In the move everyone expected but tried to offer feasible alternatives to, the Toronto Blue Jays optioned shortstop Munenori Kawasaki to Triple-A Buffalo after Tuesday’s game in Tampa Bay, according to Gregor Chisholm at MLB.com.
The move was necessary in order to make room on the active roster for shortstop Jose Reyes, who was activated from the 60-day Disabled List. Ramon Ortiz was moved to the 60-day DL in order to clear a spot for Reyes on the 40-man roster.
In recent days, we’ve heard discussion about the move possibly being a member of the 8-man bullpen, with the names Dustin McGowan, Neil Wagner, and Juan Perez being debated by fans and pundits alike. In the end, Kawasaki was the man chosen, as he was a man without a position, he had the Minor League options available, and the Blue Jays did not want to mess with what has become a very successful bullpen of late.
Kawasaki himself handled the news quite well and was very thankful for his opportunity with Toronto and wanted to let fans know that he was appreciative of their support (h/t MLB.com).
“I can’t believe it, I absolutely can’t believe the way I’ve been accepted by the players here and by the fans. This one strange Japanese guy — to come here and be accepted the way they have has been an unbelievable experience.”
It goes without saying that the decision to demote Kawasaki became a difficult one for Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays.
While initially thought to be nothing more than a stop-gap before Toronto acquired a more suitable replacement during Reyes’ injury, the 32-year-old shortstop seized the most of his opportunity with the Blue Jays. In 60 games and 185 plate appearances, Kawasaki hit just .225, but posted a .337 on-base percentage, scoring 20 runs, and playing solid defense at a premium position.
Not only did he ensure that Toronto did not have to make another transaction, he endeared himself to the fans and his teammates. GIFs and videos of Kawasaki’s exploits during stretching, interviews, and just random dance routines on team flights became common fair for Blue Jays fans around the world.
That all bubbled over when Kawasaki hit a walk-off, two-run double on May 26th, completing a Blue Jays come-back against the Baltimore Orioles in front of an appreciative home crowd. In an after game interview, embedded below, Kawasaki declared to the fans, “My name is Munenori Kawasaki. I’m from Japan.”
But at that point, the fans already knew his name. And to them, he belonged to the city of Toronto.