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IL notes: Pillar has something to prove
Drafted late, Blue Jays prospect has hit at every Minors level
07/29/2013 6:00 AM ET
Kevin Pillar is hitting .320 with 65 runs scored across two levels this season.
Kevin Pillar is hitting .320 with 65 runs scored across two levels this season. (Buffalo Bisons)

Every professional baseball player deals with pressure.

But the ability of Buffalo outfielder Kevin Pillar to deal with that pressure -- and use it to make himself a better player -- has allowed him to rocket through the Blue Jays' Minor League system.

"Me being drafted late, me not signing for a lot of money, me coming from a Division II school, me being a little bit older than guys at lower levels -- there's a certain amount of pressure," Pillar said. "But with this job, there's going to be some pressure."

"My dad told me, 'If you can't handle pressure, you shouldn't play.' Pressure is a part of the game."

Pillar set an NCAA Division II record with a 54-game hitting streak at Cal State-Dominguez Hills, but he didn't hear his name called until the 32nd round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

He just continued to hit as a pro, batting .313 in 71 games with Double-A New Hampshire this season to earn a promotion to Buffalo.

Since joining the Bisons in late June, Pillar has hit .346 in 34 games, reaching base in all but two of those contests while adding four homers, 18 RBIs and 21 runs scored.

"I am impressed with how he has swung the bat, for sure," Buffalo manager Marty Brown said. "But he also always seems to be in the right place at the right time defensively. He's a very heads-up baserunner. You see a certain energy he brings, especially when he's going up to hit."

Brown said Pillar is still learning about himself as a hitter in his first taste of Triple-A pitching.

"There are certain ways that he's getting himself out, and he's making adjustments to that," Brown added. "Those are things hitters learn in the lower levels, but he's gone through the system so fast, he has to learn on the fly. His ability to apply what he is learning has been very impressive.

Pillar said he has learned how to deal with pressure by setting a simple goal.

"I don't set number goals or anything like that, I just try to have a good day," he said. "I realize that if you have a good day every day, at the end of the year it's going to be a good season.

"A good day leads to a good week; a good week leads to a good month; and a good month leads to a good season."

Pillar hopes that dealing with the pressure of beating the odds and rising through the Toronto system will help him if he gets a chance to deal with the pressure of playing in the Major Leagues.

"Would it be nice to have things given to you to some degree? Yes," he admitted. "But at the end of the day, everyone needs to prove themselves. Guys in the big leagues have to prove themselves, that's how they get big contracts.

"It's not any different for me. I'm pretty self-motivated. Wanting to go out and prove something every single day drives me. Every single day I feel I have an opportunity to prove something to someone."

In brief

Stealing 'em blind: Louisville OF Billy Hamilton leads the league with 60 stolen bases, nearly double the next highest total. In fact, he has more steals than three other teams: Toledo has 56, Norfolk has 52 and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has stolen only 39 bases.

Hotter than July: Charlotte RHP Andre Rienzo threw a seven-inning no-hitter in beating Indianapolis, 1-0, in the first game of a July 25 doubleheader. That was just the latest fine start for Rienzo in July, a month in which he has a 3-0 record and 1.23 ERA in four starts. He's allowed 11 hits and 11 walks while fanning 26 over 29 1/3 innings this month.

He said it: "I wanted to get on base for scoring position. I wanted to win. I don't play for a tie. Hero or goat, right there." -- Syracuse SS Zach Walters to the Syracuse Post Standard on July 24. He led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a drive to right and barely beat the throw to second for a double. Walters eventually scored the winning run on a single by Eury Perez as the Chiefs beat Louisville, 3-2.

He said it, part II: "Usually, the conventional stuff gets hit. Today, it was the knuckleball that got hit and the conventional stuff got me out of jams. You just live and you learn, and you move forward." -- Norfolk RHP Eddie Gamboa to The Virginian Pilot on July 24. Gamboa, who became a knuckleballer this year, gave up four earned runs and nine hits over five innings in a loss to Pawtucket. He's 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA in three starts for the Tides.

John Wagner is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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