Colby Rasmus arrived at the Blue Jays camp on Thursday afternoon and the following day spent a long time chatting with the media. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but for what it’s worth I’ve never seen the guy as upbeat, positive and forthcoming as he was with the reporters today.
That type of new attitude is also something I’ve noticed during the past 24 hours in the clubhouse. He seems to be talking and joking around with his teammates a lot more than he did in the past, and more often and not, there’s a smile on his face. That’s not something that happened a lot last season and while it doesn’t guarantee a better performance on the field, it certainly can’t help.
Lots of people seem to want to write off Rasmus as a bust and in my opinion it is just way too early to do that. Remember, it was only last year that similar doubts had been raised about Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar. Atlanta had very similar problems with Escobar as the ones St. Louis experienced with Rasmus. Also, just like Rasmus in 2011, Escobar struggled after coming over to Toronto in a midseason trade but a full Spring Training the following year seemed to do wonders for his comfort level and confidence.
The results followed and the whispers of doubt have all but subsided. There’s no reason to think a similar fate couldn’t happen to Rasmus and the mechanical changes he has made to his swing only lends more to that positive line of thinking. But it’s still very early in camp, the results haven’t been proven on the field so until then this is all talk but I have a feeling there are a lot of Blue Jays fans out there that are encouraged by this turn of events.
Only time will tell… In the meantime, here’s my feature on Rasmus and his new outlook on the game. There is also a notebook with items on Escobar and Edwin Encarnacion reporting to camp, plus an update on this weekend’s activities. Also, don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB.
Here is the full transcript of Rasmus’ scrum with the press:
Benefit of spending entire Spring in Toronto…
“It means a lot. I had a nice offseason, I came in feeling good, my body feels good and just seeing some of the smiling faces around, just getting back with the guys that I spent a little time with last year, seeing all of the coaches. It’s just a good feeling, ready to get going and very excited for the season. I think we have a good shot.”
Looks like you’re having fun again…
“I definitely think that means a lot. Last year I was beat up a little bit mentally. Just couldn’t do many things right last year, I felt like my confidence got down but this offseason I’ve had some time to get that back and I’m just going to try have fun, smile and just enjoy my teammates and not let the things that I can’t control bother me. Last year, some times, I might have tried to control some things I couldn’t control and worry about things I shouldn’t be worrying about. If I would have just focused on the game, see the baseball, hit the baseball, run it down and catch it, it probably would have took care of itself. Just get out there, relax, play the game, see the ball hit the ball.
“I played good in the outfield in the end in Toronto, in the last part of the season my outfield was good I feel like and I was just relaxed. In St. Louis, I got into some trouble where my outfield wasn’t very good but I just wasn’t playing like myself. I wasn’t relaxed, I was worried about messing up and thinking like I had to go over the top to do these things and I just got stressed out, got caught in a place where my confidence wasn’t there. Now I’m getting my confidence back and now I’m just going to go out and play the game.”
Let others affect your mood…
“Once it got down to it in my last little but in St. Louis is just got crazy. The fans were upset with me, the coaches just banging heads a little bit and I just wasn’t comfortable. I couldn’t relax and play. So, I think the coaches over here, like last year when I came in the outfield coach was cool and just told me to just go out there and play. ‘I know, you know, that you messed up, whenever something happens I don’t have to come at you and breathe down your throat.’ I already knew I messed up and I already knew I was doing things wrong but jsut that added pressure I didn’t have no way to filter it out. It just kind of ate me up and it showed in my play.”
Any one person who sat you down and worked you through…
“Not really, I just went home and spent some time with my family which I usually do and got in the weight room, which is a place that I’m comfortable at, trying to put some strength back on. But I didn’t really talk to many people. I think that might have been my problem to begin with, getting too much advice from too many different sides, my headed started spinning a little bit, I didn’t know which way to actually go. Instead of just having confidence in myself and sticking with what I know, I kind of listened to other people and might have gotten my head into different places where I felt like I wasn’t confident when it came down to it when I needed myself the most.”
Bad timing of last year’s wrist injury…
“Yeah, that was definitely bad timing but those things you can’t control. I felt like, like I was saying earlier, that my outfield play was alright but I was definitely struggling with the stick. But I think this year, getting my confidence up, go out there and play the game and not worry about the stuff I can’t control.”
On changes made to his leg kick…
“I tried to lower it down a little bit, I might have been getting a little too crazy with it. And just trying to focus on getting my weight back over the plate, I was flying off a lot. I hurt a little something with oblique over in St. Louis that might have caused me to do that a little more instead of staying in there on the ball. That’s one thing I’ve tried to do.
“But like I said, once I go out there and just try to play the game without thinking about all that stuff, just go out there and have some swag and smile and have fun and just laugh and play like a kid again I think I’ll be all right. In St. Louis I just got to where I was so much just business, I was out there with no emotion, every day, I felt like I couldn’t, I just felt like everything I did was the wrong thing. If I showed emotion like I was happy, I wasn’t playing good enough so I could do that.
Right group of guys for you in Toronto?
“Everybody’s been great, all the players, some young guys who have a lot of life to them, it won’t be like St. Louis where I’m just the young little puppy and everybody wants to teach me the tricks and beat me down and tell me that I’m doing things wrong. These guys are cool, Bautista’s awesome, always upbeat, (doesn’t) show anybody up or try to put his ego on top of you. This all about playing the game, having fun, just a bunch of guys trying to win a ball game.
