June 2012

Holding court with Anthopoulos

Alex Anthopoulos made a rare appearance on the road this weekend in Miami. The main purpose of the trip wasn’t to make any major announcements but instead to help show Andrew Tinnish the ropes. Tinnish was recently promoted from director of scouting to assistant general manager where he joins Tony LaCava and Jay Sartori.

Below, you’ll find the full transcript of Anthopoulos’ scrum with the media yesterday. He touches on everything from the current state of affairs in the starting rotation, to explaining Tinnish’s promotion and updates on Draft pick signings. Make sure to check out the main site for an article on the starters along with full details on Drew Hutchison not requiring surgery.

Also, don’t forget to give me a follow on Twitter @gregorMLB

Alex Anthopoulos:

Working the waiver wire?

“Right now, what’s clearly happened is that we’ve taken everybody from Las Vegas. It’s hard to replace those guys during the season. We’re not in a position to be selective. There’s no question from a trade standpoint we can be but, for example, the Sean O’Sullivan deal was a minor-league deal. We need somebody for New Hampshire or Las Vegas.

“With all these injuries in a short period of time, it’s hard to replace all those innings. It impacts the minors at every level. Everyone starts to move.”

Settled in short term?

“I hope so. If it’s ongoing, it’s not ideal because that means our starters are unable to go deep into games. I think in Milwaukee was tough because starters weren’t going deep and it taxed out bullpen, having to make the changes we made. Until you start getting stability from those starters, it’s going to be the same. Hopefully we can find someone to get hot and stay in the rotation for awhile.”

Chavez No. 4?

“Right now the way we have it lined up is for Chavez to start on Sunday, Alvarez on Monday and Laffey on Tuesday. That’s the way it’s going right now but as we have all seen, things can change. If something happens in a game and we need someone, we have to adjust.”

Brandon Morrow timeline?

“The problem with it is has to completely heal. The tough thing  with a starter is that you can’t really do much until it does heal. You can’t throw or play catch or keep the arm in shape … you have to start all over again. It’s like spring training all over. Until that pain is completely gone. I would expect the pain to be gone in the next few weeks. At that point he could start a throwing program. But, again, that isn’t going to be forced. Things are slow to heal at times.”

Hutchison — is the ball in his court right now with regards to potential surgery?

“We have an update on that. We had our doctors in Florida finally take a look at him. We sent the tests to Dr. Andrews and everything was confirmed that it’s a sprain. He’s on a no-throwing program for four to six weeks. If he’s feeling unbelievably well in four weeks, but it may go to six, and then he could start a throwing program.

“That being said, if it’s six weeks before he throws, then starts up again and get ready, we’re probably looking at September. The good part  about it is that when you’re talking about a UCL (ulnar collateral ligament), you’re usually talking about Tommy John surgery, because you lose a year. In Drew’s case it’s not going to happen. At least we know he’s not going to be out that long, but it is going to be the bulk of ‘12 that he’s gone.

“Drew did a good job in that he said he wanted to be smart about this. He didn’t feel right and you often see guys try to throw through things and then hurt themselves way worse. Thankfully, he let the trainers know sooner rather than later and possibly avoided something a lot worse.”

Will you be getting a 100% Hutch back?

“Everyone has some sort of partial tear. The percentages vary. There are guys that pitch with 60% tears and 40% tears and 20% tears. It comes down to how severe they are and what are the symptoms being experienced by the player. I’ve always been told that you treat the symptoms not the MRI.

“That’s exactly what I asked: will we get 100% of Drew or will we get 90% or 80%? He’ll be the same. It’ll be 100%. Too many people feel strongly about it. Nothing is guaranteed, of course. There can always be a setback. But we think Drew will be fine.”

Could you make a buyers deal rather than a sellers deal?

“I think so. The way the roster is constructed we have, for the most part, control over our players. We have a core in place. Ideally you’d love to make a transaction for a player you’d have beyond 2012 that will allow you to do your best to win in 2012 but also have opportunities beyond that. That being said, we wouldn’t rule out a good player who was only under control for 2012. In a perfect world, I would always prefer to take on a player with more control. It just fits more with what we’re doing. But we aren’t ruling out short-term players as well.”

Other GMs trying to take advantage of your current situation?

“It’s challenging there’s no doubt about it. But I’m sure if you sit with the other 29 GMs and they have their own challenges. Other teams have had their position players go down. At the end of the day you just put your head down and accept the challenge and do what you can.

“We can’t get it fixed overnight. We’re going to continue to try. I don’t know when the next transaction will take place but you have to continue to move forward.”

Time frame for making a deal and have you started expanded your options?

“The timeframe – I don’t know that there’s ever a specific timeframe, I know some people believe July is when we’ll look at it, I personally have never felt that way, if there’s the right deal with the right player you go ahead and jump at it. Expanded the pool? I say yes, there’s no doubt, because we have more opportunities, there are more players down. There are certain players we would have committed to in that rotation either way, a lot of these guys because they’re so young they certainly have options, we’d get someone and option them to the minor-leagues, but there’s no question with these guys being out, it definitely opens up the pool a little bit. There may be some players that we would have looked at but not been as serious about.

McGuire/Jenkins — any reasons behind their struggles in New Hamsphire?

 “They just haven’t thrown well, velocity has been similar, for both guys it’s been command, that’s been the overriding theme and it’s interesting because both guys pitched well in New Hampshire at the end of last year, I saw them both, and they did very well and that’s what is so surprising, to see them go back, and even though they weren’t there the whole year last year, to repeat the level and struggle the way they have. It’s hard to explain, I know the staff is working very hard to get them on track, I’m sure both players would tell you the same thing, but the number one thing is it’s not stuff, it’s command. They’re just not commanding the ball the way they have.”

Thinned out in the rotation by their struggles?

“There’s no question, that’s why you never have enough. Going into spring training we felt like Deck, Jenkins, Litsch and McGowan were going to be options for us, but we felt like Jenkins and Deck, the way they pitched at the end of last year at New Hampshire, would have been options for a callup. How well they would have done or to what success, who knows? They’d definitely thrown well enough to be candidates to come up here and pitch, so really you’re looking at four guys, on average you’re going to need 11 guys to make starts, sometimes it can get up to 13, but we felt like we had that 11 one way or another. But when guys go down, guys don’t have good years, it changes fast. It’s funny, all it does is re-emphasize for me you can never had enough depth.”

Review situation every five days?

 “I think at this point you have to, we just don’t have that many mainstays in the rotation, so really I think it’s start to start. You can argue if Joel Carreno had gone six innings or a little deeper, we probably would have given him a start again. It’s not necessarily fair the players entirely, it’s the position we’re in, we need fresh arms, we don’t want more guys getting hurt, we’ve already taxed the bullpen enough, to protect everybody we have to bring in as many options as we can. Once the rotation can hopefully stabilize a little bit, that will get us back on track.

Lull with the signing of the rest of your Draft picks?

 “We’re getting close on pretty much everybody. Right now … (Chase) DeJong I think we’re going to get close on, I hope we’re going to get him done soon, Stroman, he’s probably the one guy I don’t at this time the way that one’s going to go.”

Enough money lef to make the signings?

 “If everyone is willing to take slot, we’ll have them all signed from the top 10 rounds. If there’s problems or concerns with slot, there’s a good chance we won’t have them all signed.

