September 2011

C.J. Wilson talks Twitter

C.J. Wilson gets the call in Game 1 of the ALDS for Texas in what should prove to be an intriguing matchup between two teams that play an exciting brand of baseball. This is my first time covering Wilson but I’ve followed him on Twitter for quote some time.

Over the year he has proven to be one of the more colourful and interesting players in the game. Since the Blue Jays organization has more players on Twitter than any other team in the Major Leagues I thought this segment from Wilson’s press conference today would be of particular importance to Toronto fans — especially the ones who follow the likes of Ricky Romero, Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia, and Jose Bautista on the social networking site.

A reporter asked about Wilson’s interests off the field and the possible distractions that might cause and here’s what he had to say. Also don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB

Q.  You mentioned your interests off the field, and I know a lot of athletes more and more are getting involved in Twitter, and you are very active in that respect.  How much is that an outlet for you with fans or does that get your mind off things?

It doesn’t get my mind off stuff.  If anything, it gets my mind on stuff.  It is a news feed.  Like I don’t really watch a lot of TV, other than I watch Formula One racing, I watch Shark Week, and other than that    I may watch basketball.  Now that Lost is over, I have nothing to watch on TV.

I don’t really follow what’s going on unless I get it through Twitter.  I feel like I’m really busy all the time, and Twitter enables me to stay engaged with what is going on everywhere.  Yesterday with the baseball stuff going on, I was able to see like, oh, who is starting today, all that stuff, what’s the score.  I was getting updates through the guys that tweet about that stuff.

But more than anything it’s helped me thicken my skin a lot.  You have a lot of people on there that are like    you are accessible as a player.  If they want to drop harsh language on you or express a distaste for your team or your city step your left handedness or blue glove or whatever, they’re going to do it and you have to sit there and take it and find a way to be positive about it.

So I think the biggest thing is it’s sort of a maturity thing where you try not to overly engage the negative fans, because there’s a very big trap with that.  Like I am a relatively G rated personality off the field, so there’s like only so much I can say, you know.  Like I told a guy to wash his mouth out with soap yesterday, and I was very proud of myself for limiting it to that, because obviously if he was in the tunnel down here, I would say something completely different.

You have to maintain the professionalism, and that is the biggest challenge I think you see with all the other sports as well.  Like Herm Edwards has a thing.  He’s like, Re read that three times before you send it.  And I know some people do need that.  I’ve been doing social media stuff for eight years now, so it is kind of old hat.

But I think Twitter is fun.  But for me it is mostly a promotional tool for my charity and for my off the field interests, whether it is my racing team or my friends, D.J.s or whatever, all that stuff.

 

Rookie season almost done

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everybody for their continued support during my rookie season on the beat. I hope everyone enjoyed my first-year coverage on the main http://bluejays.com website, on Twitter and here on the blog. It was a great learning experience and I appreciate the feedback I received through the comments on the main site and for those who took the time to email me this year.

It’s hard to believe the regular-season has come to an end already. Don’t worry, though, there will still be plenty of Blue Jays coverage coming in the following days, weeks and months leading up to next year’s Spring Training. On the main site in the next day or so you will find my Season in Review and also an Outlook for the 2012 Campaign.

I’m actually being traded to the Rays or Red Sox to help out with the playoff coverage for the upcoming Division Series depending on which team makes the playoffs. After that’s over I’ll start getting into plenty of features on the Blue Jays website to hold everyone over until Alex Anthopoulos starts making moves in the offseason.

Even without any games it’s likely to be a busy offseason for the club and we’ll have you covered every step of the way. A quick reminder, you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB and make sure to check back often.

Thanks… and keep reading!

Gregor

Farrell reflects on Year One

John Farrell’s first season as manager came to an end on Wednesday and for the most part the club played up to expectations this year. At the start of Spring Training this looked like a club that would finish around the .500 mark and seemed destined for a fourth-place finish in the American League East.

