Conine makes up for lost time with Lugnuts

Blue Jays' 16th-ranked prospect goes yard twice, doubles twice

Griffin Conine collected his first two-homer game since last July 6 in the Northwest League. (James Snook/Spokane Indians)

By Duane Cross / | May 30, 2019 11:41 PM

It didn't take Griffin Conine long to get reacclimated in the batter's box or with his Lugnuts teammates.

"It's like I never left," he said.

In his second game of the season, Toronto's No. 16 prospect delivered a career-high four hits -- two homers and two doubles -- as Class A Lansing downed Dayton, 9-4, on Thursday night at Fifth Third Field. Conine drove in three runs and scored three times.

Video: Lansing's Conine cracks second jack

The 2018 second-round pick was suspended for the first 50 games of the season for violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He tested positive for ritalinic acid, a banned stimulant.

After the suspension was handed down, Conine took responsibility for his actions and vowed to make amends.

"I have spoken with the Toronto Blue Jays organization and my family, and I conveyed my utmost embarrassment for the careless decision that led to my suspension," he wrote in a statement. "I will accept the consequences and do everything in my power to earn back the respect of the Blue Jays organization."

Gameday box score

On Thursday, he continued his journey back. After Conine struck out against Dayton right-hander Jhon De Jesus to end the first inning, he began his extra-base hit barrage with a double to left field to lead off the third.

"That's why the Blue Jays took me," the 21-year-old outfielder said of the first double. "Coming back, I didn't want to press for power. I was trying to put the ball in play, just hit the ball hard.

"That was something I was able to grasp during my couple of months at the complex in Dunedin -- not coming out of the zone too quickly. I can hit balls hard to left field, and I'm at my best when I'm driving balls that way."

In the fifth, he ripped a one-out two-bagger to left and scored on a single by Ryan Gold that chased De Jesus (1-5).

Leading off the seventh against right-handed reliever Eduardo Salazar, Conine lofted a solo homer over the left-field wall to give the Lugnuts a 5-2 lead.

The son of 17-year big league veteran Jeff Conine connected for his second roundtripper -- a two-run shot to left -- with two outs in the eighth off righty Eddy Demurias. It marked the second two-homer game of his career. He also parked two last July 6 for Class A Short Season Vancouver.

"I struck out Wednesday, struck out tonight -- that was tough," the Duke product admitted. "It's the hardest thing to do when nothing is working and you're swinging at bad pitches or guessing wrong. I just had to get back to hitting fastballs.

"[Vancouver hitting coach] Aaron Mathews had some metrics that we looked at. Fastball -- contact is production. You take away that pitch by being able to get around on it [or] drive the ball. It makes you a tough out, being able to hit the fastball and put it where they can't get it."

2019 MiLB include

Conine said the suspension was "definitely tough" and he used the time in Dunedin to get in as many swings as possible.

"I worked to put myself in the best position to go," he said. "I got a lot of work in and I think I'll get the most out of it. Tonight was seeing growth and going in a positive direction."

Being back with familiar teammates made the transition back to the ballfield easier.

"I know these guys well; played last season with many of them," the Plantation, Florida, native said. "I missed playing with these guys.

"There's not much of a learning curve but there were some jitters. [Wednesday] I wanted to do too much. Tonight, I'm just enjoying it."

Troy Watson (1-0) picked up his first Midwest League victory, allowing two unearned runs on a hit and a walk with three strikeouts.

Duane Cross is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @DuaneCrossMiLB This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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