Kellogg?

“That’s another guy we’d like to get done. I know Andrew’s working on that. Again, that’s just dialogue and trying to see what we’ll have available because we are limited, the one thing we won’t do is lose a draft pick the following year. We have a few players in that mix with guys like Kellogg, that we like. We’ll probably have a certain amount that we can afford and we’ll probably go down the list. First guy we want, we’ll offer it to, if he doesn’t want it, we’ll go to the next guy.”

On signing remaining picks..

“It’s not as much negotiation right now to be honest with you. Unless someone wants to try to negotiate and convince us to lose our draft pick, it’s a non-negotiable item. So, what we have is pretty straight forward. … It’s not a game because everyone can start doing the math.”

On Tinnish…

“When I first got the job, I actually thought about making him an assistant GM right then and there. But knowing all of the changes I wanted to make to the amateur scouting side, the system, the staffing, things like that, we had worked together for awhile, I felt he was a strong evaluator but he also has done so many things in the office. He has done arbitration briefs, he has done negotiations, he has run our pro scouting department before … he has done it all in every capacity. He has done the evaluation, the contracts.

“I remember we were going to a hearing, we were planning on going to a hearing for Pete Walker and Andrew’s the one who put together the brief. He’s unbelievable, as good of an evaluator as he is, he has great administrative skills as well. I think Andrew’s just another guy that brings a baseball element to the office because the two guys that I lean on for evaluations quite a bit are Perry Minasian and Tony LaCava, and they don’t live in Toronto, they’re out scouting, they’re evaluating players, and in the office right now it’s more administrative based. Jay Sartori is more of an administrator obviously, than an evaluator, that’s his background from the commissioner’s office.

“Andrew brings another evaluator into the office with administrative abilities. I found that we lacked that and I found that there were times in the office when I needed a little bit more of an evaluator around a little bit more often.”

Insurance in case LaCava gets courted by another team during the offseason?

“No, we’re always at risk that Tony could leave because he’s sought after. But there’s no question that it can’t hurt from that standpoint but their jobs aren’t the same at all. Tony’s not in the office, he’s an evaluator first and foremost. He oversees the Minor Leagues as well, it’s not his day-to-day job. From that standpoint, Andrew’s going to be a little bit more — I don’t want to say on the frontlines — but he’s going to be in the office every day that I would.”

Back to roster moves… do you have money available to add players between now and the deadline?

“Depends who it is. We’ve added bodies. We’ve added a lot of bodies. It all depends on who it is, it has to make sense. Just like anything else, add a body for the sake of adding a body, I’d have to explain why. But obviously the guys we’ve added, we clearly have needs, depth, and so on. If it’s a big trade and a big transaction for an impact player, especially someone that we control beyond this year, I don’t see there being any problems at all from that standpoint.

“But I don’t think it’s just anybody. It has to be someone that makes sense. I think that’s what it’s going to come down to. That’s the conversation I’d have with Paul and that’s the conversation he has with ownership.”

Father’s Day special: Q+A with Tony Rasmus

Tony Rasmus was among the 13 fathers of Blue Jays players to make the trip to Toronto on Sunday afternoon. He spoke with the media prior to Toronto’s 6-2 victory over Philadelphia and this is what he had to say about Colby’s resurgence at the plate, his overall state of mind and last year’s controversy in St. Louis:

Knowing where Colby was last year … must be pretty gratifying seeing him happy here

“You know what I’ll tell you this, I told somebody else today: I hadn’t watched a baseball game in two years that he’s played in St. Louis, because when I watched him I feel like I was watching a funeral procession. It just wasn’t fun anymore. And it was painful to watch and I didn’t think he was playing to his capabilities much of the time.

“I’ve watched every game this year, just to show you that’s the kind of difference a year’s made in his life as far as baseball goes – to watch him smile, I watched him out there do a couple of out [makes hand gesture] things. I’m like, ‘Wow, look at that: It looks like it’s fun again.’ And you see the last month or so he’s kind of picked it up and played a lot better. So it’s been super for us.

“As a family, unfortunately, our lives revolved around Colby’s baseball career. I have two other kids who play minor-league baseball, but all the other brothers and everybody always pulls for him. And to watch him have fun this year, all my kids call me every day, like ‘Hey Dad, Colby looks like he’s having a good time. He’s playing better, this, that and the other.’ So it’s been fun this year.”

What has been the difference this year?

“Looking back on it, maybe the fact that he was such a big prospect and they expected him to be Albert Pujols in St. Louis and not too many people are going to be Albert Pujols. Maybe the expectations they had for him were just hard for him to live up to. Maybe that pressure just wore him down. Obviously Tony wore on him a little bit, but Tony’s a Hall of Fame manager, you know. Maybe everybody can’t play for him. Maybe it’s just a better fit here. He really loves John; John’s a more positive-type guy and that’s probably what he responded to better than all the negative stuff he dealt with there.”

During the offseason you and him talked about your involvement…

“That’s really uncomfortable to hear a lot of that stuff, to be honest with you, because my involvements really basically a batting practice pitcher. It’s not like I get in there and go, ‘Hey, move your hands up here, do this.’ I’m not really a technical— But the fact is, I’m 46, but I can still throw about 90. So I can back up 60 feet and throw BP versus having to soft toss to him. And I can throw breaking balls and changeups and that kind of stuff.

“Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve coached him since he was in coach-pitch and if he goes 3-for-4, I’m like, ‘That fourth at-bat there you threw that thing away.’ That guy laid one across, there. He said, ‘You know, I’m not going to be perfect, can you cut me some slack?’ And that’s kind of been the difference. As far as me calling him on Friday and saying, ‘Hey, you know what your weight’s not over the plate,’ the technical stuff like that – that’s never been me. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve read the newspapers and that’s what they all made it out to be. But I was never that type of batting instructor for him; I’m just a good BP arm.”

Where did all of that talk about interference come from?

 “I’m not going to say it to make it back to St. Louis in the newspapers. I was just a BP guy and the thing is, I throw pretty good BP, if I want to throw outside edge BP, I can throw it, if I want to bust you in, so we would go through scenarios, no balls, no strikes, this guy’s throwing today, he throws a lot of first-pitch fastballs, that’s how we do.

“One June two years ago, I spent the whole month doing that, he hit nine home runs that month. I always told somebody, if your kid believes he has to chop off a chicken’s head to hit, if he believes that’s what makes him hit, then by God, chop one off every day. He for some reason believed me throwing batting practice to him was helpful for him. If he believed it was helpful for him, it was helpful.”

During season in StL?

 “Two years ago, last year I didn’t do it any, because Tony didn’t want me involved because he was wanting Mark (McGwire) to get this kind of credit or whatever. And obviously Colby had a hard time, I always told Colby, ‘Don’t mention my name, let me go ahead and throw to you, man, and go in the newspapers and say Mark McGwire is my man, he’s the reason I’m hitting.’ But he doesn’t know how to lie and I think that’s a key to making it in this business, being able to not tell the truth a lot of the time. I was just a BP arm and he felt comfortable with me throwing to him and he felt like it helped him, and if he felt like it helped him, it helped him.”

Relief for both of you this year?

