August 2011

Romero keeps rolling

There’s a lot of things that the Blue Jays can get excited about when it comes to Ricky Romero’s performance on the mound this year. Romero began the season as the club’s No. 1 starter almost by default — following the offseason trade of Shaun Marcum to the Brewers. Now, with just under a month left in the regular season, he has established himself not only as Toronto’s best pitcher but as a bonafide ace in the tough American League East.

Romero is currently riding a career high six-game winning streak. Toronto has won each of his past eight starts and Romero has posted a sparking 2.11 ERA during that span. He also has thrown eight consecutive quality starts and has failed to record that type of outing in just six of his 27 games this year.

Those are all impressive numbers but what might be even more encouraging for the club has been his performance in the past two games. Romero has walked eight batters in his last 12 innings and each of his past two times on the mound has gotten off to a rough start. He began the game against Kansas City by hitting Alex Gordon with the first pitch he threw. Romero started Monday’s start against Tampa Bay in somewhat similar fashion by walking Desmond Jennings on four pitches.

It’s not that those situations are remotely positive — but how Romero has dealt with each of them has been. In previous seasons, those two outings might have gotten away from the native of California. He might have become a little too frustrated on the mound and the next thing you know the Blue Jays would find themselves in an early hole. That hasn’t happened this time around, though, both games Romero found a way to get through six innings having surrendered three runs or less.

I think when Romero looks back on his season these two starts might be ones he remembers even a little bit more than his four complete games when it seemed like nothing could go wrong.  The one thing that’s likely left on his to-do list this season is handling the Boston Red Sox — a club in which he has a 2-6 career record against and an unimpressive 8.08 ERA. He’ll get that opportunity when Toronto returns home next week.

Toronto now heads out for a six-game road trip after finishing its homestand 2-5. It starts in Baltimore on Tuesday night — but I won’t be there. I have a few days off and will join the team in New York on Friday. The main site will still have full coverage of all the news so make sure to check back frequently for anything going on with the team. You can also find today’s notebook here with items on John Farrell’s bout of pneumonia, injury updates on Jon Rauch and Carlos Villanueuva, and Brian Tallet being activated from the 15-day disabled list.

Below you’ll find some of Romero’s post-game comments that didn’t make it into today’s game story. You’ll also find some leftovers from J.P. Arencibia and acting manager Don Wakamatsu. Also, don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB.

Ricky Romero:

On starting the game with a walk and two-run homer…

“You gotta hang in there. You know you’re going to face adversity in game and obviously I haven’t really been myself the past two outings. I guess everyone gets used to be going deep into games, and I expect that out of myself too, walks killed me today. I started off with the leadoff walk and to me that’s unacceptable.

“Damon just hit two pitches that were over the plate and took full advantage of it. But the way I see it, it could have been a lot worse. I grinded again through six innings and gave the team a chance to win.”

On grinding through six innings…

“That’s all that matters to me. If I give the team a chance to win and we come out on top, which we did the past two outings. No one ever said this is going to be easy. It’s easy to get going when stuff is going your way and you’re feeling great. Right now, I feel great, I think I’m just fighting myself too much and not letting the game come to me.

“When everything’s working it’s easy to get through a game and go eight-nine innings. It’s these outings that make you mentally strong and you’re like, you know what, I grinded and I did everything I could and I made it through six.”

On control problems the biggest issue lately….

“It’s pretty obvious that’s what it is. I’m just throwing too many balls, getting deep in counts, and fighting myself to come all the way back … If these are my worst outings then I’ll take them anytime. It’s all about grinding and giving your team a chance to win.”

On overall health…

“I came in and I told Papi (Blue Jays hitting coach Bruce Walton), man I felt great. These past two games I felt better than I did earlier in the month. This game works in mysterious ways sometimes. But I feel great, I’d be worried if my velocities were down and stuff like that. But I look up there sometimes and my velocity is there …  it’s just a matter of throwing strikes and getting back on my side and getting deep into these games.

J.P. Arencibia:

On what he has seen from Romero lately…

“That he’s been able to give us a chance. His last couple of starts he has been getting kind of amped up and a little upset pretty quick. It’s been a big thing for him to just calm down mentally, just go out there and make pitches because when you get upset it’s when things stay in the middle of the plate and you try to do too much.

On his performance at the plate…

“I’ve been swinging it well lately. everything has been going good… I’ve been driving in runs when I’ve needed to and that’s a big thing for me is driving in those runs and that’s the way it’s been going lately. Sometimes you hit the ball right at the guy and today I got a couple to fall in there and I’ve felt good at the plate.”

Don Wakamatsu:

On Romero…

“I didn’t think he had his best stuff, but the thing that’s special about Ricky,  is his competitiveness. Couple big double plays to get him out of some jams, he just never gave in all night, got us through the sixth to turn it over to the bullpen.”

A ‘here we go again’ feeling after the Damon HR?

“Yeah, if it wasn’t for Ricky. We knew that the numbers, obviously he hit a second one against Ricky, the numbers, the matchups with him haven’t been good but (Romero)  just never gives in and that’s what’s special, that’s what he has done all year, is rally when we really needed him.”

“Offensively we put ourselves in a position, because of what the pitcher did, to be aggressive on the bases. This is a good offensive club and I think we played a bit more as a club tonight.”

On Jesse Litsch topping 90 mph just once and whether fatigue is a factor…

“That’s hard to say. It might be the role, it might be the time of year, it’s hard to say. What I liked about it, is that he get himself into trouble and then got himself out of trouble. I know he was frustrated when he came in after that inning, we went over and said, it doesn’t matter you got out of it. Let’s build on that.”

Reaction from Toronto’s win over KC…

Quick hits from tonight’s Blue Jays game…

Darin Mastroianni:

On walking into the clubhouse and seeing his name on the lineup card…

“That was wild — I really wasn’t expecting that. To go in there, and see my name in there, was a great feeling and I’m just trying to enjoy it right now. It’s a pretty cool experience so far.”

On how his experience with the team in Spring Training will help…

“When you’re not meeting guys for the first time and all the older guys, you’ve got Jose Bautista and all these guys who come up to you and say, hey, welcome, congratulations, because they know you and they’ve met you. It  makes it a lot easier to walk into the clubhouse.”

Being familiar with the young Blue Jays roster…

“To have so many guys that I’ve played with, not only this year but throughout the four years I’ve been with the Blue Jays,  it makes the transition coming here a lot of easier. You know guys, you have guys you can bounce stuff off of, it just makes things a little bit more comfortable.”

How his year has gone to date…

“It has been an interesting year. It has a lot different than I expected. I didn’t expect to struggle as much as I did offensively earlier in the season. There were some flaws in my swing that hopefully we’ve found and corrected and I’ve swung the bat much better of late.”

