He’s Back: Merrifield hitting .297 for Jays

Published 3:15 pm Monday, June 5, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Most of Whit Merrifield’s 2022 season paled in comparison to his two All-Star seasons with Kansas City. Last year he hit .240 in 95 games for the Royals and was traded to Toronto in August.

As it turns out, the 2022 season was merely a hiccup. Merrifield is rejuvenated and back to playing at his standards at age 34.

In 44 games for the Blue Jays last year, he hit .281. There was a 14-game stretch in which he hit a sparkling .417.

He has carried that momentum into 2023. Instead of playing a part-time role like some speculated he would, he appeared in 52 of the first 59 games for the 32-27 Blue Jays and he’s in position to set career highs for on-base percentage and batting average.

Through June 3, his OBP was .341; his career high in that category is .367. His current OBP would be his highest in four years. He was hitting .293 through June 3; his career high is .303. He leads the Jays in stolen bases with 15. Even though he’s getting “old” for a major league player, he’s still faster than Ronald Acuna, Brandon Nimmo and Anthony Volpe.

“He’s doing what he’s done his whole career,” Toronto manager John Schneider said. “Before we (acquired him), last year was a little bit of a rough stretch, but I think what we’re seeing is just an all-star player hitting his stride.”

“I’ve never lost confidence in myself,” Merrifield said as a guest on Tim & Friends. “There’s a lot to it other than just black and white numbers. I know everyone likes to look at numbers. Analytics is like what it’s never been before. Stick with what you’ve been doing. Stick with the same approach, the same mindset, the same preparation. That’s all you can do in this game.”

After going 0 for 3 in the March 30 season opener at St. Louis, Merrifield put together a five-game hitting streak and hit safely in 15 of 16 games. He has gone hitless in back-to-back games just twice all season. From May 26-June 2, he went 10 for 26.

On June 3, he was third for the Blue Jays in average (.293), fourth in runs (28), tied for fourth in doubles (11), fifth in hits (56) and sixth in at-bats (191).

So much for slowing down at 34 and becoming a part-time player. He’s in the lineup just about every day.

“It’s such a game of skill mixed with a little bit of luck,” a philosophical Merrifield said on Tim & Friends. “I mean all you can do is prepare and put up the best at-bat you can, and a lot of times that doesn’t work out. You could get a bad call from an umpire and that changes the at-bat around. You could hit a ball hard that gets caught. On the flip side, you could get a borderline pitch that gets called a ball and now you’re sitting 2-0. Or you flare one that lands on the line and you get a double. It’s a double but that wasn’t as good of an at-bat where I smoked it and it got caught.”