Called up from Double-A New Hampshire, Blue Jays No. 3 prospect Anthony Alford made his Major League debut on Friday night against the Orioles in Baltimore.
"I found out late [Thursday] night when I got off the bus," Alford told MLB.com. "My manager pulled me to the side and pretty much told me I was coming up. I thought he was talking about me going to Triple-A and I was like, 'OK, I'm going to Buffalo.' He said, 'No, you're going to meet the team in Baltimore. You're going to Toronto.' It was really exciting for me, and I still feel like I'm dreaming, but I'm just trying to take it and enjoy the moment."
The 22-year-old started in left field and went 0-for-2, striking out against Chris Tillman in the third inning and lining sharply to left in the fifth.
"It was still an unbelievable experience," Alford said. "Just to come out and play in this environment and be out here competing with these guys and try to help the team get a win. It was still an awesome experience. Unfortunately, we came up short, but it's a day that I'll always remember."
Alford filled the roster spot opened by the suspension of Kevin Pillar on Thursday. Pillar was banned for two games by Toronto after making what he called an "immature" and "stupid" homophobic slur toward an opposing pitcher.
It's possible that Alford could return to the Minors once Pillar's suspension is over. He was hitting .325 with three homers, 11 RBIs, nine stolen bases and a .411 on-base percentage in 33 games in the Eastern League. He went 4-for-5 on May 17 and is batting .382 with 13 hits in his last 10 games.
Alford spoke about overcoming injuries and slumps this week, saying he kept his confidence high despite struggles.
"Even when I wasn't getting hits, I was still confident because I knew what I had to do and I knew what [pitchers] were trying to do to me," he told MiLB.com. "At times, I kind of get away from my approach, but I hold myself accountable and get back to it. I didn't sweat it when I went through the little rough patch. I felt just as confident then as I did [tonight]."
Alford was named a Rising Star in the Arizona Fall League last year and was an MiLB.com Blue Jays Organizational All-Star in 2015. He earned Midwest League All-Star status that year when he hit .298 with four homers, 35 RBIs and 27 steals across two levels.
The Ole Miss product set career highs with nine homers and 44 RBIs last season with Class A Advanced Dunedin.
Video: Fisher Cats' Alford collects fourth hit