Defence a priority for Jays, Hernandez this off- season
LOS ANGELES — A lot of Blue Jays fans have been getting grouchy about Teoscar Hernandez. Namely about his defence, which at times is an adventure.
But Jays general manager Ross Atkins said this week at the MLB GM Meetings that getting Hernandez ontrack defensively is an off- season priority for the club and he is also hopeful that, by working with new manager Charlie Montoyo, Hernandez will up his game in the outfield.
The Jays can’t afford to keep running the 26- year- old out in the outfield if there isn’t some improvement. The native of Cotui, Dominican Republic, made eight errors and finished with - 16 Defensive Runs Saved ( according to MLB. com) which was third lowest among AL outfielders. Atkins is confident there will be improvement. The Jays certainly haven’t given up on the big corner outfielder.
“I’m really excited for he and Charlie to get together,” said Atkins. “( And) I’m really excited about our opportunities with our R& D department to work with him on his defence. We will have a new first base/ outfield coach for him to work with and that will be a priority for us this off- season. I’ve talked to his agent about it, I talked to Teoscar about it. Teoscar’s one of the hardest working guys we have, so it’s a great opportunity.”
“It’ s nothing against Leip( former first base/ out field coach Tim Lei per ). It’s just this will be a new opportunity for us,” Atkins added.
Leiper was let go earlier this month. Hernandez was acquired by the Jays on July 31, 2017, from the Houston Astros.
The Jays hired Montoyo to replace John Gibbons Oct. 25 partly on the strength of his communication and teaching skills. It doesn’t hurt that Montoyo is fluent in Spanish, which is Hernandez’s first language.
“Just about every sin ge person Charlie has worked with and has been around seemingly has enjoyed and embraced the impact he’s had,” said Atkins.
“That’s probably over- stated ( but) every person who’s reached out to us — and there has been a very large number — has said that he has a great way about him, he has a great ease of connection and great baseball intellect and experiences and he wants to do things collaboratively. So that’s exciting. I’m not always a person that believes that just a new voice or just new change is significant, but I can’t imagine feeling better about Charlie Montoyo and his ability to connect and relate with our players and create some energy.
“It’s not just this off- season but the coming years ... it’s a very good feeling.
“One of the players I’m really excited about getting in and around Charlie is ( shortstop) Richie Urena, who doesn’t get a lot of ( attention),” Atkins said. “But the best ( performance) we’ve seen ( of him) has been ( when he’s played) in the major leagues.”
Urena, 22, hit .293 with an OBP of .340 in 40 games for the Jays last season after hitting .216 with a .250 OBP in 65 appearances with the Buffalo Bisons in 2018. Atkins thinks Montoyo might be able to left Urena’s game.
Hernandez is an intriguing player because of his pop. He had 22 home runs with the Jays last season in 134 games. Atkins said he will be training this off- season in the Dominican Republic and at the club’s facility in Dunedin.
“We are working through that right now,” said Atkins.