FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Kevin Pillar came of age with the Toronto Blue Jays in an American League East that featured three of the best young center fielders in baseball in himself, Boston's Jackie Bradley, and Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier.
Now that Pillar and Bradley are teammates, the newest member of the Red Sox wants to make one thing clear -- center belongs to JBJ.
"Obviously with Jackie here, I wouldn't see myself as someone that's probably going to play center field," Pillar said on Saturday. "I was lucky to have a little experience last year moving to the corners. I'm just here to help in any way I can. Try to go out and try to be the best version of myself."
Bradley has helped box Pillar out of the Gold Glove race, with one such honor to Pillar's none, despite the latter making a series of highlight-reel catches that earned him the nickname "Superman" in Toronto.
"Obviously, he's got the hardware to prove how talented he is," Pillar said. "You ask anyone in the game, Jackie's still one of the best, if not the best defensive center fielder in the game. Yeah, it was a really cool time in my career. We all kind of came up around the same time. We all kind of surfaced at the same time as elite defenders in the American League while playing in the same division, so we all got a front-row seat to watch each other, either playing against each other or just keeping up with teams in your division, guys in your division, and without knowing him, he raised my standards of what I thought I could do defensively.
"I always wanted to keep up with him and Kiermaier, and ultimately at the end of the year, try to be crowned or titled the best defensive center fielder in the American League, if not all of baseball."
While manager Ron Roenicke said on Friday that there's a chance Bradley moves to right, Pillar will be comfortable wherever the Red Sox put him after playing 27 games in right field and hitting a career-high 21 homers with the Giants last season. He remains supremely confident in his defensive abilities, and he projects to be a fourth outfielder and right-handed complement in Boston.
"Some believe, some will say that I've taken a step back defensively," Pillar said. "I don't believe that's the case. I think it's a matter of making some minor adjustments, whether it's positioning, getting a little bit more information, which is something I'm excited about joining this organization. I wouldn't say I've resisted or refused the information in my career, but I was only really exposed to one environment."
Added Pillar: "I'm excited to be here on time with an organization that's going to give me that information and I feel like I can make those small adjustments and continue to be an elite defender, whether it's in center field, left field or right field."