Before joining Double-A New Hampshire for the next step in his ascent through the minor leagues, third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. delivered what the Blue Jays expect will be the first of many thrilling moments with a walkoff home run in the club’s final spring exhibition.
That it came at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, where his father Vladimir Guerrero started his Hall of Fame career, only added to the excitement for the 19-year-old. As the son of the last great Expo, Vlad Jr. was celebrated like a returning hero by nostalgic fans during two exhibition games versus the Cardinals, and he repaid them.
“These two days have been amazing for me, like a dream come true,” said Guerrero, speaking through translator Josue Peley. “Of course, having that at-bat and having that chance to help the team win is something I’m always going to remember.”
Neither Guerrero nor fellow blue-chipper Bo Bichette, who also will begin at Double-A, were invited to big league camp, but Toronto wanted them to experience the major league atmosphere of the preseason finales in Montreal.
The added layer of attention added to the challenge for Guerrero.
“I think it’s a step forward in my learning process, in my career,” said Guerrero, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. “When you play with other players who have more experience than you, it motivates you, and you learn more about yourself. For me, I’m just trying to give my best every time I go out there, and I see those guys who are veterans giving their 100 percent—that’s what I try do every time.”
Bichette, who like Guerrero started last season at low Class A Lansing and was promoted to high Class A Dunedin after the Futures Game, also gained plenty from the trip.
“It was a lot of fun to experience that before it actually happens,” he said. “I was super excited to get the opportunity, and I learned a lot.”
>> Quietly, speedy outfielder Roemon Fields, who is ticketed for Triple-A Buffalo, is putting himself on the radar. “He’s got some skills that can help you win a lot of games, with his speed and defensive ability,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “He’s shown he’s figuring out the hitting end of it.”
>> Outfielder Anthony Alford was expected to miss the start of the Triple-A season with a strained right hamstring suffered late during a spring camp in which he made a strong impression.