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.”

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