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The demotion for Pompey hardly came as a surprise with the Blue Jays intent on making Michael Saunders the starter in left field. In theory, Pompey could have made the team as a fourth outfielder, but the club wants him to receive everyday at-bats, and as of right now, that can only happen in the Minors.
"I understand that completely," Pompey said of the club's reasoning. "It's better than sitting on the bench, but at the same time, everybody wants to be in the big leagues, so it's kind of like a Catch-22. For the most part, I'm just going to go down there and work, just prepare myself. Thankfully I'll be able to play every day and make myself better."
Pompey has been through a rough 12 months, but the 23-year-old seems to be in a better frame of mind than he was last summer. The former top prospect faced the daunting task of trying to succeed under the pressure of playing in his hometown without much of a track record in the Minors, and some of the outside distractions seemed to take a toll.
In hindsight, it's easy to suggest the Blue Jays rushed Pompey to the big leagues a little too prematurely. In 2014, Pompey began the year in Class A Advanced Dunedin, but by the end of the season, he had made it all the way to the Majors, and he rode a hot two weeks in September to a guaranteed job the following spring.
That proved to be a mistake, as Pompey struggled in the field and at the plate. He was optioned to the Minors at the beginning of May 2015, and while it took some time for his confidence to recover, Pompey did make it back in September and cracked the postseason roster as a reserve outfielder and late-inning pinch-runner. Pompey's emergence late in the year got him back on track, and he carried that momentum into the spring.
"Last year was totally different than this year; this year I'm more relaxed," Pompey said. "I feel good about myself and where I'm at mentally. That's all I can control ... the actions that I take. Last year, struggling a bit and then going down and being able to contribute definitely helped my confidence, so I'm looking forward to whatever is next."
Toronto likely will choose either Junior Lake or Ezequiel Carrera for the backup outfielder job. Both players are out of options on their contracts and cannot be sent to the Minors without clearing waivers, which should give them the edge over fellow candidate Darrell Ceciliani.
Pompey doesn't need to look very far to find motivation. Last season, Chris Colabello and Ryan Goins both began the year at Triple-A Buffalo but eventually became integral parts of the team. Pompey is hopeful that something similar happens again this year.
"Not that I really expected it, because that's negative thinking for the most part, but I knew there was a pretty good chance that I would get sent down with Mike healthy, and there's really no opportunity at the moment," Pompey said. "I've seen things change in a heartbeat. I've seen guys like Colabello come up last year. Go-Go came up after two weeks. It's not the end of the world."