In recent weeks, the Blue Jays had mapped out a variety of plans for Kirk, depending on when he’s able to get to camp for Spring Training. The clock finally ran out on a realistic chance for the Classic, where Kirk was expected to be the starting catcher for Mexico.
Once Kirk and his partner have their child, he and the club will eventually shift their focus toward Spring Training.
“There’s no definite timetable, but we’re thinking sometime next week he’ll be here,” manager John Schneider said. “As soon as the baby arrives and everything checks out good with the baby and Sofia, ‘Kirky’ will be on his way.”
If Kirk is able to join the club next week, then there should be enough time for him to build up in Grapefruit League action. With the player development complex at his disposal, he can work in catching reps as quickly as the Blue Jays like, but they also don’t want him to be drinking from a fire hose the day he arrives.
“We have a good plan in place,” Schneider said. “We have people out there helping him out in California to expedite that process while he’s not with us. Every report we’ve gotten and every video we’ve looked at of him looks good. Hopefully it’s not too much of an overload when he does get here.”
It will be important for the Blue Jays to get Kirk into game action soon, though, because that’s now the only place he’ll get live reps with new pitchers like Chris Bassitt and Erik Swanson. Some of Kirk’s work will be like riding a bike, especially when it comes to catching someone like Alek Manoah, with whom he’s worked very well. In other cases, time is necessary.
“It’s especially weird at that position, catcher,” Schneider said, “but I think with any position player that’s ramping up, when you get to that point where we are in spring, you want to get him in and get him rolling. It’s nice to not have to worry about [him] being at the WBC with the rules not being new. He’ll be getting those rules reps as well as his physical work to build up.”
At this point, it’s far too early to talk about any impact on Kirk’s regular season. Rob Brantly is in camp and has earned rave reviews from the Blue Jays’ coaching staff for his experience and demeanor, but Kirk is still expected to form one of baseball’s best catching tandems with Danny Jansen. Given Kirk’s gift for making contact and his advanced plate approach, his bat shouldn’t have much trouble making up for lost time.
Kirk is coming off an All-Star season for the Blue Jays, batting .285 with 14 home runs and a .786 OPS that included more walks (63) than strikeouts (58). The presence of Brandon Belt should eat into some DH at-bats, which could actually be a good thing for Kirk after he faded down the stretch in 2022. Jansen, who forms the other half of this formidable tandem, also welcomed his first child this offseason.