I think only the most die hard of fans thought this team had a realistic shot of making the post-season but even without meaningful games in September it was enjoyable to watch this young club improve as the season progressed. Despite the record there were lot of surprises on this team: The debut of Brett Lawrie, the underwhelming performance by the starting staff, the late-inning collapses and of course more moves by general manager Alex Anthopoulos.

Here’s what Farrell had to say about his first year in Toronto and what, if any, changes he would made if he could have done it all over again:

John Farrell:

Any surprises in your first year?

“The one thing I was never exposed to was the responsibility of 25 players. In the past it’s been 40 percent of a roster with the pitching staff, but the depth of the 25 guys that you’ve got to be in tune with, to be put them in the best position for success, managing the clubhouse, being in tune with what’s going on with an individual player whether it’s mentally, physically or fundamentally, there’s a lot of time spent, a lot of maintenance in those areas to be abreast of each guy in the clubhouse.”

Were you challenged by any position players?

Not one on one, no. Or really even in game situations where maybe a decision based on my background might have run counter to what their thoughts were. I feel like there has been an honest respect on both sides, a mutual respect with their team and just the way our staff and myself communicate with them. I think there was a very clear understanding of what the expectations were for our group, for what each individual was. Sometimes that might have been a conversation and a message delivered that they might not have necessarily liked but it was an honest one.

Adjustments as the season progressed?

“We set out in Spring Training to create a different culture or a different approach to the game. One that was certainly more aggressive. We knew that would provide, or present, more opportunities to run or create more runs in certain situations. But the flip side of that is we knew we were going to take more risks and because of that there might be some outs that we do run into. It’s hard to say if we were to go back at the start of the year, with the roster that we had, and just say okay we’re going to play station to station baseball, I tend to believe right now we wouldn’t have scored as many runs.”

Looking back would you have changed anything?

“To get better at, would be the use of the bullpen. Recognizing that every year a given team is put together, there are going to be some uncertainties there. We had a number of options late in the game and because of those options there might not have been the defined roles that when you’ve got one guy, one closer, one eighth inning guy, that might be more readily available. In reflecting, in retrospect, handling the bullpen that’s certainly an area that can be improved upon and yet I feel like that can happen with continued consistency and continuity from the entire group.”

“In going back I would have liked to have had more defined roles for the group that was down there. That might have been because of my personal usage or matching guys up and yet when a given pitcher might not have performed well we went to the next option. It might have created a little bit of inconsistency in their mindset and to be able to think along with the game knowing that, okay, my time of the game is coming up and I can mentally prepare. So that chance that took place, whether it was Frankie as a closer, Rauch as a closer, Dotel as another available guy. In hindsight I wish I had done a better job with that group.

“If that would have lent to more consistency on the whole season, as I look back, I could have done a better job in that area.”

Message to Alex Anthopoulos about improvements to the club in the offseason?

“Those have been ongoing conversations since probably mid June. And that’s one of the benefits of the communication that we have with Alex and his staff. Whatever is said on (team meeting) Friday won’t come as a surprise. It will be a continuation of all the conversations that have taken place. I really feel like when you look at any team that is contending or going into the post season their cornerstone in the rotation. Improvements in that area whether they’re internal or external would be item number one.”

How close is this team to contending?

“I think what will play directly into that is the additions or the changes that might take place. If we’re able to upgrade in that or if we feel the upgrading are greater internally. We have every belief and certainly I do that next year is a step in that direction and that is to contend.”

What does the final record say?

“We’re a .500 team. That’s not satisfying, that’s just I think where we are right now. We’ve gone through a lot of change and at the same time because we’ve played in many stretches very well on the road this team doesn’t shy away from challenges or environments that might be hostile for lack of a better term or not being in the comfort of being at home. I think that goes hand in hand with the  resiliency and the overall characteristics and personality of the team. “

Morrow finishes on a high…

Brandon Morrow finished the year on a strong note with his third consecutive quality start. The final three outings saw an improved curveball, the introduction of a cutter and an aggressive approach on the mound that resulted in the dramatic turnaround.

The 27-year-old now goes into the off-season with a positive outlook following a season in which he suffered through plenty of ups and downs. Morrow believes he has figured something out and he also managed to throw a career high number of innings while also becoming the fourth pitcher in Blue Jays history to record at least 200 strikeouts in a season.

