Jays report to development centre in Florida, spring training formally begins Monday
DUNEDIN, Fla. – As Vladimir Guerrero Jr., walked on to Field 1 at the Toronto Blue Jays’ training facility, one of his teammates sarcastically called out to the rest of the team.
“Vladdy’s here! We can start!”
Players laughed at the light ribbing, broke up their conversations, and trotted into position as batting practice began at the Blue Jays player development centre. Although some players — including Guerrero — reported to camp Friday, more continued to trickle in Sunday.
Manager Charlie Montoyo couldn’t hide his enthusiasm, chatting with players, reporters, and team staff as he watched batting practice with ‘90s hip-hop and R&B playing from a speaker set up nearby.
“I’m not only the manager, I’m also a baseball fan,” said Montoyo, with a mask pulled down under his chin. “It isn’t a Zoom call anymore, so you’ve seen our guys and they all look great and that just makes me feel even better.”
Major League Baseball locked out its players Dec. 2, preventing managers and coaches from speaking to their players for months. MLB struck a new deal with its union Thursday, allowing players to start reporting to training camps Friday.
Montoyo, who continued to work with players in the Blue Jays’ minor-league system during the lockout, said it was tough to not be able to communicate with his major-league team.
“The one thing I knew for sure was that they were going to be in shape, because they’re hungry,” said Montoyo. “I love that part of our club. They’re hungry to go and you’ve seen everybody, they look great.”
COVID-19 protocols are still being developed by Major League Baseball for the 2022 season.
When players first arrived at spring training this weekend they had to take a series of COVID-19 tests on top of their usual physicals. Once that battery of tests was completed they could begin their drills before receiving their results.
“It’s great being in the clubhouse with the guys. That’s the best thing about this sport is being with each other,” said catcher Danny Jansen. “It’s just so refreshing to see everybody.
“Everybody’s got one common goal coming here and that’s win. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Jose Berrios said he was happy to go through spring training with his Toronto teammates. The 27-year-old was acquired in late July in a trade with the Minnesota Twins, playing about two months with the Blue Jays.
“I’ve been spending my first three days trying to meet everyone here. I’m new here. I spent just two months here last year, but now I’m able to meet every member of the staff, every minor league player, minor league coaches,” said Berrios, who signed a US$131-million, seven-year contract extension Nov. 18, a year before his previous deal was set to expire.
“I want to meet everyone, because I’m going to spend my next seven years here in Toronto, so I want to be familiarize myself with them.”
Berrios was reliable over 12 starts for the Blue Jays in 2021, posting a 5-4 record and 3.58 earned-run average.
General manager Ross Atkins added to the Blue Jays’ starting rotation after re-signing Berrios, adding right-hander Kevin Gausman on Nov. 30 and reportedly lefty Yusei Kikuchi on Saturday.
Gausman, 31, agreed to a $110-million, five-year deal with Toronto after a 14-6 season with the San Francisco Giants. He had a 2.81 ERA over 192 innings in a major-league best 33 games started. He also struck out 227.