DUNEDIN, Florida – The last time Randal Grichuk played regularly in midfield for an entire season, irritation and a click feeling in the left knee made the experience miserable.
In retrospect, he assumes that he shouldn't have taken over the field most nights with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016. One of those games he had right after the All Star break in Miami after getting a shot to relieve his pain was useful last year when he and David Phelps became teammates at the Toronto Blue Jays.
"I had an injection and thought," I will definitely not play Friday after the break, "said Grichuk." I shouldn't have played, I played and got off Phelpsie. I joked with him: "I shouldn't even have played that day. "And he said," I wish you hadn't because I gave up one Homer less. "
"I fought a lot when I was in the middle," he continued, "so I'm kind of excited to have the chance to play every day." Obviously, I know six months, things can change. But I'm going to train out there like I'm out there until they tell me otherwise. "
The Blue Jays seem determined to give Grichuk this chance this season. GM Ross Atkins unexpectedly stated that the 28-year-old, who starts in the middle on opening day, was the club's "most likely scenario" on a new Friday. Manager Charlie Montoyo also revealed that Ryan Borucki is tight with his left elbow – a worrying development as he essentially wiped out his entire year 2019 with elbow problems.
An MRI showed that discomfort was "only tight," Atkins said, but caution is a top priority for the 25-year-old, who comes first after an operation to clean some bone spores.
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Grichuk underwent surgery after this 2016 season to remove loose cartilage from the left knee. The next season, he split the time between the left and right fields after the Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler with the free agency. The Blue Jays acquired him after the 2017 season and installed him in the right field despite playing 26 games in the middle, and pushed him over a week after the campaign started last year after Kevin Pillar's sudden trade with the San Francisco Giants.
This winter, the Blue Jays tires kicked commercial candidates like Joc Pederson and Jackie Bradley Jr. and looked at free agents like Jarrod Dyson. If the overall program had progressed a bit, they might have pulled the trigger.
Instead, Grichuk said Atkins had considered the possibility of playing midfield over the winter, and considering where the squad is located, the Blue Jays Teoscar Hernandez can give more hopes in the hope that he can be more consistent like the second. half player who posted an OPS of 0.939.
Hernandez played 79 games in the middle last year, but now it is believed that if he can settle in the right field it could be more convenient for him. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who is trapped in the left field, is currently planning to realign last season's trio – although major sources from the out-of-options duo of Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford could change things.
"There are different scenarios and we don't want to be too far ahead, but we have many options," said Atkins. “Obviously Lourdes has established itself very well in the left field and we feel good when Teoscar Hernandez walks around in different positions.
"He continues to work very hard on his defense. He loves it. And then we have a few other alternatives for our team. Those are the three that are probably the most established and if we were sitting today we would be the biggest Get part of the season. "
The Blue Jays expect that such alignment will also lead to better defense. Grichuk has played 250 games in the middle in his six major seasons, 62 of them last year. Under the DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) metric, which is used to determine how many runs a player saves with his glove compared to others in the same position, he has a plus of 14 over 1,988.1 innings, including plus-2 last season.
Most of Grichuk's work in the majors is in the right area, where DRS rates him as minus-7 over 2,196.2 career innings, though Statcasts Outs Over Average suggests he catches four percent more in 2018 than expected and two percent more than last year.
"I have no doubt that when I am [in centre] all year round the numbers are better than before," said Grichuk. "Honestly, I don't mind. Last year it was the last second, Pillar leaves, you're in there. If I know that I can do repetitions during spring training and then games, I will feel comfortable out there . "
Borucki's path to the same comfort in the field now begins by removing the tightness in his elbow that began two weeks ago during his throw program. He emphasized that the shutdown was strictly a precautionary measure, but also last spring when he should only miss one or two starts.
Instead, he only made two major league starts throughout the year.
"It's nothing like last year," said Borucki. "I know the difference between these things and it will only be one of those things where it will only be a five or six day break and ramp. It should be pretty small."
Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet's baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together they bring you the most extensive Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering the latest news with opinions and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.
Small or not, there is an impact on the race for fifth place, which includes Trent Thornton and Shun Yamaguchi, who must impress this spring to supplant the former. The camp is two days old and Borucki is already catching up.
"I'm more worried about staying healthy all year round," he said. "If I'm not done by the end of spring training, I have to go where I need to go." But I just want to be healthy all season.
"I will not hurry to come back and end up hurting myself again." I'm not good on the training table. I'm better in the field. "
• Ross Atkins anointed Hyun-Jin Ryu almost officially as the starter of the opening day and stopped formalizing the obvious.
"It will be difficult to see a scenario in which it is not Ryu," he said. "This is obviously health-related, and breaking up the camp would be the most likely scenario."
• Starter Tanner Roark and Reliever Rafael Dolis are the only steins reported so far. Roark's arrival was delayed for personal reasons while Dolis is waiting for his visa but is expected to arrive on Sunday or Monday.
• Shun Yamaguchi about his approach to the camp: “I obviously have the mentality to start as a starter. I want to win the competition there. "