Blue Jays hop­ing ex­tra work will help lift Vlad Guer­rero Jr. out of early strug­gles

Cape Breton Post - - CLASSIFIED­S/SPORTS - BY ROB LONGLEY

The ini­tial, over-the-top cu­rios­ity as­so­ci­ated with Vlad Guer­rero Jr. has in some ways be­come a curse when it comes to ex­pec­ta­tions tied to one of the most ex­cit­ing home-grown play­ers in Blue Jays fran­chise his­tory.

Fairly or other­wise, the weight of ex­pec­ta­tion is as much of a bur­den as the ex­tra poundage the third base­man turned part-time first base­man/part-time des­ig­nated hit­ter seems to be car­ry­ing with him early in this 2020 sea­son.

And it is why that, even though it’s just the small slice sample size of seven games into the ab­bre­vi­ated cam­paign, there is al­ready an anx­ious­ness tied to the sub­limely tal­ented 21-year-old.

“He’s strug­gling right now,” Jays man­ager Char­lie Mon­toyo ac­knowl­edged in a re­cent Zoom con­ver­sa­tion with Toronto re­porters. “We have been fac­ing good pitch­ing and that has some­thing to do with that. But it is only seven days.

“He’s an­other guy I be­lieve in.”

Nor­mally, a seven-game stretch to start the sea­son would be seen as just a sta­tis­ti­cal blip – good or bad – for a bat­ter in any lineup. But if Guer­rero con­tin­ues to strug­gle through sched­uled road games which be­gan last night in At­lanta and then to Bos­ton on the week­end, al­most a quar­ter of the 60-game sea­son will be be­hind him.

So with ev­ery­thing be­ing so mag­ni­fied and the spot­light on Guer­rero height­ened be­cause of his de­fen­sive shift across the di­a­mond, it’s dif­fi­cult not to raise an eye at Vlad’s skimpy .172 bat­ting av­er­age. There’s also just one RBI thus far, that cour­tesy of a solo home run, his only round-trip­per in the past 34 games.

It’s too early to panic, of course, but once week­end games in Philadel­phia were post­poned, Mon­toyo said that Guer­rero was plan­ning to spend ex­tra time with Jays hit­ting coaches Guillermo Martinez and Dante Bichette dur­ing ex­tra work­outs as the team re­mained at Na­tion­als Park in Wash­ing­ton.

If there is tech­ni­cal con­cern in Guer­rero’s ef­forts so far, it is that he’s not driv­ing the ball like he does when his swing is on, a flaw il­lus­trated by three ground ball outs in the Jays’ re­cent game against the Nats. But as you would ex­pect, his team­mates seem con­fi­dent that the form which made Guer­rero one of the most highly touted prospects of 2019 will emerge soon.

“He seems pretty con­fi­dent in him­self . . . . Ev­ery­body in here knows he has the ca­pa­bil­ity of be­ing one of the best hit­ters in the world,” Jays short­stop Bo Bichette said.

It can be ar­gued that the hype was un­rea­son­able from the out­set with Guer­rero, but that is both the na­ture of the beast and a sta­tus the young player ini­tially em­braced.

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