DUNEDIN, Fla – With the cold temperatures way behind him, Toronto Blue Jays minor leaguer Gustavo Pierre is ready to be hot during spring training in Dunedin.
The 22-year-old infielder from Dominican Republic made huge improvements last year with both the Low Class-A Lansing Lugnuts and the Class-A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays.
Pierre earned a spot on the Midwest League all-star team last season and then a promotion to the Florida State League team.
“It was cold out there in Michigan, but it is the same baseball, you have to adjust to the weather like everything else,” he said during a spring training workout at the Bobby Mattick Training Center on Wednesday. “Playing away from the cold helped me a little, but the decisive factor to me was the more experience I had and also the way I worked on my swing through off-season.”
During his stint with the Lugnuts he impressed, batting .292 with five home runs, two triples, 15 doubles and 33 RBI in 233 at-bats. In Dunedin, Pierre batted .210 with three home runs, a triple, 10 doubles and 15 RBI in 195 at-bats.
The young right-hander also hit for his first cycle on August 8th, when he went 4-for-4 with a single, a double, triple and a game-tying home run.
After spending three seasons at shortstop and having some flaws in his defence, the organization decided to move him to third in 2012. The move saw his errors drop from 44 to 16 in just one year.
“I feel comfortable at third base already,” he said. “When you are closer to the hitting, you’ve got to be ready all the time and be quicker than shortstop or second base and that’s what I am looking for. When I started to play as a kid, I used to be a third baseman.”
Pierre considers himself a hard worker, and will maximize his effort in whatever position he is designated to play in an effort to reach the big club.
“I want to be in the big leagues and you have to grab the opportunity,” he said. “It could be in the outfield, infield, second base, shortstop; even a pitcher. That’s how much I want to be in the majors.”
A native of La Romana, he is from the same small city as his fellow countryman and Toronto first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. The Blue Jays veteran is a well-known partner for Pierre, and a mentor at this point of his career as well.
“We talk a lot,” the young player said. “Last season, we spent a lot of time together, and he talked to me a lot about baseball. He gave me some advice to be ready and tips such as how to do a top-hand drill and improve on my batting side.”
It still not clear where Pierre will fit this season, but scouts indicate that he probably will be back in Dunedin for another year.
“Here in spring training it is competition every day and I can’t control that,” he said. “The organization will choose whatever they think is better, but wherever I have to be, I will do my best job.”