Here’s what he had to say following Toronto’s 3-2 victory:

Brandon Morrow:

On final three starts…

“I kept talking about finishing strong and I think I did just that. Over the last three outings getting two wins and three quality starts to finish the year. I feel pretty good about it.”

On becoming fourth Blue Jays’ pitcher to reach 200-strikeout plateau…

“It’s something I was looking to, especially this last game. I knew I needed four and I think that led to some of the walks early in the game but I settled myself down and ended up getting it and a few more. It was a good day.”

Different atmosphere in the clubhouse this year?

“I think so. We’re definitely on an upward swing as far as our play and the quality of the games we’re playing, and the mood in the clubhouse, everybody is really moving in the right direction.”

How important were those final three starts…

“Quite a bit. If I would have finished on that last run of poor games it definitely doesn’t help you any. But coming back and throwing three really good games I can watch those and know what I was doing to be successful.”

Proving something to the organization?

“I think I need to prove something to myself and prove something to those guys that I could finish strong and that I could get out of that funk and get back to pitching good games.”

On new aggressive approach being key…

“I think so. Just the memory of it and the aggressiveness with all of my pitches. It’s not necessarily throwing as hard as you can every pitch but being aggressive with that curveball and I think that was the big difference maker the last three starts. The way J.P. was calling it, the way we threw the curveball and was getting that over. It just makes everything else better.”

Going to stick with the cutter?

“Yeah, definitely. I gave up the home run on the cutter today but that may have just taken a touch off to throw a strike like I talked about before and I was a little mad at myself for that. You make one mistake but you put your foot back on the gas and finish strong. “

 

Morrow unveils new pitch

Brandon Morrow officially unveiled a new pitch during his last start against the Red Sox but on Sunday afternoon he began to throw it on a more regular basis. It’s a mix between a slider and a cut-fastball, which appeared to do wonders against the powerful Yankees lineup.

Morrow had arguably his best start of the season and snapped a personal four-game losing streak with eight scoreless innings. His velocity was back up in the mid-to-upper 90s while the cutter was clocking in at 88-91. The difference in velocity kept the Yankees hitters off balance and left them unprepared to handle a curveball that Morrow went to for an out pitch after getting ahead in the count.

It was a big step forward for Morrow, who has two starts remaining in his season. The 27-year-old, in my opinion, has the best pure stuff on the Blue Jays pitching staff. The results haven’t been there since the All-Star Break but they resurfaced against the Yankees and it could go down as a big building block heading into the offseason.

Here are today’s leftovers… and don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB.

John Farrell:

On the cutter…

“What he has done, is he has taken his slider and tightened it up some. So a lot of the pitches where he was in fastball counts, he would go to the cutter, 3-1 fly ball to right field from Rodriguez, a couple of foul balls at the plate. Then he used his curveball a little bit more as a finishing pitch.

“It’s just a slight adjustment off his slider but yeah he used it. The breaking balls you’re seeing 88-91.

On Thames being hit in the head and whether he had seen that before…

“On some crazy blooper highlights but not in person like that. That’s kind of a scary moment. At first, you thought it hit him in the helmet to take the helmet off but it was a direct blow to the eye and then caromed to the visor and took it off. But I think, right now, he’s fortunate that the laceration is the only thing that is sustained.

“Within a matter of 30 seconds to a minute it was swelling quite a bit. He wanted to finish the at-bat but there was now way we were going to let him at that point.”

Thought about letting Morrow finish the game?

“We’ve got kind of a soft limit in terms of pitch count. He’s at 107, didn’t want to get him to 120 pitches, eight very good innings pitched today. To leave on a positive note, as well as Frankie (Francisco) has been pitching, it was a decision that was relatively easy.”

Different approach in Morrow’s start today?