“Oh, John called me early on, it was really funny, I was like star struck. I was in chemistry class, I teach chemistry and physics, I was in chemistry class, my phone went off, I answered the phone, he’s like, ‘This is John Farrell.’ I was like (gasps), good gracious. He said, ‘You know what, we want Colby to hit, we want him to be comfortable, whatever we have to do.’ And I went through the same story I just told you, ‘I don’t care what you’ve heard, it’s not like I’m going to be working on Xs and Os as far as hitting goes with him, I just throw to him, he likes me throwing batting practice, been throwing it to him forever.’ John made it known that whatever we needed to do to have him hit or playing good that he was all for it.

Differences in his voice?

“He’s just happy man. Having not gone through it you wouldn’t understand, he was just miserable. This is the thing, you can motivate most people in this life by money, I’ll give you $20 to cut the grass, whatever, anybody has a number. He’s one kid that doesn’t live by money, so you can’t bribe him. We’d always say, ‘Man, you’re making huge money, why would you want to quit?’ He goes, ‘I don’t care about the money, I’m sick of it.’ That was how the general conversation went every time you’d speak with him. ‘I hate it, I don’t like playing anymore.’

“And we were trying to keep him to stay in a little longer, maybe something will happen, a trade comes up, and then finally it did and that saved him. He may have been at the house working construction if he had to go through that much longer. You could see it, he was just going downhill, getting worse and worse and worse. It’s been a good thing for him, this move.”

What was your reaction to the trade?

“Well, some stuff came out in the newspaper that wasn’t accurate from Tony and we called his agent and said, ‘Man, he’s not going to keep saying all that stuff without somebody responding to it, so y’all need to get him out of there.’ That was about the way it went. So whenever they called and told me, I was dancing the jig around the house. I called him first thing and he was like, ‘That’s an answer to a prayer. Thank goodness.’ Everything since that day has been absolutely awesome here, we’ve been happy ever since the trade.”

From bad to worse

The current situation facing the Blue Jays starting rotation couldn’t be much worse. The biggest blow came earlier this week when Brandon Morrow suffered a strained left oblique. Things went from bad to worse on Friday, though, when it was revealed that doctors found a tear in Kyle Drabek’s UCL and right-hander Drew Hutchison left his start later that night with right elbow soreness.

Brett Cecil was en route to Toronto as of late Friday afternoon but with the pitchers seemingly dropping like flies there’s going to be a need for more recruits in the near future. Deck McGuire and Chad Jenkins entered this season as the prospects likely the closest to being Major League ready but both have seen more than their fair share of struggles at Double-A New Hampshire.

Neither right-hander is expected to receive consideration for a promotion to the Major Leagues at this time. Instead, the vacancies — assuming Hutchison is headed or the disabled list — will go to Jesse Chavez, Robert Coello, Aaron Laffey or Joel Carreno. Carlos Villanueva also made a case for himself with a strong performance out of the bullpen on Friday night but would require a lot of patience if he needed to be stretched out as a starter. Chavez has enjoyed a great season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League but as a whole those aren’t the type of names that are going to strike fear into the hearts of the opposition.

The timetable on Morrow is still unclear while Drabek could be forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. There still wasn’t any word on Hutchison at the time of this post but the club will have to hope for the best because there aren’t a lot of viable options left in the tank.

Below, I’ve included full reaction from Alex Anthopoulos, John Farrell and Kyle Drabek. Please note, I am posting this during Friday’s game so while Hutchison is injured there is still available update on his status at this time. Don’t forget to give me a follow on Twitter @gregorMLB

Alex Anthopoulos:

Why Cecil for Sunday’s start?

“Tony LaCava was just there and one, it lines up with just in terms of start days for him, but Brett deserves it. He pitched very well in New Hampshire. The reports we got from the staff down there were very strong. We wanted to see again — it was just one start in Las Vegas — but how that was going carry over and Tony was there and said he looked very good. So, he has worked hard, he has maintained his approach and we think he’s going to be able to help the team.”

Ever find a reason behind the drop in velocity?

“I don’t know to be honest with you. I think, one of the things is he lost all that weight in Spring Training, adjusted his body, got back onto a long toss program. This kind of happened last year as well, where he went down and got his arm strength back. Maybe we’ll just have to change his offseason routine somehow but it just seems like it takes him a little bit longer to get the arm strength going. I wish I knew exactly what it was but either way he’s throwing the ball well.”

Have you made any decisions on who will start Tuesday?

“We have an idea. We haven’t made the decision yet but we know that Tuesday will be the day we line the rotation so we can set it up that way. But we still want to see what’s going to happen the next three days. We make a decision today and something happens in the next three days we’d have to make a change.”

He seemed to be over throwing during Spring Training to compensate for a lack of velocity. Is he comfortable with the velocity he currently has?

“I think so … I think in Spring Training it wasn’t velocity as much as it was command. He just wasn’t commanding the ball the way he has in the past. He has a plus changeup, throws strikes, that’s one thing he has always done so if he’s not throwing strikes he’s not the same guy. I think spring obviously he started out well and then got into a funk trying to make the team, worked so hard in the offseason, expectations all of those things. I think he’s in a great place right now, understood going down, needed to get himself right and sounds like he did get himself right.”

Update on Drabek?

“We got MRIs done here, they did show a tear of his UCL. So, right now we’re going to send him to Dr. Andrews to be 100% sure on Monday just to lay his hands on him, examine him. The odd thing about it is that he doesn’t have any pain. That’s just a part of, guys have tears, there are guys all over the game that have tears that can throw with it. From that standpoint, we just have to make 100% sure, we’ll know more on Monday after Andrews sees him.”

Not a lot of guys have had Tommy John twice…

“I talked to Jason Frasor about it, he had it twice and he has never been on the DL since. He’s mid-30s right now and he’s had it twice. It’s hard to say, could be the way it was done. I know in terms of Frasor, when they did it the first time it may not have been done exactly the way it needed to be done. There’s just no way to tell. It’s certainly a occurred to a few other guys before, the recovery rate is fine, but the odd part about it is that he doesn’t have any pain. It’s not what you’d expect it to be. That’s why, I asked our guys, is it 100% and they said no, that’s why we’re going to send him down to Andrews just to see.”

Do you think he might have been injured for awhile and didn’t notice it until Wednesday?

“I don’t know. I talked to Kyle about it a day ago and I just asked him, he felt pretty good the whole way. He was a little sore, a little more sore than normal but not anything to be alarmed about. Even today, he’s not, even on the mound he felt fine, he just felt that pop and he got scared. It’s not like there’s a lot of pain or anything like that at all so that’s the odd part about it. In terms of the loss of control, I thought his velocity was a little bit down, not much, maybe a mile or two, it’s really hard to pinpoint it one way or the other. It’s just an odd case but there’s no question he might have to end up going down that path.”

Any update on Morrow?

“No, with the oblique, I remember Romero had it in 2009, it’s one of those things where you need it to rest. The tough part about it is that you can’t really do a whole lot. If you’re a starter, you can’t throw, you can’t keep your arm in shape, all those kind of things. I think it’s just going to take time and we don’t know how quickly he’s going to heal but at least it’s going to be the two weeks as a minimum and then we’ll see where he’s at. But to get him on a throwing program to get him built back up to start is going to take a little bit of time but he needs to make sure it’s completely healed first.”

