August 2012

Lind to make his return

Adam  Lind on being back with the Blue Jays a little earlier than previously anticipated:

On how his rehab stint went…

“It’s nice when you don’t have scouting reports and things like that and people play where they’re supposed to play (no shift). It really gives you more opportunities to get hits but that’s how it is in the big leagues. Beyond that, I felt good all three days when I was down there.”

Homering in final game provide a little boost of confidence before return?

“I felt comfortable and I think that’s what rehab stints are about. I accomplished that and hopefully these guys don’t disrupt that comfort.”

Did you expect coming back this quickly?

“They had discussed four or five different plans I was going to do, none of which were three games. But they showed me some schedules of six games with days off mixed in. I’m happy to be back and help this team out, it really doesn’t do much down there to just play. At least come up here and help us turn things around.”

How do you feel after playing first base last night?

“I feel good right now. I’m a little sore. I think that’s to be expected having not played really since I was in Las Vegas, I haven’t played too much in the field. But I felt good to be out there sweating all game and to be out there with the boys.”

Are you going to have to monitor the back injury for the rest of the season?

“Yeah. It will probably be there the rest of my life. So, I just have to maintain it, do all the exercises I’m supposed to do and I think it will be tolerable.

“When I did it last year, they said those things never actually heal. You can only strengthen the muscles around it to protect it. So that’s what I’ve been doing the last year and a half and sometimes things like this happen.”

Different spot than last year?

“This was in a different spot. The doctor wasn’t even in town when I went on the DL so I had to wait a week to get an appointment. He just gave me some prescriptions and gave me the exercises and said hopefully I don’t see you.”

On being back…

“It’s great to be back here. We have a lot of good guys in the system but it’s nice to be back the people you really know, the guys you’ve been with for years. It’s nice to have purpose and be back here in the big leagues trying to win as many games as we can and keep as many teams out of the playoffs as we can right now.”

When you first went down… did you think it would take this long to get back?

“I was kind of all over the map. There were times, the day it happened I thought I was going to be done for awhile and then the progress I had from Day 1 to Day 2 was quite a large difference. By the time I got to Florida and started swinging, I was like man, I don’t know if I’ll even be back. It got better, did everything I was supposed to do and we’re good enough now to play in the big leagues.”

Bautista suffers another setback

Another day, another injury for the Blue Jays. Saturday night was supposed to be all about the return of No. 1 starter Brandon Morrow but instead the focus is on a potential season-ending injury to Jose Bautista, who can’t seem to shake the discomfort in his left wrist. On the main site, you’ll find an article with full details on the resurfacing of Bautista’s sore wrist, plus an item on David Cooper going on the DL because of lingering discomfort in his lower back.

In addition, check below for a transcript of Bautista’s post-game comments to the media plus reaction from manager John Farrell. Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB

Jose Bautista:

Feel like you just have to put your hands up in the air and wonder what else can go wrong?

“I wouldn’t put it in those words, yet. I just felt a little discomfort and a little soreness. I think it’s better to just let it calm down for a couple of days and see how it goes. Obviously no sense in pushing it when you’re coming back from an injury and you feel like it might go the other way, you have to put a stop to it and see what happens after you hear from the doctors and their recommendations.”

Is this mystifying to you that the pain has come back so quickly?

“I’ve been playing and I’ve been fine that’s why it’s a little bit bizarre to me. Maybe just one of those swings I took today, might have put the hand in the same position that I got hurt before, or something, I don’t know. It’s hard to replicate two swings. I don’t think it’s possible for me to play five or six games like I did and felt fine and then just have one swing that replicated the other one. I felt some discomfort, I hope it’s that, and I hope it will be calmed down in a couple of days and I can get back into it.”

When did it happen?

“One of those swings in the first at-bat, I started feeling something. I don’t think it was worth going up there the next at-bat and trying to have another full swing and not know how I felt afterwards. I think I did the proper thing in letting them know I wasn’t feeling perfectly fine like I was earlier. I guess some people with this injury have been reported to have some regression before they feel better. Doctors said it’s nothing to panic about, so I just have to see him and move on.”

Are you getting it checked out in Baltimore or elsewhere?

“I’m going to Cleveland tomorrow.”

But you’ll be out for at least 15 days because you’re going on the DL…

“I was not aware of that … I was not aware that I was on the DL yet but maybe the doctor also made some recommendations to (trainer) George (Poulis) as to how long it would take me to rest again and given that how many days I need to get back into swinging and all of that. Maybe that’s being taken under consideration too.”

Pain not as bad as it was in New York though?

“It was nowhere near what I felt the first day.”

John Farrell:

On Bautista…

“He felt some irritation in the same area that he’s been out with for a number of games after that first at-bat today. Precautionary, we took him out. He’ll get re-evaluated and checked by the hand specialist tomorrow but in the meantime we’ve obviously had to put him on the disabled list to make a move.”

