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Kevin Pillar on staying with the Toronto Blue Jays: ‘It’s all I ever want to know’

HALIFAX—Kevin Pillar is making it clear: the Toronto Blue Jays are the team he wants to play for in 2019.

The veteran centre-fielder spoke to the media in Halifax on Friday morning as the club began a two-day visit to the Nova Scotia capital as part of its winter tour, which hits Toronto next weekend.

Toronto Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar speaks to reporters in Halifax on Friday. Pillar and a few teammates are in Nova Scotia for the Jays' winter tour.
Toronto Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar speaks to reporters in Halifax on Friday. Pillar and a few teammates are in Nova Scotia for the Jays’ winter tour.  (Zane Woodford / StarMetro)

When asked about the team’s youth movement and his name being mentioned in off-season trade talks, the man nicknamed Superman seemingly brushed off the notion that he’ll be anywhere other than Toronto come April and beyond.

“This is all I have ever known,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in the fact that I was drafted and developed by this organization. I’ve been able to spend parts of six seasons with this team.

“I’m excited for the future. The future is right around the corner. I know we have some really talented guys coming up. And you’ve been able to see teams in the recent past kind of strip their team down, keep some of their veterans, and allow young guys to come and get seasoned together … I’m just hoping to be around to be a part of it. It’s all I’ve ever known. It’s all I ever want to know.”

A good sign for Pillar sticking with the Jays came in November when the club tendered him a contract as an arbitration eligible player.

Leadership and defensive prowess are the 30-year-old Pillar’s strengths.

“It’s something I’ve always felt I was capable of doing,” he said about being a more veteran presence in the clubhouse. “I’ve kind of sat back and learned from some older guys, some good leaders we had in the past. It might (now) be my time to step up as a leader. I’ve been here longer than anyone else. And knowing I’ll be one of the oldest guys on the opening day roster, it’s something that I looked forward to.”

When the Jays open spring training next month, it will be under the watchful eye of new manager Charlie Montoyo. Pillar said he hasn’t met his new skipper, but they’ve spoken by phone a few times.

“With Charlie stepping in and taking over, I kind of have this nervous excitement about spring training that I haven’t had in a while, just because I’ll be going into a very familiar space with a lot of unknowns,” he said. “How spring training’s going to be run. When I’m going to play. What I’m going to do. What his expectations are for me. What my expectations of him are going to be.”

“But everyone speaks high of him,” Pillar added. “I have had a couple conversations on the phone with him and, as a human being, he’s first class. He seems to genuinely care about me, my well-being, and my family’s well-being. That’s the most important thing for me.”

Catchers Luke Maile and Danny Jansen, pitcher Ryan Borucki and second baseman Devon Travis were also on hand for the Halifax leg of the tour, including an afternoon visit to the IWK children’s hospital, autograph session and a stop Saturday at CFB Halifax.

Like Pillar, there have been questions about whether Travis will be in Toronto’s opening day lineup. Asked about where he fits in for 2019, Travis said he’s excited to be back and with a young team that sports a “ton of energy.”

“That’s fun. That’s how you get better,” Travis said on battling for an opening-day roster spot. “That’s (how) everybody that’s in the big leagues and professional baseball made it so far … growing up and fighting for that job, and competing with the people around you. That’s how teams win. You see all the teams that do win right now in baseball, there’s a lot of competition to get those jobs. I look forward to it.”

Philip Croucher is a reporter and StarMetro bureau chief based in Halifax. Follow him on Twitter: @philip_croucher

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