The Blue Jays are in a bind with Matt Chapman and Bo Bichette each on the 10-day injured list. But for the fill-in fellas, such as Ernie Clement, Davis Schneider, and the recently recalled Mason McCoy, it’s all about opportunity. At least that’s how they’re framing it.
"I’m gonna keep it really simple and try to help this team win any way I can," said Clement, who made his second straight start at shortstop Tuesday. "That's defensively, base running, offensively. It's just a really cool opportunity. I really appreciate them giving it to me, and I'm gonna help this team."
While Clement won’t come close to replacing Bichette’s production at the dish, the 27-year-old has quietly been productive at the big-league level, albeit in a very small sample size. But if you mash together Clement’s .950 OPS in 15 MLB games and his .339/.394/.533 slash line in Triple-A, there are reasons to believe.
His former Bisons teammates have seen Clement shine firsthand.
"He just puts the bat on the ball," Schneider, his fellow infielder, said. "He doesn't strike out at all, like his strikeout numbers [in Triple-A] are insane. And every time he strikes out, it's like, ‘Damn, that pitcher is really good.’"
The Bisons boys are a tight bunch who gas each other up on a regular basis. Between Clement, Schneider, Bowden Francis, and Jay Jackson, the Buffalo contingent has made a big impact with the Blue Jays. Now, they’ll support each other in big moments because, as manager John Schneider put it, things are about to get ugly. And playing time is up for grabs.
John Schneider said Bichette’s absence will force the Jays to "creatively" manage the shortstop position.
"What we told the guys is, ‘It's not every day you lose your left side of the infield in the span of two innings,’" Schneider said on Tuesday. "And it’s gonna get weird. It's gonna get dirty, ugly, crazy at times."
As wacky as the mixing and matching might get, John Schneider also suggested it’s time for the big boys to step up and fill the gap. George Springer will bat leadoff for the rest of the year, the manager said, but beyond that it’ll be up to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Brandon Belt, Danny Jansen and Davis Schneider, the rookie sensation, to ignite the offence.
Davis Schneider has looked remarkably calm through his first 14 big-league games. The 24-year-old has turned that comfort into pure production, slashing .426/.526/.894 with six home runs and 14 RBI. He said he doesn’t try to make situations bigger than they ought to be, but as a rookie, he’s also asked some of his veteran teammates for help.
During the club’s road trip in Cincinnati, Belt told Schneider to "stick to his approach" and "don’t try to change anything," despite the outside noise. Schneider, of course, homered that very day. But he’s also asked deeper questions, like what the vets think the biggest difference between MLB and Triple-A is.
Bichette had an answer for Schneider in the dugout during Monday’s game against the Nationals.
"He was like, ‘[the difference is] nothing, really. It's all mental at that point,’" said Schneider. "And it's true because when you come up here, you think pitchers could be throwing 98, 99 [mph] every single time out there with nasty secondary stuff. And obviously there are pitchers who can do that, but those guys are the outliers in my opinion.
"That's what Bo said. He was like, ‘It's all the same sh**, dude. Just don't try to overcomplicate it. Just go out there and just play your game.’"
And so Schneider is playing his way, taking big hacks and driving baseballs a long, long way. But for all his offensive consistency, Schneider has been a defensive pinball, bouncing between second base, left field, and now third base.
Schneider said Chapman’s been very open about helping him acclimate to the hot corner, including offering verbal instructions from the dugout mid-game.
"He's a really good guy because you can ask him questions and he won't get either annoyed or pissed just because he wants you to play well and do better and help the team," Schneider said of Chapman.
And so the fight begins. With 28 games remaining, it’ll be up to the Blue Jays’ big guns, with complements from call-ups Clement and Schneider, to pick a path for the season. If the club capitalizes on a soft September schedule, the postseason is possible. If not, it’ll be a gloomy October for all parties involved.