Farewell to Dunedin
My six weeks in Dunedin officially comes to an end today and what a spring it has been. The storylines haven’t been quite as compelling as normal this Grapefruit League season because Toronto entered camp with a relatively set lineup. The only real competitions were found in left field and utility infielder but both spots were more or less locked in to be Eric Thames and Omar Vizquel from the start. The same could be said for the fifth starter role, which was going to Dustin McGowan until a foot injury opened the door for either Kyle Drabek and Aaron Laffey.
Despite the set lineup, there were still some interesting developments in camp. Colby Rasmus’ new attitude even with his continued struggles this spring, Travis Snider’s ability to deal with more adversity in his career, and the continued development of young prospects such as Travis d’Arnaud, Anthony Gose and Drew Hutchison. I hope you enjoyed the coverage both on the blog and especially on Bluejays.com this spring and make sure to keep reading throughout the season.
It’s now time for me to head back to Toronto for a couple of days before the start of the season. I have a lot of catching up to do in the city I haven’t lived in for the past month and a half but in no time at all I’ll be hitting the road again to cover the season opener in Cleveland. Even though I won’t be in Dunedin, MLB.com will have you covered during the final two days of camp. Make sure to keep reading over the next couple of days to find out all the information on the fifth starter, what happens to Luis Valbuena, what John Farrell settles on for his batting order and of course the starting rotation. The blog will be in hiatus until Thursday but BlueJays.com will have you fully covered.
Also in the coming days on BlueJays.com you’ll find some season preview articles from me. There will be a piece on Omar Vizquel looking forward to returning to Cleveland for the season opener in what likely will be his season. Also there will be a feature on Ricky Romero setting the bar high for this season and of course a general season preview looking at how this team might fare in the American League East.
Thanks again for reading the blog and if you’re not doing so already make sure to follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB. Before I leave, here are some leftovers from my final day in sunny and delightfully different Dunedin.
Encarnacion batting cleanup something you’ll go with on Opening Day?
“It’s one possibility. The way Edwin’s been swinging the bat all spring, he’s in a good place, he took some very good swings again (Saturday), we’re going to have to stack some right-handers in there somewhere, so that’s the configuration at the moment. Again, in spring training, we have the benefit of taking a look at different things and this is one of those.
Encarnacion better equipped to protect Jose considering Lind’s recent injury?
“That’s some of the thought right now, I can’t say that’s going to be the case every single game, but we’ve seen throughout the course of last year that teams are going to manage our lineup or pitch to our lineup with the focal point being Jose, we want to make a lineup that’s deep in protection as possible. More than anything, I love our lineup, we’ve got a deep lineup, one that’s going to be capable of doing a number of different things. That’s just today’s look.
“That would be the ideal scenario. I think it’s safe to say teams are going to look to attack the guys before and after him a little bit more readily, and that’s not to take anything away from their abilities, but the thing we’ve established early on is that if one guy in the lineup is not getting his pitch to hit, than don’t be afraid to pass the baton on to the next guy. That’s what you see very good lineups are capable of doing, players trust in the next guy, and you’re looking to build an inning regardless of where you are in the lineup. I think we’ve got a lineup this year more capable one-through-nine, so on-base percentage to me is the key component, particularly with the two guys ahead of Jose.
Being patient at the plate and not being afraid to take a walk… that tougher to teach with younger players?
“It’s a hard message in general because regardless of the age of the player, hitters to me have to earn deep counts. You can’t just walk in thinking you’re going to take pitches for the sake of seeing them and work deep into counts – then you’re behind in the count 0-2. So it goes back to a disciplined strike zone and maintaining that discipline throughout an at-bat or throughout a given game. There’s going to be times when guys think they get a pitch and they don’t quite handle it the way they wanted to, but it’s been more of our daily conversation and value. But by no means should that be interpreted as being passive on their part.”
Do you anticipate needing to use Lind as DH in early stages of the year?
“Probably, and that will just be based on what he might be feeling in a given day. We want to build in that periodic rest. The one side of that, too, though, is that let’s say we get into some cold weather – and the reason why he’s playing first base today – you have two innings between at-bats you can sit and tighten up. So by keeping him active, keeping him in the game, he’s going to stay loose. So those are things we’ll look to manage. When we get back to Toronto or we’re on the road we’ve got a stationary bike to continue to ride and stay loose. We can do that as well. All those things factored in we’ll try to manage it to the best of our abilities.”
Valbuena is last position player in camp … because waiting on Francisco?
“Yes. Luis being out of options, if he’s not on our 25-man roster then obviously he’s got to be exposed to every other club. If there’s an opportunity out there for him to realize better than a minor-league option here. We’ll certainly try to facilitate that, or Alex will to the best of his ability. He’s had a very good spring; he’s shown a lot of versatility. Luis’s come up to the big leagues as a second baseman, but I think he’s played shortstop well, and he’s made himself more versatile to where he’s a solid utility infielder at the major-league level.”
On Jamie Moyer making the Rockies at age 49 — the same age as Farrell…
“I think it’s awesome. Perseverance, work ethic, I mean the guy has just come back from Tommy John at the age of 49 to make a big league club. I think it’s a hell of a story and whether it’s Omar (Vizquel) in our camp at the soon to be age of 45, they haven’t quite gotten their AARP cards yet but it’s great to see.
“It speaks volumes to the way they keep themselves in shape, their love of the game clearly shines through. You look at guys who come in on Major League contracts that set their ego aside, they’re probably pretty good self evaluators on what their abilities are currently and I think it’s just great for the game of baseball.”