“The one thing that he’s attempted to do and that is pitch a little more controlled at times. In other words, not reach back for his best velocity all the time. I’m not saying he’s feeling for it, but maybe in some ways pacing himself somewhat and when he missed location that’s when he has been hurt without his best velocity. He went out today with a little bit more determination from the first pitch on. So when he made a mislocated pitch on the plate it was a foul ball rather than a pitch getting squared up. He was able to sustain that stuff for the entire outing today.

“I think just better consistent intensity from start to finish.”

On Arencibia throwing out Cano in the first and how that helped Morrow…

“I think when you look back we’ve seen, I don’t want to say a big inning, but a multi-run inning, and they’ve shown up at various points in the game. But the double steal that we were able to get the trail runner, any time you’re able to pick up an extra out in those potential big innings, it can snuff it out and fortunately today it was.

“For any starting pitcher you’re looking to kind of settle into the rhythm of the game in that first and he got some help from behind the plate in that case.”

On Thames’ defence in left field…

“He’s come a long way in left field. He’s a tireless worker, there’s been some times early on where it was a little touch and go but through the repetition he’s feeling more comfortable. I think instinctually, and through repetition, he’s getting better reads on some balls that tail towards the line and that was the case again today. “

Adam Lind:

On Morrow…

“The potential of him every night to be unhittable, he’s capable of it every night. Today he was unhittable. When he has that kind of stuff, he’s one of the best pitchers in the big leagues.

Upcoming schedule…

“These next seven games are meaningful to us because it’s against good competition and it’s definitely meaningful to those teams because they want to try and make the playoffs.”

On wrist injury…

“Just something that can’t heal because it’s such a important part of your swing, and all the vibrations and all that stuff. He’s given me a lot of days off lately and I think it’s really helped with my wrist recovery.”

Summary of his season…

“There’s been some times of struggle. There’s been some really good times. I think my numbers are pretty good, but I didn’t play in May, I was there in August and really didn’t do anything, so pretty much it’s four months of work that my numbers come from. Those months have been good and August was really bad.”

Brandon Morrow:

“I needed that once just to get my confidence back. I’m still trying to finish strong and that’s a good place to start.

“I went out very aggressive. I was very aggressive in my bullpen and warming up and I just said I’m going to give everything I have pretty much on every pitch, go right at them and give it my best stuff.

“I went as hard as I could for as long as I could.

“When I try to make pitches I get myself in trouble leaving the ball up instead of finishing it off. Even if I miss my spot a little bit my fastball still has enough life on it to get to the back of their swing. With the curveball I was throwing it for strikes and throwing it down and getting them in between, because that’s my best change of speed pitch.

“The cutter was good at getting my early outs and a big out 3-1 against A-Rod, that’s a big pitch right there where they’re probably looking heater.”

One of the all-time greats

Major League Baseball players would never admit this but there has to be a sinking feeling in the dugout when they see Mariano Rivera entering the game. The 17-year veteran has arguably been the most consistent reliever of all-time and aside from his rookie year — during which he spent part of the season in the starting rotation — he has posted an ERA over three just once in his career. Rivera has just 72 blown saves in his entire career while the Toronto bullpen has 25 this year alone.

Rivera further cemented his place among the all-time greats on Saturday afternoon by recording career save No. 601, which moved him into a tie with Trevor Hoffman for the most in Major League history. What makes that accomplishment even more impressive is that Rivera has been able to enjoy so much success with essentially one pitch. The native of Panama throws almost exclusively a cut-fastball but his ability to dart that pitch in and out and throw it to all four quadrants of the strike zone has made him virtually unhittable even if the hitter knows what’s coming.

There’s a little under two weeks left in the season but it appears as though Rivera will take over sole possession of first place on the all-time saves list in the near future. Here’s what Blue Jays manager John Farrell had to say about it as well as some other leftovers.

Don’t forget, you can find me on twitter @gregorMLB.

John Farrell:

On Rivera…

“He’s into territory now where he’s going to be in unchartered waters. Easily labeled as the best closer of all time. What’s remarkable is that when you watch video of when he first came up to where he is now, it’s the same exact delivery and I think that speaks volumes to his athleticism, how he’s kept himself in shape, and even with some minor injuries along the way, his performance has been second to none.
 
