Infield pupil: Chapman of the Blue Jays leaving nothing to chance

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NEW YORK — It didn’t take long for Matt Chapman to lay claim to a large swath of land on the left side of the Blue Jays’ infield.

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Just four games into his tenure with his new team, it’s obvious the accomplished third baseman is a huge improvement in the hot corner and has lifted the defense for the team as a whole.

And none of this was by accident.

Chapman has already logged several hours at the Rogers Center taking extra ground balls as he works to learn the nuances of the Toronto mat. In keeping with that practice, he paid special attention to the grass during pregame drills at Yankee Stadium on Monday and will apply similar oversight at other AL East parks the Jays visit.

“That’s exactly what he was trying to do the first two days in Toronto,” Jays third baseman coach Luis Rivera said Monday, just steps from the infield Chapman will patrol during the four-game series. in the Bronx. “He wanted me to hit all kinds of ground balls – bouncing ground balls left and right.

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“He just wanted to see how (the turf) reacted and how he played. There were times when he didn’t attack the ball just to see how he was going to play. It’s like he’s studying the infield.

You don’t earn three Golden Gloves by taking anything for granted and it’s clear there’s a reason beyond talent that Chapman is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game.

His reach is remarkable and his arm a cannon, making life easier for everyone from shortstop Bo Bichette to his left, Vlad Guerrero Jr. at the start and anyone on the mound for the Jays.

“I wanted to take so many ground balls on the grass before the game started because I just wanted to be able to get used to it,” Chapman said of his pre-game efforts in Toronto that started with a day training last Thursday. “There will be little things that I will pick up over the course of the season.

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“It’s something as I get more comfortable I’ll learn where to play and how to play it.”

So what did he learn on the Rogers Center mat?

“The second jump bounces a little higher than you think,” Chapman said. “I’m learning where to play them and how to go about it.

“Real grass is a little more real. I haven’t played on it anymore. I’ve played Yankee Stadium before, but I’m going to get used to it even more now that I come here three times a year.

Rivera was impressed with how quickly Chapman studied, but not surprised.

“There’s no question he’s a student of the game,” Rivera said. “He wants to make sure he knows how the ball is bouncing so that when the game starts he knows all about what’s going on.

“Before, I could see him play six times a year (when the Jays played his old team, Oakland.) Now I can watch who I am every day and you’d be amazed to see many runs at home that he go do. to safeguard. Every day I watch it is amazing.

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Rivera says the confidence that comes from Chapman’s defensive acumen is already being felt in the Jays’ roster.

“He gives everyone confidence,” said the veteran third baseman coach. “He’s one of the best in baseball. When he’s there, you feel the game is going to be done.

“There’s been a couple of really tough plays already that he’s turned into takedowns. This is a big plus for our pitchers.

Meanwhile, in addition to getting used to the environment in his new digs, Chapman enjoyed the welcome from Toronto when more than 110,000 fans showed up at the downtown dome for the three-game series against the Rangers.

“Amazing. It was so much fun,” Chapman said. “It was so great to see everyone in Canada coming out and showing so much support.

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Swinging for the fences had served Jays catcher Danny Jansen well, as it resulted in a home run in each of the two games he played.

But after another big cut late in Sunday’s loss to the Texas Rangers in Toronto, Jansen suffered a left oblique strain. After receiving treatment in New York, Jansen was placed on the 10-day disabled list as a precaution.

“He got treatment, but the only thing is with (side injuries) you never know,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “You might just want to quit because you might make it worse.”

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IL’s assignment to Jansen caused a flurry of roster changes for the Jays. Receiver Tyler Heineman was called up from Buffalo and activated in time for the game. Also, with a busy opening weekend for the bullpen, left-hander Anthony Kay was recalled from Buffalo while fellow left-hander Tayler Saucedo was opted for the triple-A Bisons… The Jays took the road for the first time in hopes of recapturing some of the magic last year when they went 44-38, the most wins on the road since 2003… The Jays and Rangers scored 43 points this weekend end, tying their 1982 start for the most combined points in the first three games of the season in Jays history.

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