John Farrell:

On Mastroianni’s role…

“Given where we are, we need a center fielder. That’s where we are right now. How long this goes is reliant on the time needed for Colby. We fully anticipate Kelly to be in the lineup tomorrow so that gives Mac the flexibility to go back to center field.

“Those are the moves that are pending and the roster as it stands, particularly, when we look at tomorrow and beyond.”

Could Mastroianni’s time with the big league club be an extended one…

“There’s a chance he stays for awhile, yeah, and I think Darin is understanding that this has the potential to be a short term situation as well. We’ve just to get through these next couple of days, one with Kelly arriving, and two, the time needed for Colby.”

Status on Rasmus…

“He has two-three days of rest, no activity. Certainly he’ll swing off a tee and get into BP, provided there’s no lingering effects we’ll move forward at that point. But he’s in need of two-three days of no activity.”

On Brandon Morrow…

“When you think about where Brandon’s been, and where he’s come from in two years time, I think there has been huge strides forward and yet with as much talent as he has there is still a lot of room for improvement, which I think is an extremely exciting scenario.”

On disappointing outing on Tuesday night…

“We had a conversation earlier today where he has experienced some of the extremes. Dominant performances, and yet, whether it’s the game against Cleveland in here earlier, whether it was in Baltimore where there’s that one inning that seems like it can rear its head on him.

“That’s a matter of recognizing the situation, taking a step off the mound and re-centering yourself and not think of just sheer velocity, or sheer stuff, to get someone out. Sometimes it’s better to go less than more.

“Everyone in the league knows he has a powerful arm. He has a fastball-slider combination that is as good as any. But the use of his offspeed pitches, or pitches at times, to disrupt timing, I think becomes more important when he goes through the league another year and when he goes through a lineup three times in a given night.”

Ricky Romero:

On Lawrie…

 “He’s unbelievable, just the way he hustles is what we love to see. He runs everything out, no matter if it’s a ground ball to third base.

On his club’s improved offense…

“I’m not worried about it when I go down two runs. It’s part of the game, you can’t go out there and throw shutouts every time. Our offence is good enough to put up runs and I know if I keep them in the game, they’re going to do everything possible.

On where he struggled against Kansas City…

“I didn’t do a good job of putting the lefties away and I think that’s where I’ve been successful this whole year in taking those left-handers out of the lineup and being able to pitch inside and pitch to them. I think today I had a few walks, hit one of them, it just wasn’t a good night for me to pitch against lefties.

Brett Lawrie:

“It’s just one of those things when I come up to the plate I get put in situations and sometimes you’re going to succeed and sometimes you’re not. I was fortunate enough to contribute tonight for this win and it was good.

On Escobar being hit by a pitch from Luke Hochevar…

“It obviously fired us up. It’s one of those things, that something so little like that can get the team going and right after that we picked it up, kind of got on a roll, and it was good.

Steady Eddy keeps producing

In May it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Toronto would part ways with Edwin Encarnacion at the end of the season. Heck, it was a question mark whether he would even make it through the year as many fans called for the 28-year-old to be traded or designated for assignment.

The demands from the fan base weren’t exactly without merit, either. Encarnacion hit just .257 with 0 home runs and six RBIs during the month of April. Things didn’t get much better in May as he posted one homer and four RBIs with an even worse .236 batting average.

The numbers improved slightly during June but it wasn’t until July that the designated hitter really began to turn things around. What a difference two months can make. Since July 7, Encarnacion leads the Majors with an on-base percentage of .473. He also ranks second in the AL in OPS (1.088), third in slugging (.613), tied for third with 12 doubles and fourth in average (.371) over that same span.

Encarnacion entered play Friday night having reached base in 17 consecutive games. He is batting .375 with four doubles and four home runs during that series of games.

That type of production is making it extremely likely that Encarnacion will have his club option picked up at the end of the year. The Dominican native appears set for Type-B free agent status at the end of the season, so it’s still possible Toronto could decline the option and hope to get a compensatory draft pick, but I doubt the club will go that route.

If Encarnacion keeps swinging the bat the way he has for the past month and a half his option for $3.5 would be too hard to resist. To be honest with you, I never thought I’d be writing that sentence this year.

Here are some leftover quotes from manager John Farrell about Encarnacion’s progress and a slew of other things. You can also find some extra quotes from Luis Perez who will make his first career start on Sunday.

John Farrell

On what’s changed with Encarnacion…

“He has been much more disciplined through the strike zone. He has not chased pitches out of the zone, he has not chased pitchers’ pitches. He has been confident working the count deep and if he takes a strike, he doesn’t allow that to affect him to become a little bit more anxious at the plate.

“He has almost 2-1 walks to strikeouts, where the first half of the year, I think he had 34 strikeouts with only nine walks. It has been a complete reversal and it shows the patience and discipline.

On what has made Encarnacion comfortable…

“I think more importantly, the fact that he has come into the clubhouse knowing he’s going to be in the lineup every day. And over the past month plus, he’s been in that five hole and I think he’s grown in confidence knowing there has been added responsibility given to him in that spot in the order and he has earned it. He is a threat in the middle of our lineup.

“He’s giving the at-bats right now, and throughout this entire stretch, that we would like to see throughout our entire lineup. That’s not afraid to take a walk, not afraid to work pitch counts, and just be relentless at the plate.”

“Even talking to the staff members that have been here longer than just this year … This clicks in about mid-year. What we’ve got to do is look closer at it, what can we do to make this approach right out of chute. I think as he matures as a hitter, and gets a little bit older, he understands what his needs are and where his limitations lie. But you can’t deny the fact that he is a major threat in the middle of our lineup.”

On the Blue Jays homering in 12 consecutive games…

“Home runs are going to happen. When we try to hit home runs that’s when we get in trouble. Home runs are going to happen when you get into good counts and you put good swings on a ball and if not take your walk and pass it onto the next guy.

“That’s the type of offense that has to be constructed to win this division.”

On Adeiny Hechavarria’s hot start in Triple-A Las Vegas (.517 average in seven games)…

“In talking with Tony LaCava and Alex (Anthopoulous) … he might not have performed his way to Double-A last year but when the move came something clicks inside of him and there’s a spark. But he’s doing a great job, he has solidified some things defensively throughout the course of this year, particularly with his throwing and his arm slot. He has settled into a consistent slot that’s allowed for more accuracy and more consistensy with his throws and that’s something he was searching for in Spring Training.

“This is as a good a shortstop as you’ll find in baseball, and defensively at any level, including the big leagues. He is a special talent.”

On Hechavarria needing to be more patient at the plate (just 25 walks in 111 games at Double-A)…

That’s an approach we continually preach and are working daily to bring that to life and make that more of our culture to our offensive approach. To have the understanding, and the where-with-all, that if you don’t get your pitch it’s okay to get deeper into the count. If the guy throws a strike that doesn’t mean you can’t hit with one or two strikes on you. That takes time, that takes consistensy but what he’s doing in a very short span in Las Vegas has been outstanding.”

