TORONTO – Kevin Pillar is back with the Blue Jays and he's planning on the experience being different this time.
A little more than two months removed from a banishment to Triple-A after he threw a televised fit in the dugout, angry he'd been pinch hit for in the eighth inning of a June 24 game versus the White Sox, Pillar spent his time with the Buffalo Bisons playing good baseball and showing the organization he'd learned from his mistake.
“I think it had to be more proving stuff maybe off the field. Maturity, emotionally and, yeah, I went down there and I did what I thought I was capable of doing,” said Pillar. “I was a good teammate. I tried to be a leader in the clubhouse, help that team make the playoffs.”
Pillar accomplished his goals. In 100 games with Buffalo, with two recalls to the Blue Jays mixed in, he hit .323/.359/.509 with 10 home runs and 39 doubles.
The key, now, is to translate his consistent minor league success into production at the big-league level. Drafted way down in the 2011 draft, the 32nd round, Pillar has had a taste of the major leagues far sooner than anyone would have expected.
His next task is to prove he's a contributor at the game's highest level.
“I think it just comes with time and just getting comfortable, not only with myself here, with my teammates but facing the pitchers,” said Pillar. “A lot of the guys I'm seeing for the first time. When you're fortunate enough to play everyday, even at the Triple-A level, you run into the same guys and you're able to establish a game plan against them.”
Pillar got the call up on Monday night. He was packing his bags for Buffalo's upcoming road trip and noted he was stuffing as much as possible into his suitcases in anticipation of a September call-up. The rosters expand to 40 on September 1.
When Pillar arrived at Rogers Centre on Tuesday afternoon, he stopped by manager John Gibbons's office. The two needed to talk, if only briefly, to bury the hatchet.
“It was mostly about the last time I was here and we moved on from it, said it was water under the bridge,” said Pillar. “We didn't really talk much about expectations and I'm sure the expectation is for me to play when he tells me to, (be a) defensive replacement, pinch-run. Just go out there and help the team win.”
“This is an emotional business and things happen,” said Gibbons. “You can't hold grudges and hold that against the guy. The guy's a good player, he earned his right back here and we need him here because he can help us. If you punished everybody every time something went wrong or you had a disagreement or things like that, you probably couldn't field a team. It's good to have him back.”
ANOTHER ENDORSEMENT FOR NORRIS
On Tuesday night, pitching prospect Daniel Norris was making his fourth start since his promotion to Triple-A Buffalo.
Kevin Pillar was a teammate for Norris's first three outings. Pillar offered a ringing endorsement.
“Daniel Norris is as good as advertised, if not better than advertised,” said Pillar. “He's been pretty unbelievable in his three starts. Two of his starts, hitters didn't really have much of a chance. He had a little bit of a control issue last time and he was still able to strike out nine in six innings and give up no runs. He gives our team a chance every time he goes out on the mound.”
A second-round pick in the 2011 draft, Norris has shot up the food chain in 2014. He began at Single-A Dunedin, going 6-0 with a 1.22 ERA in 13 starts and making the Florida State League All-Star Game.
At Double-A New Hampshire, Norris went 3-1 with a 4.54 ERA in eight starts. That was good enough for a promotion to Buffalo, where he'd posted three wins and a 1.08 ERA in three starts heading into Tuesday.
Norris is being considered for a spot in the Blue Jays' bullpen when rosters expand on September 1. His innings will be watched, regardless, as he's thrown about 120 already on the year.