Even though the likes of Kendrys Morales and Kevin Pillar in particular have enjoyed a productive spring, some bats had yet to see some life. All that has recently changed due to some recent big hits, with hopefully more to come as Spring Training winds down.
Russell Martin hit his first homerun of the spring, to the deepest part of the yard, straight away center on the weekend. Devon Travis hit a gap double on the first pitch he saw during his first plate appearance of the spring (notwithstanding minor league camp, where he was stashed away with Donaldson until their various ailments showed improvement). And most recently last night Josh Donaldson parked one in the seats, marking his first homerun of the spring, and Troy Tulowitzki and Melvin Upton also went yard in the contest.
Talk about good timing! Fans and the club itself are no doubt relieved that key projected contributors are finally having a chance to smack the ball around.
It’s not like these guys were ‘slumping’ though – as touched on earlier, the franchise was very careful to make sure Donaldson and Travis are healthy, first and foremost.
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In the case of Russell Martin though it was likely just a matter of getting his timing down, as he wasn’t able to get his regular work in due to his Spring Training detour, in the form of helping out Canada’s National team as a coach during the World Baseball Classic.
A couple of weeks also, prior to heating up, Tulowitzki too broke out at the plate after a slow start to camp for him: he was 0-for-11 until he finally smacked an opposite field double off the wall.
Less than a week until Opening Day it seems apparent the starting-9 are definitely starting to show signs of life as a whole; and let’s not exclude our often-maligned first baseman either, Justin Smoak, who connected for two doubles on Monday night.
This lineup, just like the similarly constructed lineups of the previous two seasons is designed to apply the hurt to opposing teams. A strong late-spring, after all the hoopla of the WBC, and waiting out the process of healing of injuries, should ease the minds from within the organization, and from a fan perspective as well obviously.
Aside from the recent big hits I’ve eluded to, it’s worth mentioning that Pillar has had a strong spring showing, after working diligently in the off-season with hitting coach Brooke Jacoby. Those efforts are clearly bearing fruit.
Some might even argue the “Donaldson-effect” is taking hold of a lot of guys on the team, with the “bringer-of-rain” eschewing the ground ball. Check out this Fangraphs piece which shows an uptick in launch angle for numerous Jays sluggers. In fact, I’d consider it foolish to discount Smoak even, as in another Fangraphs piece it was shown that the ball is connecting off his bat in a very similar fashion to the likes of established slugger Freddie Freeman.
After the spring cuts, and with the old gang back together again, a strong finish to the spring should lead to a smooth transition to the regular season.
We open on Monday at Camden Yards versus Baltimore, so it would be a strong statement if we were able to stomp on their necks and aim for a series win, or possibly even have an occasion to bring out the brooms in our living rooms across the country.