This has to be a major blow to lose two starts in three games…

“It’s always tough but I don’t think you go into any year, you realize it can happen, whether it’s a position player, a reliever, so on. It happens. No one’s going to feel sorry for you. We’ve seen injuries across the game, they finally hit us in the middle of June, but hopefully we have some guys that come up and do a good job for us. But it happens, it happens each year to all of the clubs.

“There’s no question, you lose two of your starters it’s not a good thing. But at that point there are opportunities for some of these other guys. Maybe a guy like Brett can come up and do a good job for us and whoever ends up getting that next start for us can do a good job for us as well. You can’t overreact, it happens, it’s part of the game, you don’t want it to happen to you but at the same time we still have games to play and we’re still going to try to take a run at this thing.”

Make or break for Brett?

“No, I don’t think at any point with any players you can look at it that way. You can go through all the rosters and players that have gone up and down, been out of options, and things finally clicked. Encarnacion, Jose Bautista. Until we don’t have the player we’re always going to try to give them an opportunity to do well for us.”

You say try to make a run at this thing but that’s going to be tough after losing two starters and your offense still struggling…

“I’m not sitting here, I’m not making any projections … I haven’t claimed any win totals. I’ve said we plan on continuing to be competitive and to compete. We’re never going to just lay down and not compete. This club top to bottom. I don’t think I’ve said anything to the contrary of that but there are 25 guys on this team and we have three and a half months left and guys can still do well for us and hopefully we can get on a run starting tonight.”

Who are the candidates for Tuesday’s start?

“Obviously a guy like Laffey has been solid down there. Coello has been stretched out to start. Those are probably the guys on the short list that have done well for us down there. Those are probably the main guys.

“Carreno’s getting moved up there. He’s just getting moved up to Vegas, the guys that are in Vegas right probably have a leg up but he certainly could be a candidate as well.”

What does Snider need to do to get back up to the big leagues now that he’s healthy?

“Play well. He just has to play well, get back in Las Vegas, get hot, start playing well to put himself into the mix. But he’s going to need some at-bats, obviously more than a game or two just to show he’s locked in and playing as well as he did before he got hurt.”

John Farrell:

Why Cecil for Sunday?

“Continued his progression coming out of Spring Training. Overall better command, increased arm strength. Combination of those two in addition to success at this level previously. He’s the guy for Sunday.”

He was clearly frustrated at the end of Spring Training. Where is he now, compared to where he was back then?

“It was clear that he was frustrated with the way Spring Training progressed. He got off to a good start from a results standpoint and I think he was a little, like I said, frustrated with maybe the inconsistencies and the velocity not getting to where I think he or others intended, or envisioned as Opening Day neared. I think at that point it was very clear that he needed more time, he needed more starts and innings pitched to pitch with a revamped physique and has done just that.”

Why Sunday for Cecil instead of Monday?

“There’s, I don’t want to say the need, but wanted to give an extra day to Henderson. When you look at the performances of both teams that we’re facing back-to-back days, how left-handers have fared and right-handers have fared against both teams, that was part of it. So, we had options on Sunday.”

How did Drabek take the news of a tear in his UCL?

“In talking with him a couple of times yesterday, he was down. This is someone that has already experienced a Tommy John surgery previous and the rehab that follows that. What’s unique about this one, is that even when he felt the sensation on the mound he had good strength and he has good range of motion in here today with little discomfort at all. So, the need for a second opinion is there but as a pitcher and what he went through, it’s natural to assume the worst and that had him, dejected.”

Is this a bizarre case?

“Yeah, because the MRI shows an injured ligament and yet at the same time his symptoms are not consistent with a tear. You would have a guy that either would have swelling or he would very sore when you go through a range of motion or you place some stress on the elbow to test the ligament. That could speak to the overall strength of the muscles that support the elbow. But, still, there’s something that’s definitive in there and with respect to Kyle, we’ve got to make sure that we expose him to the best available to determine the extent of the injury and what the next steps are.”

Kyle Drabek:

“I was down because they said they saw a little tear and right when they said that I flashed back to when I had it previously. Hated going through it, you miss a year of baseball, you miss a year of hanging out with the guys. Today it’s a little different because it doesn’t feel the same way it did the first time, I still have mobility in my arm and when I had it before, everything was pained.”

Last MRI when he was traded, possible there for a while?

 “He was wondering the same thing, we don’t know. Up until the past week it’s felt great. I’m hoping what they saw might have been there and it’s just a little rehab. I’ll wait to see.

“Haven’t really talked much about best-case, worst-case. The best case is it’s a month, two months of rehab, worst case is that it’s completely torn and I have to miss a full year.”

Not many guys have gone through it twice…

“I don’t know that many guys who have gone through two. Talking with Frasor, after his second one he said he’s felt great ever since. It’s tough. If I have to have it again, it’s going to be hard rehab because it was hard the first time, and I’m sure it’s going to be even harder the second time.”

Talk to your dad?

“He knows as much as you all do. He’s pretty much in the same boat as me, hoping it’s a best-case scenario, rehab a little bit, he’s going to be coming up here, either (Saturday) or the next one, he’s having trouble with his passport, so I don’t know? He’s in Cali but he left it in Houston. We’ll see how that works out.

Silver-lining be that he’s 25, with big-league time behind him?

“If I have to have it again, take my year, rehab real hard and try to get back here as soon as possible healthy.”

Reason to think might be wrong since no pain?

 “A little bit, in the case that I can move my arm a lot better than I normally would and really the pain is just in the forearm and behind the elbow. It’s what I’m hoping for. It’s either a year thing or a few months thing.”

Pain in weeks before?

 “Not really, it was normal soreness, maybe a little bit more, but at game-time I felt great. It was getting a little sore in the game, but nothing that I wouldn’t be able to pitch through and then the pop happened.”

First tear…

 “I didn’t really feel anything the first time, I was just throwing, threw a fastball and it kind of ached a little bit, didn’t think anything, threw a curveball, felt fine, then I threw another fastball and the pain started happening. I don’t hear or feel anything, it was just pain. This time I could feel the pop. It was in the back of the elbow so it was almost like I extended it more, almost like a shot-gun feeling.”

Reaction to Morrow’s injury and Guerrero’s release

On the main site you’ll find updated information on Vladimir Guerrero’s release from the Blue Jays and the latest injury news on right-hander Brandon Morrow. General manager Alex Anthopoulos held court with reporters this afternoon. Below, I’ve posted the full transcript for those that are interested:

What happened with Guerrero? 

“Obviously we never had a date. But we always told him throughout the process that anytime he felt that he didn’t want to be here, he had the ability to leave any time. Even though we don’t have out clauses, we had a handshake agreement that any time he could indicate to us that if you wanted to go that we would grant him his release.

 “I talked to his agent Monday morning. At first we talked a week ago and said we would just reevaluate things after the road trip, after Sunday’s game. He got hit in the hand, missed Saturday and Sunday’s game. His agent and I spoke on Monday morning and we said obviously we were going to reevaluate.

 “I told him look, if have to make a decision right now, we’re not prepared to call him up. So if he wants his release right now we certainly would do it. If not, I said Tony LaCava, he’s going to be there tonight (Tuesday night) and for the next three or four games. If you’d like we can just strictly go day to day when he has obviously he has the ability to control the process and he can go whenever he likes.