On Nestor Molina (1 ER and 17 Ks in 11IP at Double-A)…

“The strikeouts compared to the walks is phenomenal. You’re looking at probably a 10 or 11 strikeout to walk ratio which is really unheard of. But a guy that continues to grow and that’s what player development is all about. You find guys and they start to mature, they grow, and he has never had an inability to throw strikes. ”

On Luis Perez’s pitch limit for Sunday…

“He went 61 pitches the other night so we’ll probably bump that up some. We’re not going to go in with a hard number on it but we know there are limitations as well. More importantly, what he has shown is consistent strike throwing. Even the other night when he got behind in the count, he got his way back into some counts, and as he got through into the second time through the order, he started to use his changeup more effectively.

On using the final six weeks as an audition for certain players on the roster…

“We are, but at the same time, we’re not making that the priority. I think it’s important for us to win as many games as we can and finish as high in the standings as we can. But we’re also looking at guys, knowing a year from now, or in Spring Training they’re going to be that much further along in their development, that much higher up on the depth chart.

“Exposure and experience at this time of the year can go a long way in making them a known commodity when we come out of Spring Training next year.”

Luis Perez

On making his first career start in the Majors…

“I feel prepared because when I was in the Minor Leagues — even though it’s a little bit different — I faced the lineup 2-3 times. I’m going to use all of my pitches, fastball, changeup, slider, and I can throw all those pitches at any time. Depending on who’s hitting and how they’re taking my approach that’s how I’m going to attack but I’m always going to stay with this approach of pitching.”

On whether he was surprised to get the call…

“I was just a little bit surprised knowing that I’ve been doing a good job coming out of the bullpen and throwing in the Minor Leagues but I was always prepared in the back of my mind, always felt like the chance might come one day so I was prepared for that.”

Trever Miller: A class act

Trever Miller’s second stint with the Blue Jays ended up being a short one. Miller was designated for assignment by club after just six appearances. His final pitch was a memorable one for all the wrong reasons — he hung a breaking ball over the middle of the plate and Mike Carp sent it over the wall in right field for a game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Monday night’s game.

That home run sparked a Mariners rally that also included a solo home run by Casper Wells off right-hander Jon Rauch.  It was yet another tough loss to take for the Blue Jays bullpen in Seattle, where they suffered a similar fate in April.

A little insight for the readers — as a baseball beat reporter one of the most awkward things you ever have to do is walk into a clubhouse following a late-inning collapse. The music is off, the players are in terrible moods and more than any other time you feel like an intruder on their personal space. But that’s part of the job — you have to go in and get the background information that’s required to put a game story together for all of you to read.

Monday night was one of those situations. After talking with John Farrell the next priority was getting a reliever to talk about that fateful eighth inning. The first person on my list was Rauch but he was approached by a reporter and declined to speak with the media. It was at that point that I finally noticed Miller sitting at his locker.

The veteran reliever was already dressed and ready to leave the ballpark. He could have easily avoided the media but instead of going anywhere he sat and waited for us to come and talk to him. In my opinion, that’s the mark of a true professional.

I know what some of you are probably thinking? Why does it matter? Who cares? Well, to a certain extent those are fair comments but the fact is reporters have to do their job and that means getting comments from players no matter the situation. If Miller chose not to talk to the media last night that would have forced us to seek out some of his teammates for comment on the late-inning meltdown.

Miller’s professionalism is all about accountability. He didn’t pass the buck to catcher J.P. Arencibia or anyone else on the team — he took the responsibility upon himself. The 38-year-old also was given a few opportunities during the media scrum to provide excuses for his performance but he was having none of it. Is it hard not pitching on a regular basis he was asked? That might have been the case in St. Louis but he was given an opportunity in Toronto, Miller responded. The ball was flying out of Safeco — did that play a factor? Don’t take anything away from that kid he squared the ball up, Miller answered.

The fact is a lot of baseball players around the game could learn a thing or two from the left-hander. Toronto’s clubhouse is better than most when it comes to talking with the media — during my time as a sports journalist, I’ve been around a lot of other teams that aren’t nearly as accommodating.

The job of a middle reliever can often be one without a lot of glory. When they come in and do their job the pitchers are rarely talked about. When they come in and blow a lead, the pitchers became the main topic of conversation. Miller proved that no matter what, he was going to take responsibility for his pitch, and not force teammates to answer for his mistake. Miller’s final act in a Blue Jays uniform set an example for the young players on the team.

I wasn’t around the team for Miller’s first stint in Toronto but by all accounts he was a class act. He was the exact same way this time around and even though he never really fit in with this club he’s someone you can’t help but root for. Also, don’t confuse this post as a shot at Rauch for not talking with the media. Rauch has been accommodating this season and I think it’s safe to say he deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one considering he underwent an emergency appendectomy this morning. If I was in that much pain I wouldn’t want to talk with reporters either.

As I said, most of the players in Toronto’s clubhouse are accommodating and take the blame when it’s warranted. A few don’t, and while I’m not here to call anyone out, you have probably noticed it in my stories during the season. I always make a point of noting who refuses to talk with the media following a game and will continue to do so because I think it’s an important aspect of their job.

Anyways, here are Miller’s comments from last night’s game and Tuesday’s pregame comments from manager John Farrell.  Also don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB

Trever Miller:

On the 0-2 pitch to Carp…

“I hung a breaking ball terribly bad. Probably one of the top five worst pitches I’ve thrown 0-2 in a game with a one-run lead. He did what you’re supposed to do with that ball, put it in the seats.

Does it make it harder to execute when you’re not getting regular work…

“I’ve been answering that question a lot this year. I’ve been getting consistent work here, they’ve been doing a better job of getting me in ballgames, that’s not what happened tonight. Simply, I didn’t execute the pitch. I was trying to sweep the ball off the plate, get a swing and miss or set up the next pitch. I never got it there and it cost us the game. That’s my role, you come in and you throw one bad pitch and it can be catastrophic. It’s been a year where I haven’t been getting away with anything. I made a mistake tonight and I paid for it.

Having that increased role in Toronto does it make Monday night even harder to take…

“Yes, when you want to do well for your team, you want to go out and do your job and help win a ballgame, you don’t want to be the guy who intentionally loses the game, definitely the lead, that’s one of the toughest things to handle in any sport, you don’t want to be the goat. You want to be the hero, but sometimes you’ve got to be the goat to be the hero. I’ll be fine. It’s not the first time this has happened to me, I’ll continue to work. It has been a frustrating year for me. But you play long enough you’re going to have those years and you have to keep going through them to enjoy the good years.”

