When the Blue Jays visit their division rival the Yankees in the Bronx, Montoyo runs the two miles from Yankee Stadium to Casa Amadeo, an iconic place for salsa lovers and Puerto Rican immigrants. It is the oldest, continuously occupied Latin music store in New York. There, Montoyo buys CDs, which he converts into audio files for his laptop, and runs back to the ballpark with them in a bag tucked under his arm.
If the Blue Jays are going to fulfill their lofty expectations this season, the team in the Bronx poses a significant challenge. Their division, the American League East, is the toughest in baseball. If the 12-team postseason began today, three teams from the division — the Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Blue Jays — would be in. And the Boston Red Sox, who fell two games short of reaching the World Series last year, aren’t far behind.
The Blue Jays were a popular World Series pick when they entered this season, Montoyo’s fourth as Toronto’s manager. Made up of a core of young stars, the once-rebuilding team broke out in 2020 and reached the playoffs. Even though the squad fell one win shy of another postseason appearance last season, the Blue Jays, who last won a World Series in 1993, still seemed to be trending up.
Two Blue Jays have performed better this season than the free agents they replaced. Kevin Gausman, who replaced the 2021 American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray, leads a rotation that has been a top 10 unit in baseball. The second baseman, Santiago Espinal, who replaced the 2021 All-Star Marcus Semien, is a key part of a lineup that has been one of the best.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t holes to be filled. The bullpen, for example, ranked 16th in M.L.B. in earned run average entering Friday. Perhaps parts of the team will look different after the Aug. 2 trade deadline — it is a long season, after all — but the soundtrack will remain the same with Montoyo in charge: salsa.