“You’re hard-pressed to find someone like him. Whether you want to call that a freak of nature or not it’s a remarkable level of performance. When you consider how many post seasons he has pitched in above and beyond what guys in a similar role would be in, easily the best of all-time.”

On the key to his success…

“I think many people that look at the closer role, it’s important to have a short-term memory so that you do stay on an even keel so you don’t ride the ultimate highs, or the lows. You prepare for the next opportunity that’s given to you. Let’s face it, he’s had an awful lot of opportunities and he’s not only been excellent in performance but the durability is remarkable.”

On the feeling in the dugout when he enters the game…

“You’re hoping you don’t break too many bats and you’re hoping you get a chance to put some quality at-bats together. You know it’s got a chance to be a quick 1-2-3, you know you have your hands full every time he walks to the mound.”

On having the success with just one pitch…
 
“He has thrown predominantly the cut fastball but he can throw it to four quadrants of the strike zone. Even though  the guys that step into the box have an idea that that pitch is going to be thrown, the lateness to it, and the ability to execute to both sides of the plate still keeps the guessing game clearly in his favor. He’s a hell of a closer.”

On September call-ups and how that affects strategy..

“Our goal is to go out and continue to put together a game to win every night. The players that have had the majority, if not all the season here, they’re not being pushed aside to take a look at a young guy. Yes, we’ll find ways to get exposure and get a read on players that have just come up in September but by no means are the players that have been here all year now being put off in the corner for a new group of young players.”

On Alvarez and the possibility of going to Winter Ball…

“We haven’t sat down with him but when you look at the combined number of innings that he pitched last year, he’s approaching that this year, the one thing we fully respect is the national pride and the natural pull to pitch for their home country and their teams but I think what we need to do is educate him through the process of the long road where his benefits may come from.”

Dustin McGowan:

Ready for more than five innings?

“I’m ready for whatever. If they want me to go another inning, I will, if they don’t, I won’t. Right now I feel good and that’s all you can ask for.

“I am done worrying about what if I throw this many pitches will I get hurt again. I’m not worried about that at all anymore.”

On how the offspeed pitches feel right now…

“You know what, it differs every day still right now. Some days, the breaking balls, I’ve got a good feel for them, other days I don’t. That’s the one thing I wish I had a feel for every time but I know it’s going to take a little more time. Just keep going.”

On going a full five innings for the first time since 2008…

“It was a good feeling. I’m proud of the guys, they battled back. That’s (Sabathia) one of the best pitchers in baseball over there. It was tough for him with us. So, overall, good win for us. It’s good when you beat the Yanks.”

Practice preaches patience

Blue Jays manager John Farrell couldn’t have been more pleased on Thursday afternoon about his club’s performance from the night before. Toronto entered the eighth inning trailing by two but used a five-run inning to win for the second time in three games against Boston.

The come-from-behind victory came in a somewhat unconventional way. Toronto recorded just two hits in the frame but drew three walks and also a hit batter. That type of patience is exactly what Farrell has spent a lot of time talking about in recent days as he looks for his team to have better at-bats.

It’s the type of approach that has worked well for New York and Boston in recent years and one Farrell hopes to incorporate with the Blue Jays. There were too many other things going on in today’s notebook to touch on the issue there but here are his quotes from Thursday afternoon about plate discipline.

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

John Farrell:

“I don’t think anything has changed. A walk is a weapon, but you have to earn them. You have to earn putting doubt or fear in a pitcher’s mind. It’s one thing to go in and think about working a pitch count but there has to be talent and ability to do that.”

“I’m not saying we all have to be Jose Bautista but his approach that he demonstrates is exactly what we’re trying to accomplish and that can be a learned skill. That’s part of a culture that you have to talk about, that you have to preach and you have to bring to life day in and day out with the talk in the dugout, the talk from early work on through what the benefits are shown in a given game.”

“Ideally you’re getting into a count that you’re going to get a pitch on the plate. And to trust that if you don’t swing at the first pitch that’s on the plate, you’re going to get another one and you’re probably going to get 60-plus percent fastball.”