 “But I said if the decision needs to be right now we’ll certainly grant him his release.

 “From that standpoint, he played last night and he decided that that was going to be enough for him. He felt that he was certainly worthy of a call up. We’re just not prepared to do that right now.”

 Update on Morrow?

“Not yet. He’s obviously sore today. We’re going to have some exams done around 4:30 so hopefully we’ll get the results around game time. So highly-probable we’re going to DL-him but we’re going to at least wait to get the results so we know exactly what the severity of all of it is. From there we’ll make a decision.

 “Right now I would expect him to go on the DL, but it’s not 100 per cent for sure.”

For Guerrero, was it just not enough time for a proper evaluation? 

“I think really we go off our staff. Our staff just felt like right now, for us — and again, he’s obviously a Hall of Famer, he was a tremendous teammate, great guy across the board. But our staff are the ones we’re relying on to make the evaluation for us. And they felt we needed some more games. And we obviously felt that as well.

 “But he had the right at any time to go and he made that decision.”

 Did Guerrero not put up enough numbers to justify a promotion?

“The stats are there. He was slowly starting to get better — and obviously last night he had a very good night. In all fairness to the team, we had 20 hits or something and we scored a lot of runs. So the entire team did very well. But that’s not to take anything away from him. It was a good game for him and I would have liked to have seen more games.

 “But at the same time, he knows himself better than anybody, he felt like he’s done enough there and he was prepared to come up here. But we didn’t necessarily agree with that.”

 Do you feel that you guys treated Guerrero fairly? There are some comments out there that indicate he felt otherwise…

“I talked to his agent and it was great communication with his agent. I never spoke to Vlady directly. But with his agent great communication.”

 Any idea why Guerrero would say some of the things he was quoted as saying?

“I can’t. All I can say is we had great dialogue with his agent. From that standpoint best ask his agent what happened. But we had great communication and great dialogue. Again, we always told him he had the ability to go whenever he wanted to. I think from that standpoint, he’s a great player, a Hall of Famer, and he was a great teammate for us, handled himself extremely well. Everybody said he was a tremendous guy. And from that standpoint we just weren’t ready to call him up at this time.”

 With respect to Brandon, does this press you into making some additional moves?

“We have time because of the off-day to reevaluate it. So we’ve really got a lot more time because of the off-day on Thursday.

 “We don’t have to make the decision right now. We’ve obviously got a lot of ideas and things like that. We’ll know the severity of it, again, probably a DL stint but we don’t need to make the decision right now. We can wait until tomorrow and just see what the results are tonight.”

Considering how well he has pitched it must be frustrating…

“There’s no question you lose a guy like that, he has a good chance to make the all-star team. He’s pitched great, but it happens. And we’re certainly not the first team to go through it. A lot of other teams do. It’s a long year and you just have to fight through it. And hopefully we can get him back soon and we can make up some ground while he’s away.”

 

Does Jesse Chavez enter the mix? Assuming Morrow has to miss some starts…

“He’s definitely the frontrunner, I guess I would say that. But we haven’t made a commitment one way or the other. He’s scheduled to pitch tomorrow but we don’t have to make a decision for awhile. But there’s no question that he has probably been the best starter down there but I certainly don’t want to lock into that name but he’s put himself in a good position.”

Morrow injury cause you to want to add veteran?

“No, we’re practically mid-June at this point. You’re always looking to add talent and players whenever you can. You’re hopeful that whatever we end up doing, whatever time he does miss, you might get someone that gets hot and does well. I know when Carlos Villanueva had to step into the rotation last year … for probably three or four weeks he did a very good job and then he got hurt and didn’t do as well.

“But you never know, someone steps in, they might do a good job for you, we might score some runs for them and end up getting some wins. It’s one start every five days, there’s value to those starts because of Brandon’s ability to work deep into games, save the bullpen, things like that, but at the same time it is 25 guys and there are lots of teams in this division and in this league that have lost a lot of good players and have been able to overcome it. Hopefully we’ll be in the same boat.”

Why Gomes as the player who was sent down today?

“It was just one of those things, left-handed bat between Cooper and him and we talked about McCoy and the fact that he can play both. It just seemed like it was a move to protect the club right now and keeping Cooper’s left-handed bat. But it was close. We could have gone with McCoy, we could have gone with Cooper, we just felt that Gomes was probably the move to make and it’s not that anybody deserved to go down but we needed to send one of those guys down.”

 Vlad… emergency need for first base impact decision?

“No, I think it just came down to our staff. We have players with options, so we’re not locked into any of our young guys here. We certainly have the ability to control them and send them back down. But it was just one of those things where I think Vlad felt he was prepared to come up here now and our staff didn’t necessary see it that way and felt he needed a few more games. That was his right, we went into this with our eyes wide open, there was no guarantees he was going to come up here, no promises, we were going to continue to evaluate him.”

 Where would he have fit in?

“I don’t know. We would have just dealt with it. We weren’t at that point yet, we would have crossed that bridge when it came time to it.”

 What was the staff telling you about his progress?

“Just that he was getting better slowly. Timing was better, more hard hit balls, but they didn’t necessarily feel that he was all the way there yet. They said he was a great worker, a great teammate, played hard, ran ground balls out, did all those things, everything you want. Maybe just timing, felt like he just needed a few more at-bats. He didn’t agree and that’s fine. But the dialogue with his agent and everything has been outstanding, completely amicable. There may have been reports to the contrary but I haven’t gotten any of that at all.”

 Any regrets about the signing?

“No, I think it went the way, either he’s called up or he isn’t.”

 Any disappointment?

“No. I think when we talked about the signing we characterized it fairly well that it was a no lose. There was no financial guarantees, there were no guarantees at all. It was just let’s take a shot and see how he looks.”

Glad that he got Vlad back into the mainstream to be seen by other clubs?

“No, we didn’t get to that point. Bean and I have worked together before and I think Bean knew that even though we don’t have out-clauses in our contracts, he knows we’re going to hold up our end of the bargain and be men of our word. The minute he didn’t want to be here we weren’t going to not release him. The minute he wanted his release we were going to give him his release. I think we have a great relationship with Bean, we’ve always worked well with him and there’s certainly trust on both sides. Our communication was great and even when we spoke today it was great. There were no concerns at all.”

 There wasn’t a Sunday deadline?

“No all we talked about was that we would re-evaluate after the road trip on Sunday. Then Vlad got hit on the hand on Saturday and then didn’t play Saturday, didn’t play Sunday. So we spoke on Monday morning, so obviously it was just to get an update. I told him, ‘look, we talked about re-evaluating on Sunday. If we re-evaluate, if we have to make the decision right now, considering he had to miss two games, we’re not prepared to call him up. So if he wants his release we’ll certainly hold up to our end of the bargain.

“We’re going to grant him his release if he wants that. If not, we can go day to day. I said, it’s up to you how you want to go about it. You can let me know and stay in communication. That’s really what we did the entire time. We stayed in communication, we never forced anything. It was always make sure everyone was on board with what we were doing.

“Even when he was in Florida, wanted to stay in Florida a little bit longer, no problem. We really worked to the schedule, other than being called up here, the way they wanted it set up. We never had any problems at all.”