John Farrell pre-game on Tuesday:

On when Rauch first started experiencing pain…

“Prior to the game he felt like he was having a little stomach discomfort and we’ve had some flu-like symptoms go around the clubhouse. Don Wakamatsu was unable to come out yesterday pre-game because of that and precautionary we had him checked, not only by our trainers but by the team physician of the Mariners, and he checked out okay. He felt like he was certainly capable of pitching.

“Then after the game the symptoms seemed to intensify a little bit and at that point we felt like it was time to get him checked and a scan, and every precaution taken. It was revealed that he was having some symptoms with the appendix and ultimately where it had to be removed this morning.”

On the fan support Toronto receives in Vancouver…

“It’s great to see, anytime you have that kind of following. Certainly with the proximity to Vancouver and other Western territories here in Canada, yeah you’re more readily accessible to them.

“To see the following and certainly Brett’s addition to the roster has something to do with that. But in general, I think just the overall perception of the team, where the team is headed, where the roster has turned over and evolved. These are reasons why people are attracted to see it in person.”

On Luis Perez being the main lefty out of the bullpen…

It’s probably going to depend where we’re at in the lineup, the ability to control the running game, what the lineup looks like … But I wouldn’t put Luis just in a left-on-left situation or role. He has shown the ability to go through the lineup once, where it has been one-plus, two-plus on occasion. He would be the first lefty to go to in a key spot.

On Henderson Alvarez…

“Players reinforce your view on how they go out and consistently handle situations and Monday night was no different than his debut against Oakland. After the second inning, even by his own admission, he has able to get the ball down into the strike zone. He used his changeup a bit more after the second inning, which even though he has mid-90s velocity with some very good sinking action, he is going to need that pitch.”

“For 21 years old, and coming straight out of Double-A, he is handling himself very well. I think in that five-plus innings of work there really was two balls that were hit with any authority … It’s not like balls were being rocketed all over the ballpark.”

On Brandon Morrow’s return to Seattle…

“I think any player that comes back to their original organization I think there’s going to be some added, maybe some adrenaline, maybe some emotion. But I think that all that Brandon has gone through, two years after the trade, he’ll go out and pitch like he’s capable of and how he’s certainly done to date.

“I know one thing, he’s very familiar with that mound and the setting in this ballpark. we need a solid performance from him.”

Blue Jays unable to sign Beede

The deadline to sign players from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft has now come and gone. The Blue Jays were able to reach an agreement with all of their top Draft picks with the exception of first-rounder Tyler Beede.

The news doesn’t come as a major surprise because’s Jonathan Mayo stated earlier in the week the two sides remained far apart in negotiations and the likelihood of an agreement seemed unlikely at best. The Blue Jays went into the situation knowing Beede would be a tough player to sign because he stated before the Draft even took place that his preference was to attend Vanderbilt University and re-enter the Draft in 2014.

Despite the stated desires, Beede took part in the negotiations and even had a figure he said would get the deal done. The 18-year-old right-hander reportedly was asking for $3.5 million and the Blue Jays countered with an offer for $2.5. Since Toronto was unable to finalize a contract it will receive the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 Draft as compensation.

Personally, if I’m Beede there’s no way I would even consider walking away from $2.5 million. All pitchers come with a high risk for injury, and if something happens to his arm before 2014, his draft stock will take a major hit. Not only that, but a major component in the talks for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement centre around specific slotting prices for players taken in the Draft.

Even if Beede remains healthy and improves his value over the next few years it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll be able to top the $2.5 million Toronto offered. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. There are just too many risks and not enough upside to justify the decision.

If Beede truly did want to attend school then all the power to him. Athletes are often criticized in other sports for trying to make the premature jump into the professional ranks — we see it all the time in basketball. But the fact that Beede had a number in mind suggests to me he was very willing to sign but it had to be for the right price. That’s why I go back to the risk vs. reward scenario and this likely will become a topic of conversation again in future years as people watch his development at Vanderbilt.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos didn’t seem overly disappointed in the lack of a deal. Toronto had the most aggressive Draft of any team in the Major Leagues and for the most part it paid off. Left-hander Daniel Norris was considered a very tough sign because of his commitment to Clemson University. Norris is a first-round talent that fell into the Blue Jays’ laps in the second round and provides the club with another elite-level prospect on the mound.

Norris wasn’t the only player to reach a deal. In total, six of the club’s top seven picks in the first 78 selections of the Draft signed a contract. The only other player in the first five rounds who didn’t come to terms was fifth rounder Andrew Chin. Anthopoulos vowed late Monday night to continue his club’s aggressive approach in future Drafts.

Here’s what Anthopoulos had to say during his conference call with reporters:

On not signing Beede…

“Obviously you go into these things hoping to sign the players. But at the same time you understand that there’s no guarantees at all. I think generally speaking we’re very pleased with the result. We had a lot of a draft picks, we took a lot of (what) draft experts deemed tough signs and we pretty much able to come to terms with pretty much all of them.

“I don’t think we went into it with the expectation that they all sign. Not only that, but I think the model that we use going forward is what we’ve done here and we’re going to continue to do that. When you’re going to be aggressive like this, I expect each year to have several players unsigned. But on the whole I think we’re going to come out ahead especially with having the multiple picks and so on.”

Could you have signed both Beede and Norris…

“We absolutely could have signed both of them but it had to be at our value. I always say this, one the player has to put a value on himself but the club has to put a value on the player. Again, it’s strictly, and it’s the way we run this whole organization, one player will not make or break the organization, the same that one front office executive won’t, or one game won’t. You do your best but you have organization structures and policies in place and you adhere to those.

“We put values on these players, if we can come to terms and meet those values, great, if not, the beauty of the way the structure is set up we get the picks back the following year.”

On the negotiations for the top picks…

“I’ve always felt when it comes to the draft, I don’t know that there’s a whole lot to negotiate. I will never tell someone that they’re wrong about what they’re going to be. If somebody wants to tell me they’re going to be an MVP candidate, I tell them you very well may be right, we’ll find it in five years, in four years, in six years.

“It’s like what we debate in the draft room. The beauty is we don’t know who’s going to be right.

“I don’t put a limit on a player and what they’re going to be. It really comes down to, what are we prepared to pay the player, what are they prepared to accept, and that’s what it comes down to. Obviously, we couldn’t come to terms with Tyler but I don’t know that I’d characterize gaps and things like that. They had a number in mind, we had a number in mind, you push, extend, try to do some things, but at some point you have to have a walk away point on both sides and that’s fine.”

On signing Kevin Comer and Daniel Norris at the last minute…

“We had set values on players long ago and it’s just the way that the process is set up. You have to wait until the end because people want to see what’s going to happen with the market, players around, our values don’t really change. It’s one of those things that there is not as much back and forth as people expect. It’s a lot of waiting around until the end because that’s what everyone does.”

