Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is officially a Toronto Blue Jay.
The team announced the 20-year-old third baseman’s callup from triple-A Buffalo on Friday before Toronto’s game against the visiting Oakland Athletics.
Guerrero was placed fifth in the batting order for Friday’s game. He was slotted in at third base.
Guerrero, whose spring training was cut short due to an oblique injury, began the season in the minor leagues and batted .367 with a 1.124 OPS in eight games at Buffalo before the Blue Jays said he would be called up on Wednesday.
TV cameras caught Guerrero arriving at Rogers Centre early Friday wearing a No. 27 Expos jersey, the same his Hall of Fame father wore for eight seasons in Montreal.
WATCH: Rob Pizzo of CBC Sports previews Guerrero Jr.’s MLB debut
Guerrero said he did so to honour his dad.
“Since I was a kid, I was running around with my dad in the clubhouse in Montreal,” Guerrero said through a translator at a pre-game news conference. “I just wanted to bring that back today.”
Guerrero was born in Montreal and raised in the Dominican Republic.
“I’m very happy, very proud of making my debut here in Canada,” Guerrero said.
“This is like nothing I’ve never seen,” Jays GM Atkins said of the attention Guerrero has garnered. “I’ve never seen this level of attention of a guy making his debut.
“It’s such a good baseball story. He’s more aware than most of playing for a city and a country.”
He was signed a $3.9 million US deal with the Blue Jays as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2015 by the previous GM, Alex Anthopoulos.
Toronto fans have been anxiously awaiting Guerrero’s debut since he proved his dominance at the plate at every minor-league level. He mashed double-A pitching in 2018, batting a whopping .402 through 61 games, then continued that mastery with a .336 batting average in 30 games with Buffalo.
Other prospects in pipeline
Guerrero said Buffalo manager Bobby Meacham broke the news of the callup to him with a bit of a joke.
Meacham called Guerrero into his office Wednesday to tell him he had to work on his defence with the triple-A team. When Guerrero told him he understood, Meacham responded that there was a problem — he was going up to the big leagues.
Guerrero Jr. is just the first of Toronto’s top prospects to make his debut this year, with the likes of Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and top pitching prospect Nate Pearson seemingly a year or two away.
If all goes according to plan, and these prospects fulfill their promise, the Jays could emerge quicker than most pundits predict, according to Toronto right-fielder Randal Grichuk, recently signed to the team for a five-year, $52-million US contract.
“They have a lot of good, young talented players that are coming up. They have the financial ability to sign some pieces if they feel like we need a piece here or there,” Grichuk told CBC Sports. “And, we want to win. We are dedicated to winning. So, if you put all that together over the next five years, that screams good runs deep into the playoffs and a chance to win it all. Definitely, something I wanted to be a part of.”
The Blue Jays optioned infielder Richard Urena to Buffalo to make room for Guerrero.
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This story originally appeared on CBC