TORONTO – A few weeks ago Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo conducted separate conversations with rookies Danny Jansen and Cavan Biggio about taking on leadership roles despite their youth.
The two certainly paid back their manager with significant home runs in the Blue Jays’ 7-5 victory against the Kansas City Royals before 24,906 at Rogers Centre on Saturday.
“I knew that’s who they are and who they were in the minors, they were leaders coming up,” Montoyo said. “I told them not to wait for anybody, to be themselves and be the leaders they are.
“They have been doing it since I talked to them. They have been doing great jobs. They have been leaders.”
Jansen hit his first career walk-off homer at any level, a two-run shot to left field in the ninth inning. Biggio clubbed his first career MLB grand slam to put Toronto ahead 5-4 in the fifth inning.
“There is no better feeling,” Jansen said. “That is the first time I’ve ever done that in my career. It was pretty awesome.”
The 24-year-old Jansen was a prolific hitter in the minors, but he yet to find a consistent groove with the Blue Jays. He’s hitting only .188 with four homers. So when he came through during a hit-and-run, full-count situation, his teammates were pleased for the catcher.
“Danny and I roomed together in (the minors),” Biggio said. “Everyone knows how good of a hitter he is, he’s just had a few struggles early in the year. He’s finally coming back to the hitter we know he is.”
Biggio hit his sixth home run since being promoted from the triple-A Buffalo Bisons 30 games ago. The infielder, who played in right field on Saturday, admitted he needed time to adjust to the lifestyle of being a major leaguer as well as playing in bigger stadiums and crowds.
“I’ve just had to learn to slow things down,” the 24-year-old Biggio said.
Biggio, Jansen, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are vital components of the Blue Jays’ retooling. They also were significant contributors in Toronto’s back-to-back wins to start the second half of the season.
On Friday, Gurriel hit two home runs in the Blue Jays’ 6-2 win. Less than 24 hours later, all of Toronto’s seven runs were the result of homers from Jansen, Biggio and Guerrero, who hit a solo shot in the third inning for his first homer in 19 games.
“It was a cool thing,” Jansen said. “Those guys are tremendous players. I’m honoured I can play with them. We all push each other.”
Biggio added, “It’s just one guy feeding off another. It’s honestly really a lot of fun. The atmosphere in the stadium and in the dugout is fun when you see Gurriel get a big hit or Vladdy.”
Meanwhile, another essential current piece of the Blue Jays roster, ace right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman, departed after throwing two pitches in the fifth inning with some discomfort in his non-throwing shoulder.
He was diagnosed with a left pectoral cramp, but he doesn’t expect to miss any time.
Stroman began to feel tightness in his left shoulder as he warmed up for the inning.
“I thought it was something I could work out over the next few pitches,” said Stroman, who could be moved before next month’s July 31 trade deadline. “I thought with my intensity level it would have kind of fixed itself. It was just there. I was just being cautious.
“I’m not worried. I’m a warrior, I’m a dog. I fully expect to be out there in five days.”