Guerrero wears Expos jersey before debut to honor father
TORONTO (AP) — Vladimir Guerrero Jr. helped spark a walk-off celebration for the Toronto Blue Jays in his major league debut.
“Just the way I dreamed it,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero was showered with beer and almond milk after the game in the clubhouse. On the field, he dumped a sports drink over Drury.
“It was awesome,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.
Guerrero, the 20-year-old son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, is considered the top prospect in the major leagues. He arrived at Rogers Centre in a replica Montreal Expos jersey to honor his father, who was on hand. He grounded out in the second, was robbed of an extra-base hit by left fielder Stephen Pinder’s leaping catch in the fourth, then flied out to right in the sixth.
“He’s a great player,” Drury said. “You can see by his at bats the game kind of comes easy to him. We’re all super excited to have Vladdy in this lineup.”
Guerrero hit an opposite-field double down the right-field line on a 2-2 fastball from Yusmeiro Petit (0-1). Billy McKinney sacrificed pinch-runner Alen Hanson and, with the infield in, Teoscar Hernández lined out to second baseman Jurickson Profar.
Drury followed with a drive over the center-field wall to stop an 0-for-12 slide. Guerrero, arm raised, was the first Blue Jays player out of the dugout to celebrate.
“It feels great,” said Drury, who talked Montoyo out of giving him a day off. “I always feel like I’m one swing away from getting my bat going. I never want to take a day off, I want to be in there every day.”
Ken Giles (1-1) struck out two in a one-hit ninth. Eric Sogard’s first-inning homer and Randal Grichuk’s third-inning RBI single built a lead off Mike Fiers, but Robbie Grossman hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Joe Biagini.
Guerrero missed the start of the season after an oblique injury in spring training. He played four rehab games at Class A Dunedin before moving up to Triple-A Buffalo, where he hit .367 with three homers and eight RBIs in eight games.
“People don’t understand how good of a hitter this guy really is,” Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman said. “He’s way ahead of his years.”
Oakland manager Bob Melvin said he was impressed with Guerrero’s performance at the plate.
“He looks like he has a good swing, an aggressive swing,” Melvin said, “Looks like there’s some power behind it.”
By delaying Guerrero’s debut until Friday, the Blue Jays ensured his maximum service time this year would be 157 days – 15 days shy of being eligible for free agency after the 2024 season.
The few hundred fans already inside the stadium clapped and cheered as Guerrero launched several long drives.
A crowd of 28,688 rose for a standing ovation as Guerrero led off the bottom of the second. Guerrero worked the count to 2-2 as fans chanted “Let’s go, Vladdy!” On the fifth pitch, he hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Kendrys Morales, who made the play unassisted. The exit velocity was 106.8 miles per hour.
The 20-year-old batted fifth and played third base and wore No. 27, the number retired in honor of his father by the Los Angeles Angels.
“Since I was a kid I was running around with my dad in the clubhouse in Montreal,” Guerrero said in an afternoon news conference. “I just wanted to bring that back today.”
Even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted the debut on Twitter with a message attached to a Tweet from the elder Guerrero.
Guerrero’s famous father watched as his son’s batting practice was broadcast live on Sportsnet, the Canadian network operated by team owner Rogers Communications.
FOR YOU, DAD
Guerrero said he planned to give his father the lineup card from his debut, as well as the bat and ball from his first hit.
AMPED FOR THE A’s
All three of Drury’s homers this season, and all five of his RBIs, have come against the Athletics.
Athletics: 1B Matt Olson (broken right hand) took batting practice for the first time since he was injured March 21 during Oakland’s opening series in Japan.
Blue Jays: Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said minor league SS Bo Bichette will not need surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand, an injury that happened when he was hit a pitch Monday. Bichette is expected to miss four to six weeks. … Toronto optioned INF Richard Ureña to Triple-A Buffalo to make room for Guerrero. Montoyo said Ureña was sent down because Toronto doesn’t believe INF Freddy Galvis (left hamstring) will need to go on the injured list.
Athletics: LHP Brett Anderson (3-1, 3.04) is 0-2 with a 3.72 ERA in three career starts against Toronto.
Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez (2-1, 2.77) left his previous start, April 21 at Oakland, because of a broken fingernail on his middle finger.