 Could there still be a future for Vlad?

“Oh sure. No doubt about it. He started to play well, play a lot better. For us, we needed to see some more at-bats but I would never count him out. The guy’s a Hall of Famer, great teammate, great guy. There’s no question I think he’s definitely going to have opportunities. No doubt about it.”

On draft pick signings…

 “The good part about this now is (the deadline is) the middle of July, not August so negotiations start a little sooner. I think r some the same way because the deadline was the middle of August sometimes you’d only get the ball rolling until the beginning of August because people wanted to see some of the other signings coming in so that could certainly be the case for some of our (unsigned) guys. Again it’s the same process, you could probably look at my quotes from each year, just we have it a month earlier. We’re having dialogue, but other than that I probably wouldn’t want to characterize anything else. We’re optimistic we’re going to sign all these guys. “

On whether there’s a cutoff point to sign them and get them into short-season ball…

“No, because I think in the past it was middle August the short-season teams were done two weeks later, and they hadn’t been playing, you have to get them in shape. But right now, because of the signing date we’ll definitely be able to get them all into games whether it’s Vancouver, Bluefield, Gulf Coast.”

Do you expect these three guys (Stroman, Smoral and DeJong) to go to and DeJong to go to the deadline?

“I hope not, I don’t know that I expect anything. That’s where you make mistakes in negotiations because you know that there is one deadline in place, that’s the one thing we know, I think everyone on both sides is optimistic to get something done. Should it need to go that far, so be it as long as we get them signed and you hope if they don’t get signed, it happens as well, we’ve certainly gone down that path before here. Same thing as always: try to get things done and if not, we’ll try again the following year.”

So Stroman Duke/workout tweet is no indication of anything?

 “I wouldn’t characterize anything. I think a lot of players stay in shape. If they’re not signed, I think they want to stay in shape one way or the other. I can’t speak for him, but I don’t think that matters at all.”

If Morrow goes on DL, does it force your hand trade wise?

“It all depends. I think we look to add talent whenever we could so, I don’t know if your hand is forced. I think we’re always going to look to be active and try to make deals and it’s tough at this point to engage teams, it’s June so I think once we get to July it’ll really start to get going. I think slowly preliminary dialogue will start now that the draft is over. We’ll just have to wait and see. Obviously it’s a big loss, he’s been one of our top guys the entire year but you never know, sometimes guys step up and it’s happened with a lot of other teams and hopefully for us it’ll be the same case.

Are you determined not to reach the 5% tax threshold?

 “I feel very confident that we won’t do anything to risk having to lose a draft pick the following year, so I don’t know that any clubs will be doing that. I don’t see the upside. Might there come a time and a year? Yes, but I’m pretty confident that 2012 will not be that year for us.”

So you’d rather lose one of these guys than lose a draft pick next year?

“No question. You can go over a little bit, sure but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I think you have your value and I know that’s what we’ve done. I say it a lot but you have to take the emotion out of it. You have your value, and you have your reasons and you stick to your process and in the long run, sure they’ll be ones you make mistakes on, but I think in the long run it’ll work out. So we have value on players, try to negotiate and get something done and the ones that have signed, we’re able to get it done a little sooner and hopefully they’ll be some yet to sign but we’ll go from there.”

So you’ll stay within your pool?

“I would think so, sure. I would feel confident in saying we won’t do anything that will cost us a pick the following year. I can guarantee that.” 

Alford to sign with Blue Jays

TORONTO — Blue Jays third-rounder Anthony Alford confirmed to MLB.com on Friday that he will sign with Toronto.

The deal, which was first reported by Baseball America, will allow Alford to continue playing football at Southern Mississippi University, but he will join one of Toronto’s Minor League affiliates this summer.

Alford, who was considered a difficult sign because of his commit to Southern Mississippi, will fly to Florida on Saturday to meet with the Blue Jays.

“I will play football and I will play baseball,” said Alford in a brief phone interview.

Alford wouldn’t reveal the details of the contract but expects to sign by Monday.

He will likely be paid well over the recommended slot of $424,400 for the No. 112 overall pick.

Alford reportedly told teams prior to the Draft to not select him because of his desire to continue playing football, which is the only reason he dropped to the third round. The center fielder was considered a first-round talent and was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 56 prospect entering the Draft.

Larry Watkins, Alford’s high school coach, told MLB.com earlier in the week that Toronto scouted him heavily all season long.

Blue Jays amateur scouting director Andrew Tinnish raved about Alford in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

“Obviously he’s a very good athlete and a very good kid, with a very short and quick compact swing,” Tinnish said. “He’s probably a seven runner on our two-to-eight scale. He’s very explosive. He’s a guy that we’d love to have as part of our organization.”

The toolsy outfielder has already started taking classes at Southern Mississippi, where he is studying business.

Alford started all four years he played at Petal High School, and helped the team win state championships in his sophomore and junior years.

Last season, in his senior year, Alford hit .483/.569/.793 with four home runs while stealing 14 bases in as many attempts.

Chris Toman 

Smoral intends to sign with Blue Jays

TORONTO — Matt Smoral, who the Blue Jays selected in compensation round A of the First-Year Player Draft, would not reveal the details of his negotiation process with Toronto but confirmed that he will likely reach an agreement with the club.

“I have not signed yet,” said Smoral, who is a North Carolina commit. “We are just going through the normal post-draft negotiations. I’m looking forward to hopefully being a member of the Blue Jays family. I’m excited.

“We are still working on it but it will be over-slot. Right now, we are trying to keep the money confidential.”

Toronto has already saved over $200,000 by signing 10th-rounder Alex Azor and sixth-round pick Eric Phillips well below slot value. That money can now be used to pay some of the team’s marquee Draft selections like Smoral, whose recommended bonus is $1 million, over-slot.

Smoral, a high school senior from Ohio, was tabbed to be a high first-round pick heading into 2012 but missed the majority of the season after undergoing right foot surgery to repair a stress fracture.

The left-hander said his foot is progressing well and he found ways to continue throwing despite the injury.

Smoral wasn’t sure where he was going in the Draft but said many teams showed interest throughout the year.

“The Blue Jays were definitely one of those teams,” Smoral said.

He took a physical in Dunedin on Wednesday but won’t be participating in Toronto’s mini-camp workout this weekend.

Smoral will see a doctor next Thursday for a follow-up visit on his foot.

Chris Toman 

Q+A with Duke pitching coach on Marcus Stroman

TORONTO — Duke pitching coach Sean Snedeker spoke with MLB.com about right-hander Marcus Stroman, who the Blue Jays selected at No. 22 overall in the First-Year Player Draft on Monday.

Below are some of the highlights.

On whether he thinks Stroman should start or come out of the bullpen:

“Here’s the thing with Marcus, and I would not have said this prior to this year — he can literally do whatever the Blue Jays would like him to do. He is capable and equipped to be a starter or reliever. I think he projects more as a back of the bullpen-type of guy because his velocity will increase and he will be more aggressive.”

On his pitching arsenal:

“The quality of his pitches are Major League ready. Stroman has the complete package. He has four pitches that he throws all for strikes, with plus velocity. If you are grading these pitches out, they are all Major League average to plus pitches. To find that in one package is extremely rare, when you are talking about being able to do it and do it consistently in the strike zone. He showed all season long that he was capable of doing that.”

