TORONTO | Abraham Toro had not stepped on the lawn of Rogers Center in Toronto since that evening in September 2019. Meeting during which he had spectacularly sent Ken Giles' offering far to the opposite field, in the ninth inning of a match that he didn't even have to play.
A homer that would go down in history as it helped pitcher Justin Verlander to the third game without a run or hit of his illustrious career.
After this slap, as a sign of recognition, the star gunner hugged the young Toro for a long time, who was then just starting out in major league baseball.
"That's a good memory!" launched Toro, met Monday a few hours before the game against the Blue Jays.
In blue for the better
His return to Toronto after three years of absence will not have the same aura. Monday, in five at bats against the Blue Jays, Toro will not have reached the bases once.
The Jays eventually won 6-2.
A lot has happened in the Montrealer's career since that emotional long ball, which was only his second in the league at the time.
Toro now has 18 more to his name. But most importantly, his last nine were hit in the blue Seattle Mariners uniform, and no longer under the orange Houston Astros jersey.
A beneficial change, of course. In Houston, it is well known, Toro had less of a chance to show off, stuck in an all-star formation.
And the Mariners paid a lot of money to acquire the services of ambidextrous hitter and gunner Joe Smith. They sent two of their relievers, Rafael Montero and Kendall Graveman, to Houston.
Even almost 10 months after this transaction, the 25-year-old is still proud that his name was involved. He also rejoices in his luck.
“They gave me an opportunity to develop by having me play in several positions. I was really happy when it happened [the trade],” he pointed out.
When Toro talks about playing multiple positions, it's because he's been used at both second and third base this season. He even saw some action on the first pillow.
During training camp, he also patrolled the field. And of course, at bat, Toro can hit from both the right and the left, but also, at different ranks in the formation, depending on the needs of the team.
On Monday, for example, he was the Mariners leadoff batter.
Earlier this year, manager Scott Servais said he wanted Toro to be "his Ben Zobrist," the former Swiss army knife of the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs.
"It made me happy," Toro admitted. Being multifunctional helps the team. [...] It's a challenge, but every day I work on a different aspect of my game in order to be ready. »
"It's not an easy role, but all good teams have a player like that. It is a pride to be able to be useful in this way,” he added.
Servais recognizes that such versatility is not given to all baseball players. He knows it's not an easy task.
But he believes that his young player likes this challenge and that makes him happy.
"They're baseball players," he said. They can't tell themselves that they're going to be successful in just one position or just one spot in the attacking role. You're going to have a short career if you think so. »
In 104 at-bats heading into Toronto on Monday, Toro had hit four homers and driven in 10 runs. But he had a starving .163 batting average.
But despite these figures, and despite the hiring during the off-season of a few important players by the Mariners, the Montrealer does not fear for his position... or rather, for his positions.
Eliminated from the playoff race in their last game of the regular season last year, the Mariners do not know the expected start to the season either. Seattle struggles to play for .500.
But Toro believes he and his teammates will quickly regain their composure.
"Our sticks are still cold, but we saw it in our series against [the Mets] in New York on the weekend that we're starting to wake up [they won two of three games]. »