Did he come back too soon?

“We wouldn’t have activated him if he hadn’t gone through the progression to date. Unfortunately in that at-bat, he felt some irritation, I don’t want to say it was instability, but the inflammation arose and given what he means to us, and not just for the current time but long-term, it’s precautionary we got him out of there.”

Did it happen on the long foul ball down the left field line?

“He didn’t indicate that it was any one particular swing. It’s more of an overall feeling that after the at-bat, somewhat fatigue and some irritation in the area, any time you’re coming back from an injury there’s going to be some strength, ebbs and flows that he’ll go through and he’s in that situation right now. So, we didn’t feel like it was worth any risk to continue on.”

Same area as before though?

“It’s still in the same area that he first felt it in New York. But through the progression of hitting, through the at-bats he took in simulated situations in Dunedin, the games he played with Florida and New Hampshire, he never felt it to the extent, or at all, but certainly not to where he had to come out of tonight’s game.”

 

A return to form

The Blue Jays finally received some positive news on the injury front for the first time in arguably more than two months. No. 1 starter Brandon Morrow re-joined the team for the first time since early June following a prolonged absence with a strained left oblique while Jose Bautista also found his way back after missing a significant amount of time with an injured left wrist.

On the main site, you’ll find my article on the return of both players plus the demotion of left-hander Aaron Laffey to the bullpen to accommodate Morrow. Below, you’ll also find the transcripts of today’s media scrums with Bautista/Morrow plus a portion of today’s conversation with manager John Farrell.

Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB where I’m posting daily updates on the team.

Brandon Morrow:

On being back…
“Great. I mean, it has been a lot longer than I would have hoped but it was one of those injuries that you had to play it by ear until you’re feeling good and strong. I’m feeling good and strong now, got all my work in during my rehab assignment and I’m ready to go.”

On length of time…
“We knew that from Day 1 that it wasn’t going to be something that I would be able to come back from fairly quickly. Guys have gone through it before and it’s one of those things where it’s best kind of slow played because you can feel okay and do it again, it’s one of those things you have to make sure it’s completely out.”

On all the club’s injuries…
“It has been tough. The injuries where on you on the field and in the clubhouse mentally. It’s tough when your big bats are going down, guys in the rotation are going down and you start to scuffle a little bit. It must have been tough.”

When did you start feeling like yourself…
“I felt good from my first one out. I really didn’t miss a beat, I think mechancially or with my arm. That’s the good thing with not being an arm injury I was able to at least keep the feel of the baseball even that sort of things even if I was throwing gingerly, at least having the ball in my hand and doing that. Getting the feel back didn’t really take long at all it was just getting to that point where I felt like I could really push myself.”

Maintained your stuff as innings increased?
“I was happy with my stuff throughout the whole process. I threw all of my pitches in all of my outings with success in all of them pretty much.”

How close to old form?
“I hope to be close to it. I felt good command wise with all of my pitches and I’ve stayed in the zone, I haven’t been walking guys, getting quick outs and staying economical with my pitches. That actually hurt me a little bit through the process going too quick through my innings. But I’ve been feeling really good.”

On being away…
“It was pretty tough. Not being around that’s what wears on you the most, watching the team struggling and more guys going down. It was tough being out. I probably didn’t watch as much as most people would think, it’s hard to sit and watch the games when you’re not there and do all of that but I was pulling for the guys.”

Tough for you to watch?
“On and off. I watched on and off. Probably more at the beginning. Then of course when I went on my rehab I was with a team and trying to be a team guy and watching their games, sitting in the dugout and stuff. But, yeah, just knowing what they’re going through with guys going down and some of the guys struggling and watching them, wishing I could be here to help out on the field and then also playing catch or whatever, just talking and stuff.”

Consolation that it wasn’t an arm injury?
“You can’t really think about it like that. I don’t want to say a fluke injury, but something that you don’t really plan for. Arm injuries, not always, but you feel it kind of creeping up on you, at least in my experience it has gotten progressively worse over a week and then you have to shut it down for a few days but this is obviously different on one pitch, pulling it or whatever.”

Ever seen injury woes like this team?
“Not in that timespan, within four or five days I guess. It’s crazy how that happened and then Jose not too long after that, Colby being hurt. J.P. Lawrie too. I’m forgetting because I wasn’t even here. I was already gone from Florida when those guys got down there.”

Jose Bautista:

On being out…
“I missed it every single day and it makes you appreciate what you have.”

“All I can do is (try) to help the team win games. I don’t look at myself as ‘that guy’ who’s going to make the team better or worse. We have a capable group and I just hope I can bring something to the table to contribute.

