TORONTO — His slow start now a thing of the past, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is already proving to be one of the tougher outs in baseball.
Toting around a .191/.283/.234 slash line with a goose egg in the home run department when he and the Blue Jays exited Toronto last Sunday for a six-game road trip, Vladdy Jr. is quickly — and expectedly — flipping the script on those numbers.
When the Jays arrived back home for Monday’s Victoria Day matinee against the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, Guerrero was celebrating winning the first player of the week award of his young career.
That’s what four homers in six games and a gaudy .333/.417/.905 slash line across 24 plate appearances will do.
The San Francisco and south side of Chicago fans got a glimpse of red-hot Vladdy Jr., but, alas, the home fans will have to wait until Tuesday, as the 20-year-old was, curiously, given the day off Monday.
It meant a holiday Monday crowd of 26,794, the largest Rogers Centre attendance since Vladdy’s debut drew 28,688 on April 26 — and third-largest of the season, behind the 45,048 fans that showed up opening day — came away disappointed in more ways than one once the Red Sox were finished with their drubbing of the Jays, who now sit nine games under .500.
In the grand scheme of things, the decision to sit Guerrero is a minor blip on the 162-game radar, but you’d think Blue Jays decision-makers would have realized by now that the kid is the one drawing card they have, and fans, many of them rocking No. 27 jerseys already, are still clamouring to see him after just 19 games in the big leagues.
One man not disappointed with the reigning AL player of the week being on the bench was Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who carries the perspective of playing against Guerrero Sr.
Cora has watched the Vladdy Jr. hype train from afar.
“Sometimes, it’s not fair,” Cora said. “That whole week (when he first arrived in the majors), I kept saying, ‘Man, it’s great, I get it, the hype and all that, but let him be.’ He’s going to be OK. We put so much pressure on these kids and we put numbers and expectations are huge … he’s going to be a great player. Everybody knows that in the game. Those first few days I watch and I’m like ‘Man, that’s tough to do.’ You’re young and the whole world is saying that you should do this and there’s a process at this level. Some of them, they come up and rake right away, and some of them it takes a while.”
It took Guerrero a couple of weeks to get going, but there were signs the whole time that the floodgates were a base hit or two away from opening.
His two-homer, three-hit night last Tuesday in California did just that.
“When he’s right, he doesn’t expand,” Cora said. “You see his minor-league numbers and they’re amazing. The way he stays in the zone and the damage he does in the zone … I’m actually glad he’s not playing (today).”
Despite having one POW under his belt now, Vladdy Jr. has a ways to go to catch his father, who took home the honour 10 times in his career, with the last coming in April of 2007.