The Blue Jays struggled to get their offence going on Monday, and Charlie Montoyo made a questionable decision to try and give them a spark.
On one hand I understand what he was thinking as he sent Joe Panik to the plate to face Darren O’Day. The Yankee right-hander throws with a sidearm motion, and has historically been tougher on batters of the same side, as righties have a .549 OPS against him for his career, compared to .709 against lefty hitters. Panik was the only left-handed bat available off the bench, so despite being a light-hitting infielder, Montoyo asked him to lead off the inning.
That much I can make some sense of, but I’m not a fan of the decision to take the bat out of Alejandro Kirk‘s hands, even if he’s struggled to start the 2021 season. I realize he’s now 0-13 to start the year, but if he’s not going to hit for himself then why have him on the roster? I might not think much of it if the circumstances were different, but Montoyo turned to Joe Panik rather than letting the rookie swing away.
The reason that Kirk made the team was because the Blue Jays want him to provide an offensive spark to the lineup from the catcher’s position. He was very impressive going 9-25 last season after being called up to the big leagues, and he hit the ball well again this spring. Again, I realize he hasn’t come out of the gates hitting for the regular season, but you’ve got to give him a chance to swing the bat if you’re going to carry him on the big league roster.
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I can appreciate that Montoyo may have followed his gut by asking a veteran hitter to square off against a savvy arm like O’Day, but I had hoped to see Kirk get a chance to swing away, especially with what the manager still had available off the bench. If Kirk had been able to reach base the Blue Jays could have brought Jonathan Davis off the bench as a pinch-runner, and he can be a difference maker on the base paths. With Jansen coming in to catch the following inning, the Jays still would have had Panik available off the bench, which would covered them better defensively too if need be.
As much as I didn’t care for the call as far as the Blue Jays’ chances of winning the game, I dislike it even more for Kirk’s sake. Those at-bats are going to be important to his development, and to the Blue Jays’ success this year. If he’s not ready to deliver as an offensive threat, he’s probably better off playing full-time in Buffalo and even returning again later in the year with more at-bats under his belt. I’m not suggesting that a demotion is what he needs, but his long-term development is still an important factor.
At the end of the day I’m probably over-thinking one at-bat a little too much. That said, I hope that the next time that Kirk comes up and his skipper needs a hit, that he’ll let the kid swing away.