TORONTO – The visitor's clubhouse at Fenway Park is a difficult place to hide. Its cozy confines create an awkward dynamic in which players navigate their way around pillars, couches and assembled media.
It's also difficult for coaches and their protégés to find a place to chat away from the watchful eyes of onlookers. Such was the case last Wednesday when young outfielder Kevin Pillar was spotted sitting with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer at the latter's cramped locker stall.
The discussion lasted at least 20 minutes. It was underway when the media horde went into John Gibbons' office for the daily pregame briefing and hadn't finished by the time the manager had concluded his daily séance.
At the time, Pillar was hitting .143 since his recall from Triple-A Buffalo. He was jumpy in the batter's box and routinely going after bad pitches out of the strike zone.
"I got in the cage with him, I wanted to talk to him," Pillar told TSN.ca. "I think I had two at-bats against (Felix) Doubront, someone I felt comfortable against, struck out, grounded out and those were my only two at-bats of the game and I was pretty upset that night. I knew I wanted to talk to him."
Seitzer approached Pillar in the batting cage and asked him how things were going. Pillar answered truthfully and Seitzer told the 25-year-old to find him later that afternoon. Pillar went to his locker and jotted down a series of notes he wanted to pass on to his coach.
"Mostly about how maybe my struggles last year carried over here a little bit," said Pillar. "When I got called up this time I felt super comfortable. I was hitting real well in Triple-A. It was that I was hitting well. I just felt comfortable; I was confident and I knew I was ready to come up here this time. I felt like I was starting that downward spiral again of being up here and feeling bad for myself and not understanding why I'm not performing and why I'm changing things I did down there just because I'm in the big leagues."
The discussion that ensued revolved around Pillar's approach. He needed to get back to being aggressive early in the count. If he got the pitch he was looking for, give it a rip.
Seitzer still holds the piece of paper Pillar gave him.
"He told me at some point down the road we're going to go back and look at it and we'll be able to tear it up," said Pillar. "It's been about a week since then. Hopefully it's in the past."
On the day after the sit down Pillar started as the Jays beat Red Sox ace Jon Lester by a score of 7-2. He went 3-for-4 with a run scored. Including that game, he's 7-for-13 (.538) with two doubles in five games.
"When I'm ready to hit from pitch one then I start getting my timing down, I start seeing the fastball, I start recognizing the breaking balls that are up in the zone, the good ones to hit," said Pillar. "When I'm passive up there is when I start second-guessing, I'm not really seeing the ball, I'm swinging before I recognize what pitch it is."
Pillar has been the right-handed half of an effective platoon with Anthony Gose. The two have provided offence and plus-defence in the absence of Colby Rasmus, who's been on the disabled list since May 13 with right hamstring tightness.
NAVARRO PLAYING IN PAIN
Dioner Navarro was back in the starting lineup less than 24 hours after suffering a bruised left index finger.
He was hurt in the fifth inning of Tuesday night's win over the Rays when Jose Molina's bat smacked Navarro's hand on a follow through.
"I missed a few days with the quad thing and I can't be sitting here and watching the game," said Navarro. "I tested it this morning and I feel good enough and I let them know I was ready to play today."
Navarro keeps a bat in his apartment and took some dry swings before coming to the ballpark.
He wore a splint for the remainder of Tuesday's game, which forced him to swing the bat with the injured finger straightened out.
"I just love to play, man," said Navarro. "I love to play. I kind of put myself in the situation where I want to be again, you know playing after being a back up the last three years and now I've got this opportunity and it's been such a wonderful experience being around these guys."
SETBACK FOR SANTOS?
Reliever Sergio Santos, on the disabled list since May 10 with a right forearm strain, won't throw from flat ground again until possibly Sunday after experiencing a problem during his Tuesday session.
Santos and his skipper describe the issue differently.
"It got a little tender," said manager John Gibbons. "So we backed him off a bit. That's a little bit of a setback."
"I wouldn't call it a big, big setback," said Santos. "When I got out to 110 (feet) just stepping on it a little bit, didn't hurt, wasn't painful, just backing off for a day, resting it and then throwing again."
JANSSEN GETS NIGHT OFF
Closer Casey Janssen has appeared in nine games in 17 days since his return from a strained oblique.
He missed most of spring training with stiffness in the back of his pitching shoulder and then injured his oblique on March 28 in Montreal. With the Blue Jays winning almost everyday, he's been called upon more than expected and was feeling sore on Wednesday morning.
He wasn't available for Wednesday night's game.
"Just sore, general soreness," said Janssen. "Got back and ran the gauntlet a little bit here. Just going to try to steal a day here; hopefully they don't need it and anyway the guys down there can do my job anyway."
This isn't the first time Janssen has been unavailable since his return. He appeared in back to back games on May 20-21 and wouldn't have pitched under any circumstance on May 22. He then appeared in the game on May 23 and wasn't available on May 24.
Janssen is converted each of the eight save opportunities he's had this season.