Days after Toronto Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman expressed his displeasure with the lack of veteran leadership in the clubhouse, outfielder Kevin Pillar gave a different opinion about the makeup of the team’s locker room.
“I think we have enough veteran leadership in the clubhouse,” Pillar told reporters in Dunedin on Tuesday. “I'm not going to disagree with the way Marcus feels. He's got a strong personality and has his beliefs. I do understand where he's coming from.
“There was a time in my career when I was a young guy and I could look around the locker room and see a guy like [Mark] Buehrle, who has been doing this close to 20 years. I could ask him anything, any sort of question.”
When reliever Aaron Loup was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies at the deadline in 2018, Pillar became the longest-tenured Jays player, having made his debut with the team in an Aug. 14, 2013 game against the Boston Red Sox.
Last season the team still had veterans such as Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki on it, but with many of them moved on, Pillar sees this as a chance for him and other long-serving members of the team to step in and take over leadership roles.
“When I came up, I had Mark DeRosa, who was a 12, 14-year veteran, who really wasn't playing a whole lot, but was kind of there as this support system for these younger guys coming up,” said Pillar. “You don't see it as commonly across baseball, but with that comes a new opportunity for guys like me and Stroman and [Justin] Smoak and [Aaron] Sanchez, guys that've been here for a while and have played a lot of games in their career, to step up and be leaders.”
The 30-year-old believes his leadership style is informed not just by the positive things he’s seen, but also the ways veteran players have comported themselves in the clubhouse that he didn’t agree with.
“I'm not going to really get into specifics. I don't know if there are specific things for me to share with you. I think it’s just overall ways about guys, whether it's the way they talk to guys or the way they treated guys or the way they went about holding team meetings or the way they did certain things,” said Pillar.
“Not to say that I didn't agree with them, it just maybe isn't something that I'm comfortable doing, maybe not my style. But I wouldn't say there's any specifics that I could share with you guys, it's just everyone has their own sort of style when it comes to leading a group of people.”
Pillar has appeared in at least 140 games for the Jays in each of the last four seasons and has been one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, helping build his resume as one of the voices of the team.
“I've been able to sit back and watch for the last five, six years the way guys went about it and I've kind of tried to figure out what sort of leader I'd like to be – whether it's verbally or on the field or in the weight room or just the way I walk around this place. That's stuff that I've been able to experience in my time here,” Pillar said.