FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In a roundabout way, Kevin Pillar has a Red Sox legend to thank for his arrival in Boston.
If Carl Yastrzemski had never had any children, then his grandson, Mike, wouldn't have been in a position to push Pillar out of a job in San Francisco.
But Pillar isn't bitter. If anything, he's awed by the 29-year-old Andover, Mass., native's inspiring transformation from minor league lifer to major leaguer with a legitimate future.
"It's an amazing story, a story of perseverance, a story of love of the game," Pillar said on Saturday. "A story of a guy just absolutely making the best of his opportunity. He's a better man than I am. I don't know if I could've survived as long as he survived in the minor leagues."
The younger Yaz is a St. John's Prep grad who joined the Orioles as a 14th-round pick in 2013 out of Vanderbilt. He spent six years in Baltimore's system before being traded to the Giants last March. Summoned to San Francisco on May 25 for his major-league debut at 28, he proceeded to smash 21 homers in 107 games, including an emotional shot to dead center in an August visit to Fenway Park.
A Yastrzemski just homered at Fenway.— MLB (@MLB) September 18, 2019
Can you believe it? pic.twitter.com/IaEhCDyhwF
It just so happened that Yastrzemski's emergence helped make Pillar, 31, expendable.
"He finally got his opportunity and ran with it and had an unbelievable year," Pillar said. "So much so, that in some small way, he pushed me out of my job there. They're going to allow him an opportunity to go out there and get a chance to play center field. I couldn't be happier for him, happier for his family. We all kind of witnessed what he was able to do coming back to Boston in the shadow of his grandfather.
"He's an outstanding baseball player who continued to rise to the occasion, not only getting called up as a 28-year-old rookie, but going back to the place where his grandfather is a legend and hitting a homer there. To perform the way he performed, I'm expecting him to build off of what he did last year and have an amazing season there."