Do you feel like you overpaid…

“In our minds no. Obviously it’s our evaluation of the players. We have our own process where we put a dollar on all of the players the same way we do in free agents, the same way we do in salary arbitration. You always have a choice, you always have an alternative, you never have to sign a player.

On Daniel Norris  being first-round value…

I think with what we paid Daniel Norris I think it’s definitely reflected in his bonus — but that’s as far as we were going to take it. There’s no question Daniel Norris should not have been a second round pick. He was absolutely a first-round talent but he slid because of some signability concerns and that was an opportunity for us.

On Beede saying he wanted $3.5 million and Blue Jays countered with $2.5…

“I wouldn’t comment specifically on negotiations and gaps and things like that. Obviously, Tyler has a right to say what he’d like. From our standpoint, I’d say we wish Tyler the best. He’s an outstanding kid, has tremendous ability. I think he’s going to have a great year at Vanderbilt and I think he’ll have a long and prosperous career as a Major Leaguer as well.

On being aggressive in the Draft…

“We were absolutely much more aggressive in this year’s draft than we were last. We were not concerned about signability, we took the talent. We continued to do that and you can’t do that without the support of Paul Beeston and you can’t do that without the support of Rogers to be able to fund us.

“It’s nice to do that in theory but if you don’t have the support behind you, you can’t do that.”

Bound for the West Coast

I’m going to have to make this one short because I need to head home, do some laundry and pack for the Blue Jays’ upcoming seven game West Coast road trip. This trip could also be called a homecoming of sorts for Langley, British Columbia, native Brett Lawrie.

The 21-year-old will have lots of friends and family in attendance for the three-game set. It’s a short drive for them to beautiful Seattle and one I’m sure Brett made many times as a kid. Lawrie returned to a circus-like atmosphere in Toronto when he played here for the first time and I expect there will be similar conditions in Seattle with many members of the B.C. press making the trip.

Most of today’s pre-game talk surrounded on Monday night’s deadline to sign players from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Toronto’s top pick, Tyler Beede, remains unsigned and it’s still unclear whether the two sides will be able to make enough progress to get something done. You can find an article outlining the full story on the main site alongside today’s notebook that also has items on Aaron Hill’s woes at the plate and an injury update for pitching prospect Deck McGuire. There’s also an injury update on Rajai Davis, who has a torn left hamstring.

In the meantime here are some of today’s leftovers and don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB :

Alex Anthopoulos:

What can you say about current state of the negotiations…

“Can’t say anything. It’s the same as always, we don’t discuss any negotiations. I think every year it seems to play out the same way.”

Without getting into specifics are you optimistic or pessimistic about getting guys signed…

“You’re always hopeful I guess. I’m more realistic about the process that you can only do so much. You make an offer you feel is fair, if it’s good enough, great, would be thrilled to have the players. If it’s not good enough, for the top three rounds we’ll get the picks back the following year and we’ll move on.

“We will never be in a position where we have to sign a player because the minute you start to think that way, if we said we have to then, we’d be paying these guys a lot more money because then we’d be able to guarantee what they’re ultimately going to be.”

“As much as I think we do a good job, we’re going to be wrong on a lot of these picks, and we’re going to be wrong on the guys last year. You do your best and hopefully you have strength in numbers but I’m sure we’ll look back five, six years from now, Adam Lind shouldn’t have gone in the third round but he did and guys we took in the first round shouldn’t have gone in the first.”

If you’re unable to get these guys signed will you regret being so aggressive in the Draft…

“It doesn’t change a thing. We didn’t sign James Paxton, Jake Eliopoulos and Jake Barrett — three players in the top three rounds (in 2009) — and I think the organization is fine today as a result of it.

“We drafted them to sign them but we didn’t draft them to sign them at any cost. If 2011 would be our final draft of all-time, then fine, it doesn’t matter. But every draft and every signing impacts the following year’s signing. If you are wreckless and irresponsible in ’11 then I’ll hear about it in ’12. ”

“When you start doing the math, if you pay a player ‘x’ today that’s beyond his value, it will actually cost you significantly  more dollars down the road and that’s why we have policy in place — whether having club options or no no-trade clauses, or no suites on the road. We have policies and structures in place, we stick within those parameters and if we can’t reach those parameters we turn the page and hopefully draft players the following year.”

Were you upset Beede made public comments about the negotiations…

“No because he’s not our player. We have his rights to negotiate with him if he was under contract then I’d have my thoughts on that. But I respect the player, I respect the family, they have a decision to make, it’s their life, that type of thing. I wouldn’t have an opinion on that from a media standpoint because he’s not our player.”

On Aaron Hill…

“If he was 38 years old and at the end of of his career that would be one thing. But (the talent) still is in there and he’s flashed it at times, it just hasn’t come out on a regular basis. I would not rule it out, people thought Edwin Encarnacion wasn’t going to come back last year and then he did because he got hot at the end.

“We’re always open minded for Aaron still being a long-term part of this team.”

John Farrell:

On the high number of passed balls his club has this year…

“That has to get better, without a doubt. We don’t handle a knuckleballer that might contribute to some of those pitches that can go unexpected directions. We have to improve in that area.

“There are areas that yes, we are still in need of growth and improvement, that’s one of them. As we’ve gone through the season I think we’ve done a better job of overall strike throwing, we’ve cut down the number of walks we’ve issued but I still think we have areas, we’re not a complete team, we’re not a perfect team but that is an area that is continually getting maintenance work and will continue to do so. ”

On Lawrie going to the West Coast and playing near his hometown….

“There’s going to be firsts for every young player and the reminder will be to keep intact that his routine is. That it’s okay to say no and that his routine doesn’t get interrupted and his daily work and preparation is the priority. There will be time for all the other obligations and that will just be a reminder.

“This is someone, in the short time we’ve been around him in Spring Training or this season, there’s nothing more important to him than how he competes between the lines. But I think every player could use some reminders just to know there could be some distractions along the way and that’s all part of starting a big league career.

“I think any time you go back to play close to your hometown there’s going to be a lot of people coming out of the woodwork that you hadn’t heard from in probably 5-10 years and that’s why it’s important to know that it’s okay to say no. Brett’s a smart kid and he’ll handle this fine.”

On September callups…

“Those are conversations that have yet to be had. And how we look to do that, to add someone, to begin to cut innings back on individuals, we’ll get to that. ”

On going back to Seattle for the first time since April…

“We’ve gone through a lot of changes. We’ve got a revamped bullpen, we’ve got a number of changes on the everyday roster — the position players — with changes through the trade deadline. Not to speak specifically about one area or the other but this is a different group now than it was at the start of the season.”

