At 21, Alejandro Kirk had never played above Class A. And apart from the experience, there was also the question of repetitions. Although he faced throws live at the Blue Jays’ alternative training site this summer, Kirk had not played in a regular season game since August 28 of last year, when the Blue Jays of Dunedin faced off against the Fort Myers Miracle to conclude Florida State. League season.
This time around, the stakes are much higher. Kirk, the 5ft 8in, 265lb. catching a prospect who was officially added to the Blue Jays roster on Friday isn’t just here to learn how it’s done. He’s there to help – sooner or later, preferably – and not just on defense but also at home plate. So what if he hasn’t played a game that matters for 13 months? The Blue Jays need to be offended and they want it from Kirk.
In the face of these expectations, it would have been understandable that Kirk had taken some time to adjust to the demands of his new role. Instead, he featured prominently in a 3-2 Blue Jays win, helping Robbie Ray hold the New York Mets to one point in five innings, drawing a march to start a rally and collecting his first success. in the major league.
That’s exactly what manager Charlie Montoyo was hoping for when the Blue Jays promoted Kirk.
“It’s not that easy,” Montoyo said afterwards. “It was great to watch. I’m excited about it: watching such a young child… it was great for me to watch him.
Throughout his minor league career, Kirk has shown himself to be a patient hitter with exceptional contact skills. That ability was on display against the Mets on Saturday, as Kirk walked to lead in the bottom of the fifth inning before scoring on a sacrificed fly from Travis Shaw. The next inning, he fielded a single down the left side for his first hit, one of three balls that left his bat moving at least 106 mph.
Along the way, Kirk became the second wide receiver in franchise history to skip the double A and triple A, joining Brian Milner, who rose straight from high school to the majors in 1978. Afterwards, he explained that his nerves were gone after he found himself on the ground. second his first time.
“No pressure at all,” Kirk said through interpreter Hector Lebron. “As I always say, I go there to compete and try to do my best. ”
Of course, Kirk wasn’t the only notable addition to the Blue Jays lineup. Bo Bichette, who missed nearly a month after injuring his knee in the circle on the bridge on August 15, also returned.
At home plate, Bichette went one-on-four with a single, but her basic fourth inning effort was perhaps the most telling of all. Without anyone and Bichette at the start, Travis Shaw hit a brace in the center-right gap. Bichette read the ball right from the start and didn’t stop sprinting until she crossed home plate.
“It’s huge for us,” Montoyo said. “He was our best hitter when he got injured and you could tell he looked really good at home again. He didn’t lose anything.
While a technicality in the rules ended up forcing Bichette back to third base for the time being, he seemed comfortable sprinting at full speed and easily scored on a Randal Grichuk single in the field a hitter over. late (umpires ruled Shaw’s double was a dead ball once he stopped under the outside wall, although center fielder Jake Marisnick played it with apparent ease).
Thanks to Ray and the good work in the bullpen, the Blue Jays didn’t need a lot of offense. Ray allowed only one inning in five innings while striking out five. His fastball was particularly effective, reaching 97.2 mph and generating 11 swing hits.
“You could tell from the start that he had his good fastpitch,” said Montoyo. “He was awesome… that’s great news because we wanted him to go deep and he did a great job.
“He pinpointed his locations perfectly,” added Kirk. “Everything was great.”
Julian Merryweather followed and – as it is becoming his trademark – delivered two scoreless innings. With each fleeting outing, Merryweather looks more and more like a pitcher who should throw high leverage innings if the Blue Jays advance into the postseason.
From there, Montoyo turned to Anthony Bass, who threw an eighth clear and Rafael Dolis, who converted his fourth stoppage of the season. A welcome contrast for a team that allowed 18 runs the night before, and an effort that improves the Blue Jays record to 25-20.
With 15 games remaining in the season, there is still a lot of work to do. But Bichette’s return changes things for the better. And while no one relies on Kirk the same, the Blue Jays will take whatever offense they can get. One game after, he gave this team plenty of reasons to look forward to what they will do next.