Pillar's Prep Paying Off

Kevin Pillar, who was a 32nd round draft pick, says his mindset is to play so well to make it impossible for the big club to send him down. That and more in Melissa Couto’s weekly notebook

Kevin Pillar, who was a 32nd round draft pick, says his mindset is to play so well to make it impossible for the big club to send him down. That and more in Melissa Couto’s weekly notebook

TORONTO -- Nearly 980 prospects were drafted ahead of Kevin Pillar in 2011.

Three years later, he still uses that as motivation.

Back in the big leagues for his second stint with the Blue Jays, Pillar, who was promoted from triple-A Buffalo Tuesday, says he keeps his late draft selection in the back of his mind out of necessity.

"I have to," he said before Toronto's 5-4 win over the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre. "I think for a while maybe that got away  [K-Pillar] and I got comfortable with just getting here. But after experiencing it last year and in spring training getting sent back down to minor league camp ... I took it harder than I thought I would, and in that moment I realized I've got to carry that chip again.

"I know this may be temporary, but I'm going to go out here and make it impossible for them to send me down. Being a 32nd rounder, I've defied a lot of odds by getting here, not only once but getting back here again, and that's definitely something that motivates me."

Pillar played 36 games for the Blue Jays from August to September last season, hitting .206 with a .250 on-base percentage. Though he hit three homers and drove in 13 runs, the 25-year-old outfielder also racked up 29 strikeouts and walked just four times.

Through 34 contests with Buffalo this year, Pillar was hitting .305 with 13 doubles, three triples, one home run, 19 RBIs and an International League best 26-game on-base streak.

With both his current hot streak and previous big-league experience under his belt, Pillar says he feels better about his chances with the Toronto club now.

"I can't say I was overwhelmed (last year), but I didn't perform the way I know I can perform and hopefully the second time is a charm," he said. "I'm definitely coming in with a different attitude, I'm way more prepared this time around.

"I don't have those same butterflies that I did six months ago when I came here the first time. I kind of feel like I'm here on a business trip and I'm prepared."

Pillar played centre field Tuesday for Colby Rasmus, who was nursing a sore hamstring, and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

Notes: Toronto optioned INF Jonathan Diaz to make room for Pillar on the roster. ... LHP Mark Buehrle leads the major leagues in wins with seven so far this season, and is tied with Detroit's Max Scherzer for first in the American League in ERA (2.04). ... RF Jose Bautista is one home run shy of tying Jesse Barfield (179) for fifth on the all-time club list.

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Get to know ... INF Steven Tolleson

My most memorable game:

"I would say 2012 when I was with Baltimore. We were in the first wild-card play-in game with Texas. Yu Darvish pitched for  [Steve-Tolleson] them, and it was a great atmosphere. Fortunately, we ended up winning the game so that made it even better.

"That was an amazing experience and probably one of the greatest games I've ever been a part of."

The best advice I've ever received:

"Try not to let your highs be too high and your lows be too low because this being such a big game based on failure, you have to try to be as even-keel as possible. Know that you're going to get 500 at-bats throughout the year, and not one or two is going to be a huge deal in your season.

"I stay in really close contact with my father (Wayne Tolleson, who played 10 seasons as an infielder with the Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees), and with him having major-league experience he's always been someone who I can talk to. He understands what a 4-for-4 and an 0-for-4 (night) feels like. That was some advice he gave me. It's always been a big part of what I try to do."

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Top Canadian in the Majors:

Tampa Bay Rays LHP Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) has allowed just one earned run over his last two outings.  [e-bedard]

Bedard, who signed with Tampa Bay in the off-season, pitched six scoreless innings on Saturday, giving up one hit and striking out four in a 7-1 win over Cleveland. In his outing before that (May 4), the 35-year-old gave up one run on six hits in a 5-1 victory over the New York Yankees.

Bedard began the season in triple-A, and was called up Apr. 11 after the Rays were forced to put two key members of their starting rotation -- Alex Cobb and Matt Moore -- on the disabled list.

The Canadian is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA through six games (five starts, 26 2/3 innings) with Tampa Bay this season.

Notes: Seattle Mariners LHP James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) threw a successful bullpen session Sunday and is scheduled to throw another one Wednesday. Paxton has been on the disabled list since Apr. 8. He went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA through two starts (12 innings) this season. ... Cleveland RP John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) pitched a perfect seventh inning against Toronto Tuesday night, getting two ground-ball outs and striking out Jose Bautista in the Indians' 5-4 loss. It was Axford's first major league appearance at Rogers Centre.

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Top Canadian in the Minors:

L.A. Dodgers minor leaguer Jamie Romak (London, Ont.) is hitting .344 with five home runs over his last 10 games with the  [j-romak] triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes.

The 28-year-old leads all Canadian minor leaguers in home runs so far this season with nine, and leads the Isotopes in RBIs with 23.

Notes: OF Mike Crouse (Port Moody, B.C.) has 10 hits, including three doubles, in his last 10 games for the Blue Jays double-A affiliate in New Hampshire. ... OF Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) has 13 hits, including four doubles and six RBIs in his last 10 games for Toronto's single-A Dunedin squad.

- Follow Melissa Couto on Twitter: @ThrowinSmoke

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Melissa Couto

My name is Melissa Couto. I'm a sports reporter-editor at The Canadian Press, where I've worked for the past two years. Mostly I work on the night desk, editing copy for print, online and broadcast, but I have been doing more and more writing recently. I also contribute to the Canadian Baseball Network, a website founded by renowned Toronto Sun columnist Bob Elliott.

 

I'm a graduate of Centennial College's sports journalism post-graduate program. Before that, I went to Western where I completed a BA and MA in American history (it's helped me impress people when we're watching Jeopardy). In all seriousness, my time at Western was valuable.  I walked away with a real passion for writing. When I took the post-grad program at Centennial, I learned to merge that love of writing with the love of sport that I've always had (particularly for baseball), and as they say, the rest is history.