Brett Lawrie after his game-tying double on Sunday:

“I’m not really going out there to try to do too much. Not to play for myself, I’m going out there to play for these guys. I know if I go out there and do everything  that I do every single day when I play the game then I’m going to be alright.

“If I go out there and play the game the right away, play for these guys, play for the fans and don’t worry about the numbers that stuff is going to come back my way eventually.”

On the at-bat versus Walden…

“He’s a fastball pitcher. He throws upper-90s to 100 mph so you have to think, okay what’s his go to pitch, what’s he about to throw. When you get yourself into a count where you’re looking to drive something, you know he’s going to come heater so you just get your foot down and try to see the ball as long as you can and try to drive it.

Do you thrive on the spotlight…

“I’m sure every guy wants to be that guy in here. I was just fortunate enough that it was my turn. I’m not going to come up in every situation like that and I was lucky enough to help the team out and that’s why I was so fired up.”

Stolen bases part of your game…

“It can be for sure. I can steal a couple of bags you just have to get yourself in the right part of the game, the right opportunity, and try to get a good read off a pitcher and just go.”

Quick update on the blog with some leftovers from today’s pre-game scrum with Blue Jays manager John Farrell and an interview with rookie outfielder Eric Thames.

On the main site you will find today’s notebook with items on Farrell’s drastic linep changes for the matinee affair against Los Angeles. You’ll also find an item on Thames’ recent resurgence at the plate and the club’s improved depth on the bench. I’ll post the link here once it goes live.

Also, don’t forget you can follow me on twitter @gregorMLB.

John Farrell:

On Adam Lind’s struggles at the plate…

“Prior to last night, the two games prior he started to swing the bat more like his normal self. He was staying behind the baseball, driving it to both parts of the field and did have a couple of balls that he turned on. The fact that he has had some performance against Weaver as well that’s why he’s in the lineup today.”

On Thames improved look in the batter’s box…

“We’ve had a couple of conversations over the last couple of days just to allow the game to come to him. Not to always look to force the issue or to try to do more than what oppositions are doing to him.

“They’ve elevated some fastballs on him that he has chased and again it gets back to understanding where your strengths are and having the wherewithall to take a pitch and not to think you have to swing at everything that crosses home plate.”

On teams throwing more high fastballs to Thames…

“I think we’ve seen it gravitate to that over the past two, two and a half weeks. When he addresses the ball down in the strike zone that’s when he is at his best.”

Eric Thames:

What have you been working on…

“Just pretty much to relax. I mean these guys are the best pitchers in the world and I’m used to my life before, getting in a rough patch here. But down in (Triple-A) it’s just like a few games, okay get out of it and get back to it. But here, everybody exposes you, so much video and it’s a lot more outside things affecting you.

“All the work with (hitting coach Dwayne) Murphy has just been to relax, get the pitch I want and don’t try to do too much. I was talking to him (on Thursday) after my base hit and I told him I’m not thinking home run anymore, I’m not trying to hit an eight-run homer. I’m just going to try and hit line drives and if it happens, it happens.”

On how opposing teams are pitching him differently…

“I’ve been trying to hit too many home runs and chase that one up and hit it out. Just been chasing too many of those and now teams are trying to attack me there and I’m working on getting my sights down a little bit. That’s the way it is, baseball is a cat and mouse game.”

Wells’ triumphant return

Vernon Wells officially made his return to Toronto on Friday night and what a return it was. Wells took the first pitch he saw from Brandon Morrow and sent it over the wall in left-centre field for his 17th homer of the season.

That moment likely will play a major role in the game story I write later tonight when this game eventually ends but it was the two minutes before that pitch that really took me by surprise.

Wells heard his fair share of boos when he was in a Blue Jays uniform and I was expecting more of the same tonight. Most of those jeers had to do with struggling to live up to the lofty expectations of a seven-year, $126-million. But when he stepped into the batter’s box for the first time as an opposing player at Rogers Centre all of that was forgotten.

The same fan base that booed the return of mild-mannered players like Lyle Overbay, Marco Scutaro and Eric Hinske in recent seasons rolled out the red carpet. The 24,731 fans in attendance rose to their feet to pay their respect to one of the most accomplished hitters in franchise history.

Wells returned the salute by stepping out of the batters box, removing his helmet and waving to the crowd. It was a classy and well deserved moment for the player who spent 12 seasons in Toronto and did a lot of good both on and off the field.

Make sure to check out my story on Wells’ return. You can also check out today’s notebook with items on Adeiny Hechavarria being promoted to Triple-A, injury updates on Carlos Villanueva and Brian Tallet, and an item on Brett Lawrie sticking in the No. 9 hole for now.

You can also follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB. Here are some of the leftovers from Wells’ news conference today that didn’t make it onto the main site. There is some interesting stuff here on his transition to the Angels, his thoughts on Toronto and of course the sign-stealing controversy:

Vernon Wells:

On what it means to be back…

“This is a special day not only for myself but for my family. It’s a place where we all had a chance to grow up, I learned so many different things. I learned about a completely different country so I’ve been able to experience a lot in this life and meet a lot of amazing people.”

On how he felt in January and how he feels now…

“There was a lot of crying at the beginning of it just saying goodbye to guys. I didn’t think it would be that hard and you start having conversations with guys that you’ve known for years and saying goodbye was difficult.

“Then the whole transition, you take forgranted just how comfortable you can be in a place that’s all you know. Spring Training, to the season, to anything you do over the course of a baseball season. It has obviously been an adjustment for me and my family but it has been fun. We moved from one great place to another great place and I think that’s the best thing that could happen.”

On pressing too much in Los Angeles…

“I think early on you move to a situation, you want to try to much at times. I’ve been guilty of that throughout this season, different times and there’s been times where I’ve just relaxed and played the game but it’s part of the adjustment. You go from a place where you’ve been comfortable and knowing what you do. You go to a place where everything changes, it has been an interesting process to go through.”

On person success of team success…

“I’ll take this situation just because I haven’t had a chance to play in a post season. Individual numbers are great but at the end of the day you want to be in the post season, you want to win a World Series, you want to have a chance to do that.

“I’ve been able to accomplish a lot individually but it really hasn’t gotten me a lot other than sitting home watching October baseball. For now I’d trade it but I’d rather have both.”

On first playoff race in his career…

“It’s fun, you’re aware of everything that goes on around you. You’re so in tune to each pitch and each run that scores. It’s a different feeling. obviously. It’s the same game, you go out and play a game, that we don’t have to grow up yet, and things like that but each thing means so much more now. It has been a fun process and it’s only going to get that much better moving forward.”

On the sign stealing controversy in Toronto…

“I’ve heard so many different conspiracy theories from different stadiums, and different teams, doing certain things. It’s a story for a little while and then it blows over and something else comes out.

