MINNEAPOLIS — The Blue Jays brought Whit MerrifieldThe speed and versatility of their depth shot in the arm, which will be easier now that he has one in his.
Shortly after joining his new club Thursday in Minneapolis, Merrifield said he received the COVID-19 vaccine and will be able to enter Canada after this road trip.
“For a few weeks I realized that this might be a possibility. I’ll be in Toronto when the team goes there,” Merrifield said.
When the Royals traveled to Toronto from June 14-17, Merrifield was one of 10 unvaccinated players left behind. Therefore his acquisition by the Blue Jays on Tuesday caught so much carelessness, because of the vaccination requirements to cross the Canada-US border. This was not a problem for the Toronto players, of course, because while the same rules apply to them entering the United States, they were all vaccinated.
“It was something I probably could have handled a little better,” Merrifield said, “but what happened happened. I’m excited to be a Blue Jay, and I’m excited to come to Toronto and play at Rogers Centre.”
Merrifield has long been an everyday player for the Royals, playing all over the diamond, and interim manager John Schneider expects him to be in the lineup “most days.” He hit .300 and led the league in hits before, but he’s hitting. .240 with a .643 OPS this season. Those numbers will have to improve first.
When Merrifield was traded, one of the first texts to appear on his phone was from Zack Greinke. No, it didn’t say “Congratulations” or “You’ll be missed.” It was a tweet showing Merrifield’s 2022 stats vs. his expected numbers, with Greinke telling Merrifield that he’s a good player, even if the numbers didn’t fully show that through the first 95 games.
Where you’ll notice Merrifield right away, though, is on the bases.
“When you play against certain teams, from the outside, there are certain teams that come in and you feel energy from them,” Merrifield said. “This is one of those teams. Top to bottom, it’s exciting baseball. I’m excited. I say ‘excited’ a lot. I’m excited to be a part of this team.”
Under Schneider, that energy took the form of extreme aggression on the bases. Players run whenever possible, and sometimes when it doesn’t look possible. This doesn’t just mean steal-base attempts, but trying to stretch singles into doubles and tag more often. The Blue Jays bring the game to opponents’ doorsteps, and the new guy loves it.
“I love to run,” Merrifield said, smiling. “They love to run, so that’s right up my alley.”
Schneider was equally thrilled. When Merrifield is not starting a game, he will be the perfect option off the bench late in games.
“It fits him perfectly,” Schneider said. “We talked about places he likes to run and things he likes to do on the bases. It’s cool to talk about this kind of stuff with a guy who really has a passion for it. He will fit right in. He has the green light.”
Merrifield made his Blue Jays debut Thursday against the Twins, playing center field and batting eighth. His position and lineup spot will change most days, but now that the biggest question of all has been answered, Toronto can breathe a sigh of relief and focus on the postseason race ahead.