Top News

Rookie Bo Bichette keeps rolling, but Rangers down Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays.
The Toronto Blue Jays. - Contributed

Bo knows hitting and it turns out Bo knows some baseball history, too.

As Blue Jays rookie sensation Bo Bichette kept his on-base streak going on Wednesday afternoon, a bright spot in the 7-3 loss to the Texas Rangers, it turns out the 21-year-old has a better handle than most players his age on the baseball greats with whom he’s keeping company.

A sixth-inning double off Emmanuel Clase when it was getting near the critical stage to reach base a 17th straight game to begin his career, tied him with L.A. Dodger great Bill Russell’s 1969 mark for a player Bichette’s age or younger and seven games behind Rocco Baldelli’s major league record.

His 16 extra-base hits through 17 starts is a record itself and the Jays have won 11 of the 17 since Bichette was promoted. His 27 hits overall include the most through 16 career games (post-1913) since the 30 by Joe DiMaggio in 1936.

“When it comes to Bo, I’m learning about Mel Ott, Ted Williams (the latter Bichette passed Tuesday night) and all these people I didn’t know about,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said. “It’s amazing and I don’t take it for granted I’m watching that. He’s making history against great pitching.”

Williams was born more than a century ago, around long enough to play against Lou Gehrig as a rising star for the Boston Red Sox. But the ‘Splendid Splinter’ is no stranger to Bichette.

“Ted was someone my dad (major leaguer Dante was a Silver Slugger winner) looked up to a lot,” Bo said. “They were actually relatively good friends before Ted passed away (in 2002). Every time they mentioned on TV I’d passed Ted, he’ll call me ‘Dude, I get it, you passed good players, but when I hear Ted Williams, that’s crazy.’”

Dante is also a 2016 inductee of Williams’ Hitters Hall Of Fame in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

“That’s one reason they’re friends, but also one day they were sitting at a banquet together and just talked hitting all night. (Dante) had a bit of baseball memorabilia (in the family home). He didn’t display it much, but every once in a while he’d throw it out there. He’s not a guy who gets star-struck much at all, but Ted … that was a really cool thing for him.”

The younger Bichette can’t help but be reminded every day now he’s in striking distance of Baldelli’s 24-game record. To bring the story full circle, Baldelli was coached by Montoyo in Tampa Bay’s system.

“I’m sure Rocco (now manager of the Minnesota Twins) will send me a text to have him take a day off or something,” Montoto said with a laugh. “How many more does (Bichette) need? Seven? I’ll talk to Rocco.”

Bichette said he wasn’t getting a tight collar on his No. 11 sweater as he came to the plate for the fourth and possibly last time on Wednesday.

He’d elevated the ball to the outfield just once, but with Texas starter Kolby Allard losing steam in the sixth inning and replaced by a shaky Emmanuel Clase, Bichette drove a pitch through a hole at second.

Bichette struck out in the ninth, dropping his average to .365.

The shortstop needed a hot glove at times on Wednesday, showing some recent errors were just a blip.

“There are some tough plays he’s made,” Montoyo praised. “I talked to (coach) Luis Rivera about live ground balls and we’ve been doing that the past five days since the homestand started. All the credit goes to the player, his arm’s pretty good and accurate.”

On the whole, Toronto scattered just six hits before a youth-infused crowd of 34,666 after taking the first two of the series versus the Rangers.

Bichette was one of nine stranded runners as the club’s torrid pace of 106 homers since June 16 — second in the majors — stalled for at least a day.

Winning pitcher Allard effectively lasted into the sixth with a Randal Gricuk triple and Cavan Biggio double his only bruises.

The other hitter Montoyo had eyes on Wednesday was first baseman Rowdy Tellez, in his first start since being called up from Buffalo. Tellez, playing for regular Juston Smoak, made good contact three times, one for a sixth-inning single and was also hit by an Allard pitch.

“Good to see Rowdy back in the lineup,” Montoyo said. “Any time he is at the plate, he has a chance to hit one out and I felt that way today. His approach looked better (a change in posture he worked on in triple A).”

Toronto is still above .500 at 17-16 since the all-star break, though the Rangers bit into that 3.30 ERA in the same period, which was the fourth-best in baseball.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

Recent Stories