On Stroman’s progression over his three years in college:

“He had good stuff coming into Duke. The thing we really worked on was to be able to command a fastball, number one. When he came in he was used to overpowering guys with a fastball without much thought to command and locate. That, obviously, evolved and the emphasis was put on him right away to be down in the zone.”

On where he stacks up to others he has coached:

“I think the Blue Jays are in for quite a treat. The kid competes, he’s athletic and he’s as close to Major League ready right now as anybody I’ve ever had his age, and I’ve had roughly 40 Major League pitchers on my pitching staff in one shape or form. He’s a good one. He has a huge heart. He is singularly focused on playing in the big leagues.”

Snedeker thought Stroman would be taken higher in the Draft and believes a potential stigma exists in baseball about smaller guys. Stroman is listed at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds.

“The thing that drives him is, he wants to show that he can do it despite his size. His stuff will so overshadow his size. If you doubt the guy, it fuels his fire. I’m very confident he can make a rapid rise to the big leagues.

“I couldn’t be happier for him, personally. I’m extremely proud of him, a very good worker and he was an unbelievably consistent performer. He’s a special kid.”

Chris Toman

Azor signs with Jays

The Blue Jays reached agreement with 10th-round pick Alex Azor for $1,000, the college senior told MLB.com on Thursday.

Azor, selected out of the United States Naval Academy, will report to Dunedin, Fla., this weekend and play short-season ball with the Blue Jays for the summer until he reports to the military in the fall. His military obligation will prevent him from playing while he serves, and the Blue Jays will place him on the restricted list.

Toronto will save $124, 000 on the deal, which is money that can be used to sign some of the club’s higher picks, such as high schoolers Matt Smoral and Anthony Alford.

The Blue Jays also signed sixth-round pick Eric Phillips well under slot value, for $5,000, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reported Wednesday.

– Chris Toman

Tinnish talks about the Draft

The Blue Jays director of scouting Andrew Tinnish had a conference call this evening with reporters to talk about the Blue Jays Draft. On the main site, you’ll find plenty of coverage from all three days with additional content coming tonight. Some of Tinnish’s comments will be used in those pieces to go along with exclusive MLB.com interviews with Anthony Alford, Ryan Kellogg and Chase DeJong plus exclusives with a lot of the top picks high school and college coaches. Check it out…

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB while associate MLB.com reporter Chris Toman is doing great work and can be found @Chris_Toman

Tinnish’s take on the Draft…

“We feel at this point anyways pretty excited about the players that we took. I think I say this every year, but time will tell. We felt like we were able to add some quality athletes to the organization, some quality arms and now obviously the process begins of trying to get these players in uniforms. As soon as the player is drafted we start the work to try and get the player signed. Obviously it’s going to take some time, a little bit longer in some cases than others, but we have begun that process and we’ll continue to do so from now up until the deadline July 13.”

On whether process is more advanced this year…

“The process I’d say is more structured than it was before. I think a little more strategy is involved as far as the players you take, especially in the Top 10 rounds. One of the important jobs of our area scouts is to determine what they feel the player feels his own value is. We feel like we’ve got a good chance to sign all of our players in the top 10 rounds.”

 Do you anticipate having some money left to get some pricier picks beyond the 11th round…

 “We’re hopeful. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges with this new system. Obviously there are restrictions in place and anything over $100,000 after the 10th round counts against your pool so you need to work smart if you want to be able to sign some of the players you’ve taken after the 10th.”

 “I feel like we will have a chance to do that, but obviously a lot of it depends on first and foremost how things go with the players in the top 10 rounds.”

 On Alford…

“Anthony is an extremely athletic centre-fielder from Petal high school just outside of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He’s committed to Southern Miss as a quarterback. Obviously he’s a very good athlete and a very good kid, with a very short and quick compact swing. He’s probably a seven runner on our 2-8 scale. He’s very explosive. He’s a guy that we’d love to have as part of our organization. It’s something that we’re going to work hard to do but at this point, we’re just starting the process of communicating with him and his family.”

 Is he better at football than baseball at this stage?

 “I’m not a football scout. I think he’s an extremely good baseball player. I think he’s got a chance to be an everyday player in the major leagues. As far as if he’s better at football, I’m not really qualified to make a comment. Certainly he must be pretty good if he’s got a scholarship at a Division I school at quarterback.”

 On Luke Wilson type accommodation…

“I think they could be possible. This is a little unique because of where we took him in the draft. Luke was a post-draft sign. It’s too early in the process to say, yes or no to that so I’d probably just have to say ‘maybe.”

 On what determines who gets sent to Dunedin…

 “It depends on the player, the schedule and the flexibility and where the family is at, where we’re at. What timeline we foresee with this particular player as far as getting them in a Blue jays uniform. Obviously the goal is to try an get these players signed as quickly as possible. I think that by doing that it just gives you an idea of what you’re going to be able, what you are and aren’t able to do going forward so we’re going to work quickly to try and get a lot of this stuff done.”

 So if a guy is going to Dunedin does that suggest negotiations are going well and quickly?

“The rule basically is any player, any high school player on your negotiating list you draft you can send them to a complex or wherever for a physical and it doesn’t jeopardize their NCAA eligibility in any way, so we’ve done it in the past with HS players where you bring them up, you get them examined and then you get them out. It doesn’t mean you have an agreement in place. It doesn’t mean that you’ve signed a player. It’s just more, I guess on both ends, to keep the process moving.”

 How many picks have been sent to Dunedin?

“I’m not sure of the exact number, I would say just a guess right now, probably maybe three or four with certainly some more on the way every soon. Our report date for mini camps is Saturday report for Sunday physicals. Some players we’re trying to get in earlier than others, just to get things out of the way. We have a mini camp that starts next week, the physicals are on Sunday. Players will travel on Saturday.”

 Mini camp for drafted players?

“The players that we have agreed with in principal, will come down, travel on Saturday for physicals on Sunday and they’ll begin the process of getting assigned to a short-season club on Monday they’ll get on the field. This is more so for some of the seniors that we’ve taken and players a little bit later in the draft.”

 Is the mini-camp something new?

“Every team does it, every year.

 Does a player only need to have agreed in principal, not signed a contract to attend the mini-camp?

“Some of the players have actually – and I don’t want to give the specific names yet – some of the seniors that we’ve taken, we’ve already agreed to terms and signed.”

Smoral…

“He’s hard not to like. 6-foot-6 left-handed pitcher, with good action and a good delivery.”

“He was limited obviously to two outings, which was unfortunately for him but a great kid, very hard worker. Plus fastball, plus slider.”

“You don’t find too many left-handers that are that tall with good actions, deliveries, good mechanics and the makings of a very good breaking ball.”
Kellogg…

“We like Ryan Kellogg, we’re hopeful we can work something out. It’s very difficult for me at this point to say that we are or aren’t going to be able to work something out because I don’t know what type of flexibility we’re going to have. We were sitting there in the 12th round and he was a player that we liked and wanted to take and hopefully we can work something out.

“It’s too early in the process to be able to really say, ‘yeah, we feel like we are going to able to do something,’ or ‘no we are not going to be able to do something.’ Obviously we see the player that we want to sign , that we have interest in. Another big left-hander, great kid, Canadian kid. Certainly we would love for him to be in a Blue Jays uniform sooner than later, but at this point, we have other things to focus on before we can address that.”