“I laughed, I talked to different people about it. It is what it is, I guess that’s the best way to put it. I don’t even know where to start with it. I’ve answered too many questions about it and it’s not true. So, just move on.”

On what type of crowd reaction he expects…

“I don’t know, it could be a mix of both, it could be bad it could be good. The one thing I’ve learned in this game is that you can’t control that and anything you can’t control you try not to worry about it.

“I know there has been good times in this city, I know there has been bad times in this city, over the course of my career but I felt like I left on good terms. It wasn’t something where I wanted out. I don’t think I did too much to really piss too many people off.

“There have been situations of that in the past. I don’t want to talk about those, and who they were, but they’re kind of comical when you look back at them. I think I left on good enough terms to hopefully where it will be a good reaction and if not I’ll get in the box and try to hit a homer.”

The return of Vernon

Vernon Wells is set to make his return to Rogers Centre on Friday night with the Angels. It will mark the first time Wells has been back in Toronto since an offseason trade that sent Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays.

Wells’ return isn’t coming with nearly the same amount of fan fare that accompanied Roy Halladay on the Canada Day long weekend but I’m still very interested to see what the crowd reaction is going to be like. In conversations with other reporters in the press box the general consensus seems to be that there will be at least an equal number of boos to cheers, and to be honest, I would find that a little disappointing.

As a journalist I always aim to be as impartial as possible and remove any emotional aspect to my line of thinking. Perhaps that’s why I struggle to understand why on earth fans would hold a grudge against Wells and give him the rough treatment this weekend. This is a guy that spent parts of 12 seasons in Toronto and is among the franchise all-time leaders in virtually every offensive category.

Did he deserve the seven-year, $126 million contract he signed earlier in his career? Obviously not — but Rogers Communications, along with general manager J.P. Ricciardi and president Paul Godfrey were the ones who offered that amount. It’s not Wells’ fault he didn’t live up to the lofty — and overhyped — expectations.

The fact is Wells ranks second in club history in runs (789), hits (1529), doubles (343), home runs (223) and RBIs (813). He ranks first in at-bats (5470) and second in games played with 1393. He won Gold Gloves and was named to All-Star teams during his time here and was a leader in the clubhouse.

The native of Texas never quite lived up to the hype but he clearly still enjoyed a lot of success. He also seemed to enjoy his time in the city and with the fans. Wells came to the defense of his former teammates during the sign stealing controversy earlier this week and during his goodbye conference call he teared up on more than one occasion looking back on his time in Toronto. Say what you want, but the guy cared.

Wells said earlier this year that he would expect a mixed reaction upon his return and that’s probably what it will be. But deep down I’m willing to bet he’s hoping for a warm reception.

Check the main website for today’s notebook which has items on Brett Lawrie, Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Teahan and Jesse Litsch. Also, don’t forget you can follow me on twitter @gregorMLB

Here are some leftovers from the Blue Jays series vs. Oakland:

John Farrell:

On the recent near collisions in the outfield between Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista

“The more familiar they get in games played that communication will (improve). But it’s the second time in about four days that we’ve had that convergence in the outfield and fortunately the out has been made both times but we have to continue to stress the communication there.

“I think that’s where the familiarity of them playing together, because Jose is a dominant type of player. He’s a vocal player and he’s a take charge guy. They’ve got a little bit better rhythm and communication in the moment.”

Whether Brett Lawrie’s swagger is an attitude a lot of winning teams have…

“No question about it. One, there’s an overriding expectation to win. But I think a lot of veterans can be supported by young athletic players that are talented, that bring energy every day and not only do teams draw from the energy in the building but it works hand in hand. We have to draw people in here because it’s a fun team to watch, it’s a talented team and it’s one that’s going to play a hard-nosed brand of baseball.”

Adam Lind:

On his recent struggles..

“It’s still a work in progress, trying to do it consistency. I’ve had a few moments of good timing this series.”

“It’s just something that kind of snowballed. Started off small and then just carried through Baltimore. I just tried to slow the game down and get ready earlier and that’s helped.”

Improved lineup make it easier not to press?

“No, not really but I think our lineup is really great right now. We have youth and excitement and speed and power so I think it will be a tough lineup to pitch to.”

Impressive work defensively at first base…

“I didn’t really expect it to be an issue, personally. I knew it was a question that had to be answered but I was always a good first baseman when I was young. I wasn’t an outfielder and they threw me out there and we all saw how that was for a few years. Now I’m back at the position I grew up.”

On Blue Jays poor record during day games…

“I don’t really know. Maybe look at the starting pitchers we face during the day. Maybe our sign stealer takes weekends off.”

Brad Mills:

On his rough outing versus Oakland…

“I was just trying to stay back as much as I can. Sometimes I make an adjustment. It was just one of those days where it wasn’t clicking. On days where you have it you don’t have to think too much and it just kind of happens. Today was one of those days where it just wasn’t there and I really had to try to focus as hard as I could to do it and ewasn’t able to.”

“I felt like I didn’t have it and knew I had to concentrate a lot. The ones (pitches) I got guys out in the first couple of innings I was locating down but it caught up to me and again, it was just one of those days. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t happening today.”

Reporting for duty…

I’m back in action after a weekend off to attend a very memorable wedding reception for two of my good friends. The Blue Jays started a string of 13 games in 13 nights and that includes a trip to the West Coast. I’ll be with you for every single one of those games so make sure to check back here on the blog for plenty of content as we move forward.

The main site has an article on Brett Lawrie’s debut at Rogers Centre. Henderson Alvarez’s Major League debut on Wednesday, and Brett Cecil suffering a tough loss to Oakland. Plus, in case you missed it my feature on right-hander Dustin McGowan was posted yesterday.

Don’t forget you can find me on Twitter @gregorMLB. In the meantime, there’s a whole bunch of leftovers that didn’t make it onto the site today. It was one of those days where there was just so much happening and not enough time to write it all. But here’s some of what Brett Lawrie, Henderson Alvarez, and John Farrell had to say that didn’t appear in the articles:


Brett Lawrie

On the difference between now and the “I’m through with the Minor Leagues” attitude of the offseason…

“I think just growing as a professional, growing as a teammate and just growing as a person. I think it’s one of those things where you have to look at yourself and wonder where you’re at in your life and in your game. I think just playing with the Toronto Blue Jays and having all these people in my corner–  it has been awhile since I’ve had a lot of people in my corner. It kind of feels like I found a home here and I think that what kind of changed me as a person and as a professional.”

“I think coming into my first Major League camp it got of really hit me that I want to make an impression, I want to be a good teammate, I want to be a good professional. Someone who, maybe a little kid will want to look up to me some day, just trying to be that guy that can help my team win, not worry about myself but worry about the ballclub and put everyone else above myself.”