“Pitchers are going to make mistakes. They’re going to make mistakes. You might not get any in the first at-bat but at some point in the game, a pitcher can’t command his fastball for every pitch he throws 100% of the time. That just doesn’t happen.”

On Brett Lawrie…

“His pitch recognition, his hand-eye coordination, is outstanding. As much as maybe some of the chasing of breaking balls was taking place early on in Las Vegas, he has been outstanding here from Day 1.

On Morrow…

“These are experiences that he’s going through for the first time — given that he’s at 170-plus innings or whatever that might get him to at the end of the season. He’s learning right now either through frustration or through success. Those are going to continue to form him and the pitcher he becomes.”

Post-game chatter on Romero beating Boston for just the third time in his career:

Ricky Romero:

“It feels good to beat these guys, especially to take the series three out of four. They’re a tough team, they’re really. really good.

“I just came out and I was aggressive. I was down in the zone with strikes and made them chase pitches out of the zone. I think that’s what you have to do with these guys. You can’t fall behind, because once you fall behind you get in trouble. I think at times when they hurt me I was behind in the count.  I felt at times I was trying to trick them, trying to show them pitches and try to kind of nibble. Today, I kind of just went with my instincts.”

John Farrell:

“I think we’re all aware of the success that the Red Sox had against him. But the adjustment he made with his game plan by using his curveball a little bit more. He threw a high number of strikes and did a very good job of pitching in advantage counts for most of the night.”

Looked like he was really battling…

“I think any time you go against a team like this, or NewYork, they make you work. The one thing Ricky does, he doesn’t leave anything on the field. He gives it his all every single time on the mound and when you go up against opponents like tonight you have to be at your best. They bring that out on the individual guy on the mound.”

On what this means to both Ricky and the club…

“I think the one thing it prove to Ricky is that he learned from his past experiences, he made some adjustments, went out and executed and it proved to be a successful formula. Any time we’re up against our divisional rivals, we’re looking to not only compete but win do and do the best we can. We’ve had some scuffles this year when you look at the overall record against our division but the season’s not over yet.”

McGowan makes his return

It was more than three years in the making but Dustin McGowan finally made his long-awaited return to the Major Leagues on Tuesday night.

In a way, the game had an almost Spring-Training-like feel to it. That’s because the outcome didn’t seem to matter – the game was already well out of hand by the time McGowan took the mound. Instead the focus was on the personal struggles McGowan has suffered through during the past three years and what it took for him to get back into a big league uniform.

The long road to recovery has been well-documented over the year. Surgery after surgery, setback after setback. But the version of McGowan that took the mound against Boston seemed to have all the makings of a pitcher who isn’t just content with making his return but intent on having an impact.

McGowan consistently threw in the mid-90s while also displaying an impressive slider and changeup. Most of the post-game talk centered around how effortlessly he appeared to be throwing the ball. It’s possible that all the time away from the Majors gave McGowan an opportunity to perfect his delivery and make the most of his talents.

I had the opportunity to sit down with McGowan at the Blue Jays Minor League complex in the beginning of August. At that point, the Bobby Mattick Training Center was his home away from home. He spent the vast majority of three years working out at the club’s facility. He’d see other injured players arrive and leave again once deemed healthy enough. With the constant flow of bodies, the only real constant was the medical staff and his family who took up residence at a nearby resort.

At the time of the interview he had just been informed he would be making one last rehab start for Class-A Dunedin before being promoted to Double-A. He talked openly about his desire to just see another State and get back to pitching at a higher level. McGowan said by the time September rolled around he would be ready to throw five innings.

He never quite reached that level of work in one game during his stint in the Minors. But sure enough, there he was on Tuesday night coming out for his fifth inning of work. He wasn’t able to complete the frame but I think it’s safe to say that his opportunity to pitch in the starting rotation is going to happen before the season is over.

Here are plenty of leftovers from tonight’s post-game talk, which of course is all about McGowan:

Dustin McGowan:

“It was a little nerve racking jogging in. When I got there, everybody on their feet, it got to me a little bit, but you got to concentrate on pitching.”