Strategy wise… make sense to attack front before back?

“I think that anytime you pick a player in this system in the top 10 rounds, you’re trying to figure out what you can pay and how you want to sort of structure things. I can’t sit here and say, we have to focus on this one in the first, second and third and then to move to the back. Really, I think I would say that every team has, in a little bit of a way, a different strategy. Obviously you can look at our Draft list and saw that we took seniors from the fourth to the tenth and we kind of feel like those players are going to be playing for us very soon and we’ll work on the other part afterwards.”

Run of seniors in rounds 4-to-10… how do they fit in?

“They’re players that we like and they’re players that gave us flexibility. Tucker Donahue, who we took in the fourth, we had anywhere from 92-96 mph this year. I feel like he has a chance to be a bullpen arm for us. Brad Delatte a left-hander was up to 92, very aggressive. Parmley who we took in the seventh is a seven runner on our 2-8 scale. Jordan Leyland hit over 20 home runs this year. So, I mean, there’s some players with ability. I guess it was kind of a combination of ability and flexibility as far as our pool. They were identified as players, who were seniors, and players who had the potential of getting to the big leagues some day.”

Day 3 picks…

“Shane Dawson the Canadian left-hander, we’re excited about. Young and athletic, really he’s pitching in a junior college but he’s really at the age of a lot of the high school kids. We think he has a chance to be very good. William Dupont second baseman we took in the 16th round, a left-handed hitter and a plus runner, very athletic. Dennis Jones is an eight runner on the 2-to-8 scale, right-handed hitting center fielder from Hillsborough Community College. There’s a lot of guys that we’re excited about. We felt like our scouts did a very good job identifying talent that might get a little deeper into the Draft. We feel like we’ve got a chance to add Major League talent beyond that 15th round and we’re excited about it.”

When did you come up with 4-10 round strategy? Right after the new CBA?

“It was something that we thought about. The tough thing is, you can come up with all of the different strategies that you want but you don’t know if you’ll be able to implement them or use them until you actually sit there and see who’s facing you at each pick. We were prepared for it. Couldn’t sit there and guarantee that it was going to hapen but it was something that we certainly thought about in advance and felt like we had identified players who would provide us flexibility and also ability at the same time. “

Extra picks allow for that strategy?

“I don’t know. If we sign all of these guys we’re not going to have any extra picks next year I wouldn’t imagine so I could probably answer that question better for you next year.”

But if you’re taking fewer upside rounds 4-to-10 it’s mitigated by so many early picks?

“I think the talent in the Draft, should and usually does go up high. The tough thing is to predict, well, this player’s going to cost ‘X’ and that player is going to cost ‘Y.’ It changes from year to year and it changes from player to player. I understand what you’re saying but it’s hard for me to say not having those picks would change things. I don’t really know. “

Tinnish on last year’s crop..

“A lot of them are in extended [spring training] which is consistent with what we’ve done with high school players and they will get out playing soon.

“Players like Dwight Smith, Jacob Anderson, Christian Lopes and Matt Dean as far as the high school position players are off to good starts. Hitting very well, playing good defense. They will get out at some point once the short season starts.

“Daniel Norris, Joe Musgrove, Kevin Comer, Tom Robson, Jeremy Gabryszwski, some of the higher high school arms that we took, have been throwing well. Norris is throwing very well, he has cleaned up his delivery a lot. We are very excited about getting him started in pro baseball.”

“We have some college guys that have gone out and performed very well. Andy Burns, who we took a little bit later in the draft, has done extremely well for Lansing. John Stilson has done very well in Dunedin as a starter, which has been very nice for us to see. That was something that we wanted to see, if we could really stretch him out, and so far he has done a very good job and maintained a lot of the stuff that he had last year at Texas A&M.”

“Those are some of the highlights at this point. Really, outside of college guys, there’s not really too much to talk about because the high school kids haven’t gotten out and played in official games yet. But they are off to nice starts.”

Smoral’s coach speaks out, says Toronto was “aggressive pursuing him”

TORONTO – If a stress fracture in his right foot had not caused season-ending surgery, there is a good chance that the Blue Jays would not have been able to take Matt Smoral, a high school senior, in compensation round A.

Tabbed by many to be a first round selection heading into 2012, Smoral’s stock dropped because he was unable to pitch for the majority of the year.

The injury was a freak accident. Smoral and his Ohio high school team, Solon, were on a spring trip to Myrtle Beach, and enjoying an off-day in the warm Florida weather. At the beach, Smoral reached down to pick something up and heard a pop — he instantly knew it was serious.

“It was something that had happened previously,” said Smoral’s high school coach, Damien Kopkas. “They did the surgery, which was supposed to be more of a preventative surgery to take care of of what might have been an existing issue with the structure of his foot.

“He’s ahead of schedule, if not right on track. If it heals properly, it shouldn’t be an issue again in the future.”

Regardless of the injury, the Blue Jays liked him and Kopkas knew there was a good chance Toronto would be in on Smoral on Day 1.

“We both fielded a number of calls throughout the year,” Kopkas said. “”The Blue Jays were one of the teams that were very aggressive in trying to pursue him. I spoke with the Blue Jays multiple times before the season and throughout.

“Watching the Draft from my house, I was sitting there saying to myself when the Blue Jays came up ‘this could be the spot he goes,’” Kopkas said. “The Blue Jays were one of the teams that really showed a high level of interest in him. It did not shock me at all when his name was called to go to Toronto.”

Reports surfaced Wednesday afternoon that Smoral had agreed to a deal with the Blue Jays but it wasn’t immediately clear if that was the case. Smoral did confirm on his official Twitter account that he was off to Dunedin — presumably for a physical.

Kopkas has been the head coach at Solon for the past three years and says Smoral’s size is what jumps out when you see him take the mound. Smoral, listed at 6-foot-8, was a sophomore when Kopkas took over the team, and what he saw was a young pitcher who simply relied on his size and strength. What Kopkas then saw over the years was a player who worked tirelessly to become a true pitcher and work on his balance on the mound.

As much as Kopkas raved about Smoral’s ability to succeed in pro ball, he believes it will be his personality that takes him over the top.

“I don’t think it could have happened to a better person,” Kopkas said. “All of the physical tools, gifts and everything I’ve seen from him on the baseball field, if it’s hard to believe, he’s probably a better person than he is a baseball player. Just a great kid all around — intelligent, polite, an upstanding young man with a bright future ahead of him.

“It really felt very gratifying. I played a very small part in this, he worked very hard on his own. He worked hard on his craft and will continue to. I wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

Kopkas spoke further about Smoral’s three-pitch arsenal:

Fastball: “He finished up his high school career clocked in the 92-95-mph range. Sits low 90s”

Slider: “He’s been working a lot on his slider, it’s a mid-to-upper-80s pitch with a lot of sink into right-handers. That is going to be a very good pitch for him.”

Changeup: “He has a an above-average changeup with a lot of movement. Changeup is in the low-to-mid-80s.”

Final assessment: “He has three above-average pitches with a lot of command. He works very well both inside and outside of the strike zone. He has a presence on the mound, doesn’t get rattled easily.”

– Chris Toman

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