On his quick rise through the Minors…

“I kind of feel like I’m young but I’m old in the sense of how quick I’ve moved. There is not a number of years you can stamp on how long it takes to get to the Major Leagues. I guess I did it relatively early. I don’t know, I just go out there and play I don’t really worry about my age or anyone else.”

“I think it’s one of those things when you get into a big league clubhouse you get involved in the surroundings, the coaching, that big league lifestyle, you tend to pick up things and you keep your ears open as a young guy. Especially me going into my first big league spring you kind of have to harness it and keep your ears open and try to learn things that have been in the game for nine, 10 years, Johnny Mac and Jose Bautista.”

Henderson Alvarez (through interpreter Luis Rivera)

On whether he was surprised to get called up so quickly…

“I felt like I threw the ball well in Double-A. I put up good numbers and that’s probably the reason I got called up to the big leagues … Now in this organization after you get to Double-A, you have a good chance also to be in the big leagues. I’m glad to be here after a good year in Double-A. I worked hard to be in a good position in Double-A.

On the turning point in his young career…

“I got a chance to play winter ball in Venezuela and I did well. It’s a good league, I faced Double-A, Triple-A and big league hitters and I did a nice job over there. Whatever I did in Venezuela I was doing it in Double-A this year … Venezuela helped me a lot during the winter, keeping the ball down and getting ahead of the hitters and that’s what I was doing the whole time in Double-A.

On what he learned from the veteran players earlier this year…

“When I was in Spring Training I knew I had to keep my mouth shut and open my ears. I did that, I asked a lot of questions, I talked to (Octavio) Dotel, (Ricky) Romero and Frankie (Francisco), they gave me a lot of good advice. Keep the ball down, get ahead of the hitters, all the expectations of being a big league pitcher and how to prepare to be ready. I did that when I left Spring Training and went down to the Minor Leagues and was doing that. When the season started that’s what was on my mind, the preparation to get ready for the fifth day and the preparation.”

On deciding to focus on the slider…

“My pitching coach in Double-A Pete Walker told me that for me to be effective I need to have a breaking ball and I need to work on the slider. I was using the fastball and going back to the slider and that’s how I was getting people out in Double-A.”

On his low strikeout rate…

“I never pitch to strike out anybody. I pitch to contact … I’m not thinking about strikeouts I’m thinking about quick outs, pitch deep into games and now with the slider that’s the pitch I’m going to probably increase my strikeout ratio.

John Farrell

On decision to start Alvarez on Wednesday instead of Friday or Saturday…

“(Wednesday)  is the normal turn in the rotation for Alvarez’s start being last Friday, so he’s on a normal rotation. It gives us the chance to split up the lefties with another power arm right-hander. We’re looking forward to Henderson’s debut tomorrow.”

On the key to Alvarez’s development this year…

“His slider has come along. It has given him a defined third pitch in addition to his fastball and his changeup. And, the fact that he has continued to show strides in his overall command and overall performance coming out of Spring Training which he impressed during the time there and the fact that we’ve got a young very goodlooking pitching prospect. Felt like it was time to get his feet wet up here.”

On whether Alvarez was someone he targeted in Spring Training…

“The entire organization has clearly had an eye on him. This is someone that has shown powerful stuff throughout his pro career. The fact that he has developed this third pitch … but the fact is it’s a very good looking prospect that we’re excited to get exposed at the big league level here.”

The added value of his work with Double-A manager Sal Fasano…

“We value Sal’s opinion, his judgement, his evaluation ability. With everyone else that traveled through there whether it was Tony LaCava, Pete Walker who has been with him all 14 of those starts the reports have been consistent throughout his time there. Even when he has had a rough outing he has bounced back and continued to make those necessary strides.”

On what’s most impressive about Alvarez…

“I think any time you have a fastball that you can get outs with in the strike zone is critical, the higher you go not only in the system but certainly at this level … When you see his velocity that has been mid-to-upper 90s at times it gives him a dominant-type weapon to complement the changeup and slider.”

On Alvarez touching 100 mph in Double-A…

“The one thing I think we need to be careful with is certain fastballs play differently than the radar gun indicates. The most important thing is going to be the basics here. That he pitches ahead in the count, that he pitches down in the strikezone and that he doesn’t become predictable in certain counts. I know that’s a lot to ask a guy in his first outing here but he’s going to be pitching with a lot of adrenaline and we’re going to be looking for the composure he shows on the mound and his ability to work ahead in the count.”

On the youth movement and how that started after getting blown out in Atlanta earlier this summer…

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a debacle, we got swept. But the way this roster has evolved with trades and through promotions from within, we have gotten younger, we have gotten more athletic as a whole, and there’s an ever growing group of coreplayers that allow us the right to be excited every time we come to the ballpark and see guys grow together and play together as a unit. Henderson is one of those to add to that list.

“What’s clear is that the overall level of talent continues to grow and increase. That gives us every right to have increased expectations as we go forward. What their ultimate level of performance is, time will tell that, but when they come with a skillset and a package of tools that project to be better than average that’s exciting for everyone.

On wanting elite players at every position…

“When you look at the American League East you’re going up against teams that have above-average players at every position so those are the teams that we have to compete against more readily, or more often against, and that’s not to be disrespectful to anyone, but we know that in this division we’re going up against two of the higher payrolls in baseball and they’re going to have good players. When you have the ability to take multiple players that project to be a certain level of skillset and turn that into an abov- average tools package and player, those are the deals that we see and that’s the overall plan to put a damn good player at every position.”

On whether it’s harder to debut as a pitcher or position player…

“Pitching is harder and I say that not just because I’m a former pitcher but you can’t hide out there on the mound. You’re fully exposed from a pitch execution standpoint, to your mound presence, to how you execute key pitches. Those (situations) rear their head probably a little bit more than four-five at-bats in a given night. That’s certainly not to down play a position player — or Brett in this case — but a starting pitcher you can’t hide, you can’t ease him in and out. He’s in there and he’s got this entire club — I don’t want to say on his shoulders — but he’s the guy on that given night.

Difference between Opening Day lineup and now…

“The only comparison is that we’re all wearing the Blue Jays’ uniform. The fact is it’s a younger lineup, it’s a more athletic lineup top to bottom and even talking about it with some other guys in the clubhouse before we came out on the field today, you can’t wait to see the next guy come to the plate, because not only is he relatively new in our uniform and our organization, but he’s relatively new at the big league level and there’s some excitement in getting to know the players that have recently come.

On September call-ups…

“We haven’t even begun to talk about who would come up in September other than guys that have been here whether it was Travis (Snider), (Mike) McCoy, (Kyle) Drabek. We haven’t had the discussions of what the expanded roster is going to look like. You want to make the time that when the players come here you have at-bats and innings to distribute either in the appropriate number … we haven’t worked through the mechanics yet of what those additions would be.”