NEW YORK — The swift and prolific emergence of Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Teoscar Hernandez this month has been rather spectacular.
Six home runs in his past six games — and eight total since being called up on Sept. 1 — is a difficult feat for any major leaguer to match.
As Hernandez studiously figures out major-league pitching, he has bundled some significant confidence to take to Florida next spring when he attempts to make the Jays on a full-time basis.
It seems peculiar, then, that some want to dismiss the Hernandez tear because he is a September call-up, forgetting that many of his blasts have come off of big-league stalwarts, including Boston’s Chris Sale earlier this week.
One of the Jays’ most prolific players in history has been impressed, however and perhaps others should be as well.
“He’s a very talented young player and he’s showing he deserves an opportunity,” Jays right fielder Jose Bautista said prior to the team’s Friday off-day between season-ending series against the Red Sox and Yankees. “Whether it’s via the home run or whatever, he’s racked up some nice RBIs in the short time he’s been here.”
Hernandez has been batting in manager John Gibbons’ leadoff slot most nights, but is producing like a hitter a couple slots down in the order.
“For a corner outfielder, that’s what you have to do and he’s showing that he can do it,” Bautista said. “All he’s got to do is stay consistent and don’t change too much.”
It’s interesting that Bautista mentioned the corner outfield spots, considering the veteran’s likely departure will open up one of them for next season. Hernandez, who came to the Jays in the Francisco Liriano deal with Houston, is certainly leaving management with a strong impression.
There are some holes in Hernandez’s game, most notably the fact that he’ll chase after a bad breaker. That’s certainly not uncommon for young hitters getting used to the bigs, and there is some maturity to his plate approach, as well.
Case in point was the homer Hernandez hit off of Sale. He first struck out twice, but had a better idea of what was coming in at-bat No. 3.
“When he’s looking for a pitch and getting it, he’s certainly not missing it,” Bautista said. “He’s driving in runs, that’s the one thing that sticks with me the most.”
Undoubtedly, one of the busiest men on the Jays has been pitching coach Pete Walker.
The personable Walker has been kept hopping with a rotation that almost from opening day lacked stability and was ravaged by injury.
Marco Estrada’s dodgy final start of the season aside, at least there has been some late-season optimism from the Jays’ staff.
“Obviously missing (starter Aaron Sanchez) has been tough, and having a tough time with that fifth spot in the rotation, as well,” Walker said. “It’s been a rotation that obviously compared to last year had some inconsistencies. Moving forward, we’d certainly like to be more consistent and stay healthy next year.”
Notable on the weekend will be Marcus Stroman’s bid to reach 200 innings. Stroman, who is at 197, will get the ball Saturday against the Yankees. With an ERA of 3.06, he also has a shot at matching Sanchez’s AL-leading 3.00 mark from last season.
And the more positives to take into the off season, the better for Walker.
“The starting rotation is critical,” Walker said. “You could see the last two years, when this rotation is solidified and performing well, we’re going to win.
“I expect that to be the case next year.”
PRICE IS RIGHT
The Jays got a glimpse of their old teammate David Price at Fenway and saw a pitcher the Red Sox hope will be useful out of the bullpen in the post-season.
Price, who missed a good chunk of the season with elbow inflammation, retired all four Jays batters he faced, including three by strikeout.
“I think it’s a great move for him (coming out of the bullpen),” Gibbons said. “I think he’ll be a real weapon for them out there.
“He came in, punched out the side in his second inning. Dave’s gong to help them. I think he’s going to be huge for them in the playoffs.”
The Jays will return to Montreal for their annual two-game pre-season visit to end the exhibition season. Next year’s dates at Olympic Stadium are March 26 and 27, with the St. Louis Cardinals providing the opposition … As is his way, Bautista preferred to downplay the significance of his 23rd home run of the season Wednesday at Fenway, but besides moving him into second on the all-time Jays run-scored list, it snapped a 17-game streak without a homer. “Body feels good, my tempo feels a little bit better,” said Bautista, who had hits in each of the three games in Boston. “I feel like I’ve consistently been putting swings on the pitches I want to swing at. Other than that, nothing too drastic. I’ve squared a couple of balls up and it’s a good feeling to do that.” … The Jays are done with night games. The weekend series in the Bronx has 1:05 p.m. ET starts Friday and Saturday and 3:05 on Sunday.