George Springer's debut was a big moment for Blue Jays — and entirely forgettable

Nick Ashbourne
·MLB Writer
·4-min read

Coming into his Toronto Blue Jays debut on Wednesday night, it would’ve been unfair to expect a special performance from George Springer.

The veteran outfielder was coming off a quad injury that delayed his start to the season and was slotted in as the designated hitter, which limited the breadth of his contribution to four plate appearances. More important than those mitigating circumstances is the way the whole sport is structured wherein extremely good players are liable to produce nothing offensively on any given day. Short of a historic three-homer performance, like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. managed on Tuesday, nothing he could’ve done would’ve taught us much about him as a player.  

All of that rationality out of the way, the $150-million man’s debut was a big moment for the Blue Jays, and each time he stepped to the plate felt significant — even if those trips were irrelevant from a competitive standpoint in a 8-2 loss.

Following a season where the Blue Jays played into October thanks to the growth of their young core — and a little help from a generous new playoff format — the 2021 campaign was meant to signal their transition from plucky young upstarts to a consistent playoff contender. Although Marcus Semien was a significant addition, and Steven Matz has been a pleasant surprise, there’s no doubt that Springer is the face of that evolution.

The Blue Jays team we’ve been watching so far is essentially the 2020 version with Guerrero Jr. hitting at a new level. Even that development has been counterbalanced by slow starts from the likes of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen and Cavan Biggio. The bullpen has overachieved, but the back end of the rotation has been a mess. For everything that’s gone right, something has gone wrong, which made the 11-11 record they brought into Wednesday’s game feel wholly appropriate.

George Springer was a non-factor in his Blue Jays debut. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
George Springer was a non-factor in his Blue Jays debut. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Springer is the embodiment of this team’s ability to find its next gear. The addition of his bat to the lineup should put a jolt into a group that’s better than it’s shown — and when this group of position players finds its groove he’ll be the catalyst for an offence that could be among the league’s best. When he's ready to take the field consistently, he’ll be an upgrade at a premium position that’s caused this franchise headaches since Kevin Pillar was shipped out of town.

All of that might be tough to envision based on what we saw Wednesday, when he was a designated hitter who didn’t hit. It’s coming, though. Over the next six years Springer will produce plenty of 0-for-4 nights, but if his track record is anything to go on, they won’t be the norm.

Here’s what the biggest free agent in Blue Jays history did in his debut:

At-Bat No. 1

Result: Lineout to right field

Pitch sequence:

What stood out: If Springer had been truly determined to start his Blue Jays tenure with bang he got precisely the first pitch to do it as Erick Fedde hung a sinker right down the pipe. It’s hard to begrudge the guy for letting one go by — especially in his first game after a prolonged absence — but it did stand out as a meatball.

After the first pitch, the 31-year-old watched two non-competitive balls go by and got himself a 2-1 count and hit a soft liner 90.8 mph to right field.

At-Bat No. 2

Result: Lineout to centre field

Pitch sequence:

What stood out: This at-bat had a similar cadence to Springer’s first. He took the first pitch he saw, got the count event, then hit another soft line drive. This time it was at 86.4 mph and it went to centre, but the result was the same — a routine out.

At-Bat No. 3

Result: Lineout to second base

Pitch sequence:

What stood out: Once again Springer took strike one, got back in the count due to some balls way off the plate, then made contact on a soft line on a good pitch to hit. This time, he got pretty close to collecting his first knock as a Blue Jay, as the lineout had an Expected Batting Average of .780. Unfortunately for Springer, Washington Nationals second baseman Josh Harrison was perfectly positioned to steal the potential hit.

At-Bat #4

Result: Groundout to third

Pitch sequence:

What stood out: Although this at-bat went all of two pitches, it was arguably Springer’s most memorable. The first reason is that the leadoff man stepping to the plate prompted a lengthy mound visit — a reminder of his stature on a night where he hadn’t looked particularly dangerous. The second is the way he showed his sharp eye taking a first pitch that was only off the plate by the slimmest margin, an especially advanced take considering he’d seen a couple of first-pitch meatballs and may have been primed to swing. Ultimately, Springer rolled over on a low sinker to end the Blue Jays’ inning, and his night.

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