DUNEDIN, Fla. - The familiar horns of “El Mechon” by Banda MS blared in the Toronto Blue Jays minor league facility on Thursday to welcome back catcher Alejandro Kirk.

Kirk was trumpeted in to the clubhouse after missing the start of spring training to be with his wife Sophia for the birth of their first child, Emilia Jolene Kirk Castaneda. Kirk said it was “awesome” that his Blue Jays teammates played his memorable walk-up music for his first full day back.

“I feel a lot a better, not as much stress as the last two weeks,” said Kirk through translator Hector Lebron before Toronto and the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates played to a 2-2 draw. “I feel great to be here. Got my baby and I'm very happy about that, excited.

“I just have to get ready for the season now.”

Kirk emerged as Toronto's top catcher last year, hitting .285 with 14 home runs and 63 runs batted in and walks. He was named to his first-ever all-star team and earned a Silver Slugger Award as the best hitter at his position in the American League.

“He's a lovable guy, we all love what he does on the field and in the clubhouse,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider told reporters at the team's spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla. “It was nice for him to get in, happy for him and Sophia, obviously, with the baby.

“The vibe kind of picks up a little bit when you get Kirky in the mix.”

Kirk was eligible to play for Mexico at the World Baseball Classic, a two-week international tournament that starts on March 7, but he decided to miss the event so he could be available in case Sophia went into labour. He also said he wanted to get back up to speed with his Toronto teammates.

“Family comes first and then the rest,” said Kirk.

Danny Jansen and Andres Sosa split catching duties in Thursday's game while Kirk gets up to speed.

Toronto outfielder Kevin Kiermaier had two hits and scored on a Bo Bichette single in the third inning. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. scored Toronto's other run on a balk in the first inning.

Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah gave up three hits, struck out two and walked in a run over 1 2/3 innings.

Pittsburgh tied the game in the sixth inning when Liover Peguero scored on a Sosa throwing error.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2023.