“First inning, I was so pumped up, that everything was up. Sometimes it’s hard to pitch to a team that seems like they have it going from the start. Some nights you don’t want to go out there and face that team but second inning, I thought, ‘You know what, it’s the same thing. I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s just like pitching in Single-A and Double-A. You still have to face the batters, throw the pitches where you want to and get them out.’ ”

Proudest moment?

“Baseball wise, yeah. It was special to come back and be able to do this after three years. Just want to thank this organization for sticking with me.”

On Farrell saying he could enter the mix as a SP….

“It means a lot. It gives me something to work towards but if it’s not this year, I’ll do what I gotta do in the bullpen this year and then have a fresh start next year.”

Feel like the Dustin McGowan of old?

“Somewhat I did, to tell you the truth. Stuff wise, maybe not quite as sharp and as strong as I once was. But I think that’s going to come as I get further away from the injury and it should come back I think.”

Mentally stronger now?

“Absolutely. To go through what I did for those years, you just learn. If that doesn’t break you then this should be cake. When you get out there you should be ready to go.

On moments of doubt during the long rehab…

“A few. I had those days where I’d go out and throw and I was like, ‘Man this is not good.’ The good thing is I got through it and now I’ve had other guys ask me when they’re struggling, it’s good I can tell them, ‘You know what, it’s not the end. Some things you just have to battle through and hope it will work out.’ ”

John Farrell

“I think the first zero we put up was in the sixth inning. Kind of tells the story right there.

“But on a night when things didn’t go our way in many phases of the game one of the more significant developments took place with McGowan’s outing tonight.”

“To think that there’s three-plus years in the time since he had his last big league outing, I thought the ball got out of his hand very good, didn’t overwork to create velocity, threw pitches for strikes, I thought a very, very good outing overall despite the three runs allowed.”

What surprised you the most about McGowan’s performance?

“The thing that was maybe surprising, but certainly encouraging, was the effort in which his delivery was generating. He didn’t come out of his delivery, he commanded the baseball. The two walks in the fifth inning (of work), that’s the first time he walked out to start a fifth inning in more than three years.

“Whether that’s fatigue related, I don’t know, but just the overall repeating of his delivery and the overall pitch mix along with the power to his fastball was very encouraging.”

What did you say to McGowan after his outing…

“Just mentioning to him, don’t look at the overall line score here. Look at the way the ball came out of your hand and his ability to repeat his delivery and generate good velocity without overworking. It was a very encouraging outing for him.”

On McGowan’s role moving forward….

“We’re in that time of year where we’re trying to get answers to questions. I think we go into the off-season with questions surrounding our pitching staff, particularly our rotation. If we continue to gather that type of information as we go forward, this is got a first step towards a significant development.”

On anticipation in the dugout before McGowan came into the game…

“I can’t say there was a whole lot because we were getting our (butts) kicked so bad. The scoreboard was so lopsided but I think everyone saw him warm up and there’s been a lot of new faces since the last time he has pitched here. So, in some cases they might not recognize the amount of work he has gone through.”

Did McGowan’s performance create an opportunity for him to start that might not have been there before?

“Our mind was completely open with his arrival back to the big leagues. You never know what you got until you see him walk out there and see how big league hitters react. The lateness and the quick action to the stuff at the plate. The most encouraging thing was the way he didn’t really overwork to get his velocity. That, to me, is a huge telltale sign of how a guy feels strength wise.
Did he look like the McGowan of old?

“Pretty darn close. When you look at those four pitches and the way he stayed together. That’s a powerful man that has good touch and feel for multiple pitches and he showed that tonight.

Are there comparisons to seeing McGowan come back and Jon Lester’s return when you were pitching coach of the Red Sox?

“I think any time you have pitchers that take a detour for whatever reason, there’s a personal victory that’s going on there. Having experienced two and a half years of rehab myself and know what that loneliness can be, and to see him walk out there tonight, like this, it’s a good first step.”