Negative comments from LaRussa…
“It’s definitely tough to deal with, especially when you feel like you’re working hard. I definitely worked hard in the gym, I got to where my swing, I just couldn’t feel anything. I was trying to do too much and changing things, every day a different swing, which is one thing I want to do now, stick with one thing, get my little routine and stick with it. If it don’t work, I go home happy, that’s fine, I did it myself and have my own little routine and I stuck with it, instead of listening to everybody giving me advice here and there.
“The media in St. Louis, they were always on me, I guess I’m an easy target because I’m nice and I try to talk and be nice to the guys, but that’s just not how it works. They’ll take you for everything you can get. So I’m just going to try keep my mouth shut, play the baseball game, relax, and just have fun.”
Was your dad helpful for you this offseason or did you stay away from that advice…
“He’s definitely helpful for me. One thing I talked with my dad about, is my dad can be a bit negative at times, just because he wants the best for me and he’s scared that I’m not going to do the right thing, he always looks at it from the point of I’m not doing enough, you can always do more. I talked to him about trying to be positive with me, keep me in a positive light and I think that’s something that can help me because he is such a big influence on my game and my overall mentality.
“Positivity, stay positive, because I think if I stay positive and I’m having fun, like last year at the beginning of the season with St. Louis, I was having fun, just relaxing, playing the game, and I played great. If I can try to do that all year, stay positive, have a lot of positive vibe coming at me, it’ll help my game.”
What happened in St. Louis that made things so go sour…
“I don’t know, I guess I just said some things that rubbed people the wrong way. I don’t know really, it’s all about how you play. If I would have played good, it wouldn’t have mattered, but I didn’t play good and like blood in the water, they came after me. But it’s all good, I’m here today ready to play, I’m not worried about it.
What type of changes did you make with your swing…
“I don’t look at it as a whole lot of changing in my swing. I changed it from the time when I was struggling, but there were times when I was hitting good too. It wasn’t like I just struggled the whole time. I think I got to where in my swing I just didn’t know where to go – one day doing one thing, one day doing the next.
“I didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t have any confidence in myself every day to just go out there and just see the ball and hit it. I tried different things throughout the year and now I’m focusing on some things like lowering my leg kick a little bit, talking with Murph, and just getting my weight over the plate and getting inside the baseball. Simple, not too many things going on. Just relax and hit the ball.”
On hitting coach Dwayne Murphy’s trip to his home…
“Just came in and hit a couple days just to see kind of what I was thinking at the time and what I was doing with my swing and what I was trying to do, so that way, throughout the season we can bang heads a little but. It’ll just kind of be me and him working together on my swing and not nothing else.”
Seems like you’re a completely different person…
“No doubt. I really never felt good in St. Louis. I always felt like I wasn’t … I don’t know. I was always so much younger than everybody else, and I just felt like I was never really, I guess you could say, a part of the team kind of. I never got comfortable, and Tony wanted it that way. He always said he didn’t want me to get comfortable, he wanted me to always stay working hard and doing this and doing that.
“So I think that was one thing that might have hurt my game a little bit. I feel like it would be good for me to get comfortable, and know I’m going to be here and know I’m going to be a part of the team, know I’m going to be here ‘til the end instead of worrying about maybe getting sent down and this and that. Just go out there to play the game, have fun, relax. During the offseason I had a lot of time to spend with my family. It’s quiet in Alabama, you know. Spent a lot of time with just my family and some people that I know, not dealing with all the riff-raff, all this stuff. I think right now I’m in good shape and feeling good mentally, so we’ll see what happens down the road.”
What were you thinking when you were watching the Cardinals during their playoff run?
“I didn’t watch it.”
You weren’t rooting for them?
“I was. I got a lot of friends on that team, a lot of guys I love and respect. I have no hard feelings towards anybody, you know? Just didn’t watch it. I was doing something else.”
I assume you’ll be getting a ring?
“That’s what I hear, I don’t know. I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Did you get your postseason share?
“I got a little something, something.” (big grin on his face)
John Farrell responds:
Was the lower leg kick his idea or did it come from the club?
“That was a lot of conversation when he came over to us. He was in agreement with some of the things that were causing his timing to be off a little bit. But last year, coming to a new club, coming to new surroundings, building that trust factor, he might have been a little bit reluctant to make those adjustments at the time which we talked through and totally understood his point of view.
“He just felt like there was going to be an appropriate time where maybe the consequence of maybe on-field performance might take away from it. The argument would be, well the performance wasn’t there, but that’s part of dealing with a player and when they’re open enough to make those adjustments. But he knew very clear going into the offseason all of the things that Murphy and others were providing him and he spent the time making the adjustments.
“You’ll see a more controlled leg kick that allows him to maintain a bat path more consistent to handle multiple types of pitches.”
Report back from Murphy’s trip to visit his home…
“Very positive. From a fundamental standpoint the more controlled leg kick, he was able to handle the ball away from him, handle the ball on the inner part of the plate, he was hitting the ball to all fields. But the most important thing that stood out was his eagerness and his attitude of being very positive, couldn’t wait to get to camp and couldn’t wait to get back involved.
“Today was Day 1 that he was on the field and just the interactions … he’s a good kid. He understands what makes him successful and just hearing the conversation with him, he’s eager to get going and he comes in with a very positive outlook.”