TORONTO — Bo Bichette’s rookie season has come to an early end, but what a debut campaign it was for the 21-year-old shortstop.
Ahead of the penultimate game of the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2019 campaign, Bichette admitted he won’t be able to get through concussion protocol in time to make it back on the field, a situation that was becoming more obvious by the day.
It’s for the best.
After being clipped on the helmet by a pitch Sept. 19 in Baltimore and showing concussion symptoms shortly thereafter, rushing him back into the lineup for a meaningless game or two wouldn’t have made any sort of sense.
But Bichette expects to be cleared shortly and head into the off-season restriction-free.
“Basically, they were just waiting until I had no symptoms and then I could start doing stuff on the field and some sort of concussion test that I did in spring training to see if I was back on baseline,” said Bichette, who took grounders on the field at Rogers Centre on Thursday and reported feeling fine. “I’ve still got some more hoops to jump through before they can say that I’m good.”
Since making his debut July 29 in Kansas City, the same place his father, Dante, made his 31 years earlier, Bichette has been nothing short of sensational.
In 46 games, he leaves behind an impressive .311/.358/.571 slash line with 11 home runs, 18 doubles and four stolen bases.
If anything is surprising, it's the power Bichette showed, slugging .571 with a .260 isolated power mark, well above anything he had posted in the minors, in addition to solid and consistent glovework at shortstop.
“I’m really happy with it,” Bichette said of his rookie campaign. “Like you said, I expect to be good, but I’ll be able to look back and see the rookie year that I had, and I think I’d be lying if I said I didn’t exceed some sort of expectations. I’m excited with it, but I definitely want to get better though.”
His expectations for Year No. 2 are even higher, both personally and team-wise.
Being close to 40 games out in the American League East race hasn’t sat well with Bichette and the group that came up through the minor leagues that won championships in both High-A and Double-A.
What the front office does in terms of roster building and finding a way to improve the pitching staff may tell the story in the end, but Bichette & Co. have already talked about arriving in Dunedin next February as better players than they are today.
“I was talking to Vladdy about it the other day, that we’ve never lost before,” Bichette said. “This is a first for us. We don’t expect to come in next year and have that thought. We expect to come in here and win games, and we think we can.” He said, “We’ve shown we can compete with the best teams and obviously to do that everyone is going to have to take a step forward and get better over the off-season. We anticipate coming in next year with pretty high hopes for our season.”
He’s not expecting anything to be handed to them.
Bichette plans on fine-tuning on the “consistency” of his swing, taking a ton of ground balls like he did last winter, and, yes, working on his conditioning, which has been a subject usually reserved for Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
If you need a glimpse of the mindset Bichette is taking into the winter, he provided it when I asked him if he had any fun off-season plans that didn’t involve baseball.
“I could go take a vacation but I think it’s a year-round job,” Bichette deadpanned. “I’ll take a couple weeks off, but the off-season, I think, is the most important part of our development. I’ve gotta attack it.”