuss Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s performance since his return on May 24 in ways one who’s only marginally paying attention — which, understandably, would be most of the fan base at the moment — would consider to be hot take-y, but actually are the opposite.

When Gurriel was sent to Triple-A Buffalo after the April 14 game against Tampa Bay, he was slashing .175/.250/.275 with no home runs. The defence, specifically his yips throwing the ball from his position as the second baseman to first base, served as the primary premise for his demotion.

Gurriel went to the minors, worked his tail off with coach and Blue Jays outfield legend Devon White, and has returned as a plus defender in left field. The catch he made, rushing to his right to snag Mookie Betts’ hard hit, sinking line drive off the turf and robbing the defending AL MVP of extra bases, was as good as it gets.

Offensively, in the 38 games since his return, Gurriel Jr. has played to an MVP level. No joke. For almost a quarter of a season, Gurriel Jr. has been one of the best players, if not the best player, in the league. He’s hitting .338 with an on-base plus slugging (OPS) of almost 1.100 in this span, his 15 home runs since May 24 lead baseball and Gurriel Jr. has added 10 additional extra-base hits (nine doubles and a triple).

Considering the Orioles’ pitching staff is giving up home runs at an alarming rate and Gurriel Jr. is hitting them at a frantic pace, Lourdes could be in for a good weekend leading into the All-Star Break.

THOUGHT: Danny Jansen’s recent offensive surge is important. It’s been the missing piece of his 2019 puzzle and has made his huge strides defensively and in running the pitching staff easier to ignore. Jansen’s is a critical voice today and into the future. He’s even-keeled and is one of two players, along with Cavan Biggio, manager Charlie Montoyo has encouraged to take on a greater leadership role.

One’s words mean more when one’s performance backs them up. If Jansen is transforming into a complete player before our eyes, playing the sport’s most important non-pitching position, this eliminates any doubt about the future of the catching position and solidifies him as a part of the core (which also includes Vlad Jr., Biggio, Bo Bichette and Gurriel Jr.)

Jansen went deep twice in Thursday’s loss to the Red Sox and in doing so became just the fourth Blue Jays catcher to hit a home run in three consecutive games. He’s barreling the ball often, which reflects a market correction because most of Jansen’s hard hit balls this season weren’t finding holes.

THOUGHT: If someone could explain to me, in chronological order, the process by which it wasn’t determined until 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon Sean Reid-Foley would be the one to head back to Buffalo to accommodate the addition of Jacob Waguespack to the active roster, I’m willing to listen.

Marcus Stroman’s barking pectoral muscle surely factored in. Would he be placed on the injured list? Turns out, no. But then Stroman couldn’t make his Thursday start, which necessitated the quick demotion of Waguespack to accommodate the return of Thomas Pannone.

Waguespack was to start on Wednesday but didn’t because reliever David Phelps was inserted as the “opener” (my favourite word) less than 90 minutes before the game.

Then Derek Law served as Pannone’s opener on Thursday.

I think everything I typed just made sense as we experienced it.

Come to think of it, don’t explain any of it to me. Just get Jordan Romano back here so we can find out if the Blue Jays have a legitimate arm in the back end of the bullpen, which one would assume would be good to know given the likely upcoming trades of Ken Giles and perhaps Daniel Hudson.

Oh, I do want to mention this: Reid-Foley deserved better than to be told in full baseball get up and in the outfield during batting practice he’d be returning to Buffalo. If culture matters in each moment, make the moments good for culture. Right?

THOUGHT: Please don’t jump to any conclusions about a Blue Jays player based on his performance over three games against Baltimore. The Orioles are wretchedly bad, on pace for a second consecutive 115-loss season.

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