Anthopoulos returns from Japan

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos made his return on Friday afternoon following a brief scouting trip to Japan. Anthopoulos normally remains tight lipped about these type of trips but since he was there to take a look at the much talked about Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish there wasn’t any chance he would go unnoticed.

Anthopoulos’ trip was reported earlier in the week by the Toronto Sun’s Bob Elliott and various other media outlets. He was then spotted in the stands watching Darvish pick up his 16th victory of the season for the Nippon Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Pacific League.

Toronto’s GM didn’t go into much detail about the trip but did confirm he was there — because as he said, there admittedly wasn’t any point to denying it. He also spoke in general terms about the concept of signing Japanese players and the posting fees that go along with those type of transactions.

You can find my story on the Darvish scouting trip in today’s Notebook on the main site. Also included in that notebook are items on potential September call-ups, John Farrell’s battle with pneumonia and injury updates to Casey Janssen and Colby Rasmus.

Don’t forget you can also follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB. In the meantime, here are today’s leftovers with plenty on Darvish and the looming September moves:

Alex Anthopoulos

On the Darvish scouting trip….

“I think more is going to be made of it just because I went over there. It’s just a matter of, there’s free agents, I get to see all the free agents here, it’s like going to see players for the draft.

“I think just because you go see a player it doesn’t mean that he’s at the top of your list, or anything like that. It’s just going your due diligence and doing your homework. I wouldn’t want to be sitting there in the offseason and everyone is talking about free agents, and we’ve seen all the ones in the United States, but I haven’t laid eyes on the ones internationally that are very talented. I wanted to see him for myself.

“It’s more about doing our homework, due diligence. Whether we’re in the market or not, whether we even get involved or not, it’s a learning process.

“But there’s no question he’s the reason that I went. I can sit here and (joke), say I went there to experience the culture, or build relationships, but if he hadn’t pitched I wouldn’t have gone, at least not in 2011.”

“I’m doing my homework. If I go see guys for the Draft, I see a lot of guys for the Draft, it doesn’t mean that we draft those players, or we have them high on our list. But I go see them, I want to have as much information as we can on all players.”

On having to pay a fee to Darvish’s Japanese team in addition to a Major League salary…

“That market, you just have to come up with a value, like we with everything. You take the emotion out of it, you come up with what you’re willing to spend on a player. That’s how you come up with your math. How much would you pay in salary? How much would you pay in a post?  You combine that but that’s the commitment the club is going to make.”

On serious contenders for Darvish…

“I’ve read things that say well, people are front runners and people have relationships. With all due respect, I don’t think any of that matters. I think it’s who types in the highest amount in the email when they send it to the league.

“It’s just like anything else, who presents the highest bid. Like any other player that has come over in a post, the team that gets awarded the rights, is the team that put in the highest number. It’s not the team that had the best relationship or scouted the player the most. It’s the one that was willing to bid the most, that’s all it comes down to.”

On September call-ups…

“I’d expect our callups to be here on Wednesday and we’ll finalize that over the course of the next two days.”

On McGowan…

He’s not entirely stretched out to start yet. He’s getting there, pitch count has gotten up to 70. We’ve talked about, would we have him make some starts and then be backed up, maybe go three or four innings? Is it best to maybe have him be in the bullpen right now, but not someone who is going to be used on back-to-back days, more of a long guy?

“It’s more about his health. This wasn’t about have him become a mainstay in 2011, it’s just getting him back on the field. I have an idea which way we are going to go, I just want to go over it with those guys inside and then I want to call the player and tell him.”

“He’ll be (called up) prior to everybody else. He made his last start down there, so he’s going to be activated some time shortly. We just wanted to know exactly what the role is going to be.”

On Kyle Drabek…

“I know he hasn’t performed nearly as well as we all want him to ,and he wants to as well. But at the same time, right now … we have the rotation set the way it is,  so guys like Kyle, and so on, that are candidates for call-ups right now, everyone would come up as a reliever. If the opportunity presented itself, a starter got knocked out early, or we needed to give a guy a break, or we wanted to shut someone’s innings down … we have the ability to make a spot start.”

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