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Blue Jays infielder Davis Schneider feeling like a rookie at spring training

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Davis Schneider is getting his first taste of big-league training camp even though he's no longer a rookie.
Toronto Blue Jays Davis Schneider fields a ball in Spring Training action in Dunedin, Fla. on Wednesday, February 21, 2024. Schneider is getting his first taste of big-league training camp even though he's no longer a rookie. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Davis Schneider is getting his first taste of big-league training camp even though he's no longer a rookie. 

The infielder had a memorable debut with the Toronto Blue Jays last August by hitting a homer in his first at-bat after getting a callup from Triple-A Buffalo. Schneider went on to enjoy a record-breaking month before cooling off in September.

Now the 25-year-old is fighting for a job at second base — or potentially as a backup infielder/outfielder — at the team's player development complex.

"He wasn't even an invite last year so he's kind of a new guy still," Blue Jays manager John Schneider said Wednesday. "He's proven himself, he can compete at this level and perform really well. 

"I think what he went through — good and bad — last year has really helped him (with) understanding what kind of player he is."

Drafted by the Blue Jays in the 28th round — 849th overall — in 2017, Schneider posted solid offensive numbers with the Bisons over parts of the last two seasons. 

He made an immediate impact when he got a chance at the big-league level. 

Schneider was an offensive force in his first series at Boston and soon found himself batting in the heart of the order. He had an eye-popping OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.315 — the best mark through 25 games in MLB history — to go with a .370 average.

A nasty slump followed during the stretch drive but Schneider still finished with eight homers and 20 RBIs over 35 games to go with a .276 average and 1.007 OPS.

"Baseball is a funny game where you can be at an all-time high and then at an all-time low," he said. "I went 0-for-31 and it was weird. A lot of my buddies were texting me when I was on my hitless streak, they were like 'Are you doing all right? How's everything going?' I'm like, 'I'm fine, man.' 

"If you had told me (a year ago) that I'd go 0-for-31 in the big leagues, I'd be like, 'Hell yeah, let me get that.' It's all about perspective."

His current focus is on trying to break camp with the team. 

Shortstop Bo Bichette and first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. anchor an infield with some moving parts. 

Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal and Schneider could be considered for the second-base job with Isiah Kiner-Falefa likely to see most of the action at third base after Matt Chapman's departure as a free agent. 

Justin Turner could see some action at either corner. Eduardo Escobar and Daniel Vogelbach recently signed minor-league deals and a number of potential backups and prospects will also get a look.

Biggio, Espinal and Schneider all offer versatility as they can play a variety of positions depending on matchups. 

"There's a lot of talented guys here," said Schneider, who turned 25 last month. "Obviously we're a team and you're going to want to compete with the other 29 teams but you're competing with each other at spring training. 

"Just worry about what you do well. Don't worry about what the other guy is doing because they're going to get the work in the same as you."

Biggio has been limited at camp due to left shoulder tendinitis. He has been participating in infield drills but has yet to take live batting practice.

The Blue Jays are looking to improve on an 89-win campaign that ended with a wild-card series sweep in Minnesota.

FanDuel sportsbook lists Toronto as a 20-1 pick to win the World Series in 2024. Seven other teams have better odds, including division rivals New York (8-1) and Baltimore (15-1). 

"I think it's the first time we're being doubted, for sure," Bichette said of the difference this year in comparison to his previous seasons with the team. "We've always had high expectations and I think it's definitely a different mindset trying to prove people right than trying to prove people wrong. 

"I think we'll see what we're capable of this year."

Two more days of drills, meetings and workouts are on tap ahead of Saturday's pre-season opener against Philadelphia. The regular-season begins March 28 at Tampa Bay.

"My first big-league spring training," Schneider said. "It's kind of a weird way to do it because I debuted last year and not many guys do that.

"But I'm glad I'm here now and I've got to make the most of it."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2024. 

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press