When it comes to expectations, Bo Bichette has a long and detailed to-do list that he’s committed to crushing.
He expects to be the Blue Jays shortstop of the present and future, a pursuit the team endorsed this off-season by ensuring the spot remained available for the 21-year-old.
The Florida native also expects the young and steadily improving Jays team that he’s at the centre of to be competitive for years to come.
But perhaps most importantly to help reach all of those goals, Bichette expects more of himself in what will be his third season in the big leagues.
Speaking on the first day of full squad workouts down in Dunedin on Monday, it was a reserved Bichette who described the resolve he intends to bring to 2021, a drive borne of what he graded as a disappointing end to last season.
At the forefront of the young stars in the Jays lineup, Bichette said he got after it in the off-season to not only validate the team’s belief in him, but to continue to play a role in the team’s ascent towards regular contention in the American League.
“I need to get better at a lot of things,” Bichette said on a Zoom call from the Jays training complex. “Really, I didn’t like how I ended the season — physically, defensively, offensively, every part of the game, really.
“So I just tried to get better at every area. I think can learn from everything and I attacked the off-season to the best of my ability and I think it went really well. I’m excited to see how the season goes, excited to get started.”
So far, the reviews of Bichette coming out of Florida have been glowing — yes, a spring training staple — particularly in his defensive work. While he wasn’t the worst in a shoddy Jays infield last season, he acknowledged that he had some moments. The response was to work hard at his Florida home to become stronger but also to have better technique.
“The best teams in baseball, they all have a good shortstop,” manager Charlie Montoyo said on Monday. “That’s why Bo is going to be so good, because he said ‘I need to get better’ and that’s what he did.
“From what I’ve seen so far, he really looks good. His arm strength looked a lot better than it did last year. Defensively his hands, his arm, everything about him looks better.”
That improvement is just the latest to validate the Jays belief in Bichette. It was well known that the team was in some degree pursuing Francisco Lindor, the prized shortstop that Cleveland eventually dealt to San Diego.
And then there was the signing of free agent Marcus Semien, a career shortstop with the Oakland Athletics. Bichette said he received a call from GM Ross Atkins before the signing was announced to assure him that he had signed a second baseman and not a short stop.
“I’ve told you guys a bunch of times I want to be a shortstop,”
Bichette said. “I think I can be a really good one and I’m going to put the work in to be that. This off-season I heard the rumours, but really it’s just all about continuing to work as much as I can.”
In terms of defensive work, much of spring training will be about building chemistry with Semien, who will be learning a new position at second and replacing Bichette’s long-time infield neighbour, Cavan Biggio.
That process has already begun with the new pair working together on the back fields at the Jays training complex.
“The coaching staff here has put us together to do everything (on Monday),” Semien said. “To hit, throw together, take ground balls together, turn double plays. We have very similar mindsets, where we work really hard. “I’m excited to work with and I’m very impressed.”
Semien did some pre camp homework, studying how Bichette moved on video. What he’s seen in real life and real time has impressed him.
“I can tell Bo has been working in the offseason on everything,” Semien said. “You can tell that he’s made adjustments and he feels good with them.”
Montoyo has no interest of hiding his admiration — and his own expectations — for the young shortstop.
“An all star,” Montoyo said when asked what Bichette can mean for the franchise. “I was impressed two years ago with his defence (more) than anything else. What he did offensively we all know, breaking records and that kind of stuff.
“But defensively what he did was impressive to me.”
BICHETTE LIKES JAYS’ CHANCES
As usual, Bo Bichette is bullish on the Blue Jays chances for 2021, particularly on offence.
Adding George Springer and Marcus Semien to the mix will only add explosiveness to the attack available to manager Charlie Montoyo.
“I think we can be one of the best in the league,” Bichette said of an offence that has the potential to be lethal from one to nine. “I think we were pretty close to that last year and then obviously adding some pretty good players … we’ve got a chance to be really good.
“So it’s exciting. I can’t wait to get started. I believe in this team, just like I did last year.”
Adding Springer is certainly a big part of the optimism surrounding the team now that full-squad workouts have begun.
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“He’s been maybe the best player on his team while he won a World Series. He’s put up some crazy numbers on the biggest stage in the game and that’s what it’s about,” Bichette said.
“If you can show your peers that you can perform at the highest level on the biggest stage, I think that garners a lot of respect.”