Grichuk has homer-happy Jays keeping their celebrations subdued in win over Twins

Eric Sogard of the Toronto Blue Jays congratulates teammate Randal Grichuk on a solo home run against the Minnesota Twins on April 18, 2019 at Target Field in Minneapolis. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

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MINNEAPOLIS — There was no bat flip and no exaggerated celebration when Randal Grichuk hit a solo home run in the first inning here on Thursday afternoon, just a brisk trot around the bases and an understated dugout celebration.

Take that as his latest staatement in a buzzing social media feud with White Sox slugger Tim Anderson. And he had plenty of company from his teammates, both in the big hits and muted reaction.
Grichuk’s fourth homer of the season got the Jays off to a quick start in an eventual 7-4 win to take three of four from the Twins at Target Field and record their first series win of the season.

And as he has favoured throughout his career, Grichuk sprinted out of the batters’ box and kept his head down, in sharp contrast to Anderson’s display on Wednesday against K.C., that ignited reaction from around the baseball world.

“I was always taught from the day I started playing ball: Respect your opponent, respect the game, go about it the right way,” Grichuk said in response to the Twitter spat. “I feel like I always have.

“I’ve never been one to flip a bat or anything like that. I run out of the box always. I’ve hit some pretty far homers and I’ve sprinted out of the box like it’s a wall-scraper. That’s just who I am.”

Grichuk acknowledged that the old-school celebration, which was more wedding reception line than bat-flip frenzy, was planned by he and his teammates prior to the game. So when Justin Smoak launched a 410-foot rocket for a two-run shot to kick off a five-run fourth inning, there was more of the same. Or less.

Never mind that Smoak’s ball exited at a speed of 106.2 mph, or that the usually excitable Teoscar Hernandez kept his emotions in check after his eighth-inning solo effort, for one matinee anyway, the Jays were united on this.

It was all in response to Grichuk’s seemingly critical tweet of Anderson’s dramatic bat toss following an early-inning homer against the Royals. There was a back-and-forth between the two on Twitter afterwards and an explosion of reaction on the social medial platform that caught Grichuk off-guard.

“I felt like I was saying a generalized statement, something I’ve wanted to say for a long time and a lot of people got offended by it,” Grichuk said of he reaction. “It really shocked me, honestly.”

What didn’t shock Grichuk was the fact that the Jays bats are starting to warm up. With nine hits on Thursday, the team now has eight plus in five straight games for the first time since early last August.

“We’ve been getting it on track as of late and hopefully it continues,” Grichuk said after the Jays improved to 8-12 on the season. “Early on, I felt we had some quick at- bats, either balls put in play or strikeouts. And now we’re battling and putting together good at-bats and it’s showing.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys who can hit the long ball.”

LEADING MAN

In his three games in the lineup since being promoted from Buffalo, infielder Eric Sogard has been a solid fit at the top of manager Charlie Montoyo’s lineup.

In his Blue Jays debut on Tuesday, Sogard went 3-for-5 and followed that up with a 2-for-4 effort that included a three-RBI double.

“He’s definitely had some success in the past in the majors and down in Buffalo so far,” Jays assistant GM Joe Sheehan said of Sogard, who was 8-for-12 in the series. “It’s nice to see. Some of his at-bats have been really good to ignite from the leadoff spot.”

WHAT ABOUT VLAD?

You likely can dismiss speculation that Vlad Guerrero Jr., will make his Jays debut in Oakland this weekend, a rumour that was buzzing in some circles.

The triple-A Bisons have weekend promotions built around the 20-year-old phenom and a scheduled media availability for Friday.

With rain forecast in Buffalo on the weekend and an off-day on Sunday, it now looks like next Friday’s home date against Oakland would be the soonest natural spot for baseball’s No. 1-rated prospect to make his big-league debut.

The hunch here? Guerrero will be activated in time for that one.

AROUND THE BASES

The Jays added to their bullpen depth on Thursday with the activation of righty Ryan Tepera, who was out with elbow inflammation since March 25.

To make room on the roster, the team designated fellow reliever Javy Guerra for assignment. Tepera got into game action as well, on Thursday, throwing a clean sixth inning with his team leading 6-3.

♦ Jays starter Clay Buchholz didn’t last long enough to earn the win, but he kept the Twins in check enough to protect the lead. In his second start since being activated, Buchholz went 4.2 innings, allowing six hits and three earned runs, falling an out shy of qualifying for the win. The ‘W’ went to reliever Joe Biagini, who pitched a scoreless eighth.

♦ In his past six games, Smoak is hitting .389 with six hits, six RBIs and seven walks. It was a solid Twin Cities series for Hernandez as well, as the outfielder was 6-for-15 (.400) with two homers and six RBIs.

♦ The Jays were to fly to California where they begin a three-game weekend series in Oakland on Friday. They won’t face former teammate Marco Estrada, who was placed on the injured list due to back ailments. They will have to deal with another former teammate in DH Kendrys Morales.

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