Cape Breton Post

Jays’ star outfielder takes wing again

- ROB LONGLEY

In some ways, he’s still the new guy — yes, the US$150million superstar new guy — and, as such, George Springer has something to prove.

So as much as the Jays’ centre fielder of the present — finally — and certainly the future would love to make an immediate impact with his new team, it may take some time.

After a week-long rehab assignment in triple-A, Springer was activated for Tuesday’s game in Miami, ending his career-longest 44-game stint on the injury list and getting his first assignment in centrefiel­d. Like the rest of the Jays offence, Springer was quiet in his first game since May 3, going 0-for-4 at the plate.

The last of those outs, however, was followed by a pair of ninth-inning doubles from Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to give the Jays the go-ahead run in a 2-1 win in the first of two against the Marlins.

A healthy Springer is as dynamic an offensive player as there is in baseball and will soon add even more punch to an already powerful Jays lineup. The Jays went to the bank on that when they signed him in January.

“I came here to win and I came here to play,” Springer said. “I’ve been on the bench since I don’t even know when — a long time — and I want to go out there and be who they want me to be.”

What that means exactly is relatively straightfo­rward. While manager Charlie Montoyo acknowledg­ed that whether it takes a game or two to hit his stride, the presence of Springer in the lineup adds a huge element of potential production.

The return began with the former Houston Astros star playing centre field for the first time in his Jays tenure and hitting fifth in the batting order. The latter designatio­n seemed to be by mutual consent with Montoyo not wanting to disrupt the potentiall­y lethal top of the order and Springer willing to play good teammate.

“I just know the guys who have been playing every day have earned every bit of what they’ve got,” Springer said before his team won its third in a row to move back above .500 (36-35). “I was pretty clear to Charlie that I will hit wherever he wants me to hit. I’m here for the guys.”

Once Springer starts pounding out hits the way he’s done throughout his MLB career, it’s almost certain he’ll move up in the order and most likely to the top. The Jays didn’t pay that kind of money to have Springer hitting fifth. Nobody does.

But as Springer himself, acknowledg­ed, there could be a period of adjustment, especially given the length of his time getting the nagging quad to heal. And until that happens, Montoyo will fill out his lineup card accordingl­y.

“We’ve got one of the best players in baseball, but he hasn’t played in two and a half months,” Montoyo said. “That’s a good problem to have, to hit George fifth, because the other four guys are doing so well.”

How the lineup shakes down in the future will certainly be a storyline but, more significan­tly, the options at Montoyo’s disposal will be tantalizin­g.

“His bat speaks for itself,” said Tuesday’s Jays starter Ross Stripling, who threw six innings of two-hit, one-run ball while striking out seven. “It’s as powerful and electric as anybody in the big leagues.

“My god … you have George Springer in the fivehole? Our lineup’s going to be relentless. It’s going to keep us in a lot of ball games.”

There are already some consequenc­es in the lineup, of course. Rowdy Tellez — who hasn’t been nearly as productive at the plate as he was last season — was optioned to triple-A Buffalo, as was Jonathan Davis, the first odd man out.

The most important element at this point is Springer’s ability to stay in the lineup, something his rehab stint with the Bisons was designed to accomplish.

“It was important for myself that I could go out there and do anything the game required me to do,” said Springer, who didn’t touch the ball once in the outfield as he eased his way back in. “I need to be the guy the team wants me to be and needs me to be.

“(Being out for so long) has been brutal, to be totally honest. I want to be out there with the guys. I want to play.”

 ?? USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Toronto Blue Jays outfielder George Springer runs out a ground ball for an out against the Miami Marlins in the second inning at loanDepot Park in Miami on Tuesday night.
USA TODAY SPORTS Toronto Blue Jays outfielder George Springer runs out a ground ball for an out against the Miami Marlins in the second inning at loanDepot Park in Miami on Tuesday night.

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