On being a leader while club struggles…
“We’re a bunch of grownups here and nobody is going to feel sorry for us. As a group, everybody is dealing with it in their own way. When you have years like this with so many guys hurt, it kind of makes the team more unified. We’re dealing with and trying to put forward the best effort.”

Two home runs in final rehab game…
“Anytime you do something good at the plate and you help score some runs, you feel great. I do realize that it’s a different level of baseball, but it’s not to say I was facing Little Leaguers, either. For the most part I went down there just to see some pitches before I showed up here and to try to test out my wrist.

On toughest thing about prolonged absence…
“Just being away from the game and getting back in the mix and you can’t really mimic it until you’re playing at this level. Physically I’m capable and I know I am healthy. But being successful, it’s a flip of a coin. Hopefully I can get right back into the mix and start contributing from day one, but I don’t know. I might need a couple of days.”

How difficult to sit back?
“It’s hard because you can’t contribute and you want to be out there. But there’s nothing you can control. You know you’re hurt and you can’t push it and try to play when you’re hurt. All you can do is wait.”

Something you’ll need to monitor the rest of the year?
“Of course. Anytime, even if you pull a hamstring, you have to monitor it when you come back. We have a little bit over a month left. I’ll be listening to my body. If it tells me I need a day off, I need to calm down for a couple of days and I’ll do that.”

Peace of mind after hitting the two homers?
“No, because I did it at a different level, which has nothing to do with big-league pitching. All it tells me is that if I’m ready to hit, when I go up to the plate with a good game plan and see my pitch that I’ll be good.”

Back everyday or will you need some days off…
“I don’t see a reason why I should take mandatory days off but, like said, if my body tells me I need a day off, I’m going to take a day off.”

Frustrating to sit out while the club was struggling so much offensively?
“It’s equally frustrating as if I was on the field. I know that everybody is trying and we’re all trying to help the team wins games and score runs. Some things you just can’t control in baseball. That’s the beauty and the hardest thing about the game at the same time. I don’t want to seem as if I’m sitting on the outside critiquing the guys that are playing because I know they’re trying their hardest and they’re all capable guys.”

John Farrell:

On Bautista being back…
“It’s a good day for us, for the organization, the fact that Jose’s back. Even after a brief rehab assignment, obviously what he did last night. Obviously the timing was there last night. We’re certainly looking forward to his presence in the lineup today.”

What does his presence mean to the team?
“A lot. To be put numerically, I don’t know that you can do that. It’s one of those things; when teams lose one of their main guys it creates a void not only of what their offensive production is or what they can do on defence, but the effect on people around them, whether it’s in the lineup or in the clubhouse or in the dugout. Like I said, it’s a good day for us. Glad he’s back with us.”

On Bautista’s impact…
“Well, there’s four at-bats tonight where we didn’t have him. So hopefully that’s enough of a change in and of itself. Clearly when you are able to add a middle-of-the-order bat back into the lineup, it gives us a chance to make it a little deeper. We’re still missing a couple guys and it’s been evident. We’ve had our struggles offensively over the last three to four weeks. So to add his back bat – that’s not to say we’re expecting him to come back and hit two home runs tonight or anything like that. Just his mere presence will have a positive impact.”

Does his presence take pressure off younger guys?
“Time will tell that, how he’s pitched to. The in-game things will probably have as much of a tell-tale of that as anything else. I know that preparing for him and the lineup he was in before … when you have Bautista in the lineup when you get it across the field it means a hell of a lot more than when it’s not in the lineup. We’ll see, and like I said: I think we have to be realistic. He’s missed five weeks, he’s had 12, 14 at-bats before coming back. He feels good … so he’s going to be in the lineup, so we’ll see how things unfold.”

On Morrow being back too…
“We’ve got him on an 85-95 pitch limit. That’s what he’s up to in the rehab starts he’s made. Jose, losing him created a hole in our lineup. Losing Brandon in our rotation created another one. He was really pitching very well, efficiently, he had thrown three shutouts for the time being he was here, and really started to come into his own. We thought that was going to be the case at spring training and that was playing out this year. Having missed him for the last two-and-a-half months has been a huge hole in our rotation.”

On Laffey going to the bullpen…
“We’ll continue to reevaluate things for the next time through the rotation, if his insertion back into the rotation is needed … Aaron knows this. At the same time we’re probably leaning towards a six-man rotation, so his presence in the bullpen is for a defined period of time and we look to go to that six-man rotation in September.”

On discovery of Aaron Loup…
“In all situations, whether it’s been game on the line, final inning of a game, meat of the order, middle of the order-type of power bats. I thought the at-bat to Boesch was probably a snapshot of what he’s been capable of doing – the need to make a key pitch – 3-2 count, first and second and he spots up a 91-mile-an-hour fastball down and away from a very difficult angle for a left-hander to battle against. He’s done an outstanding job. We’ve talked about his mound presence, his calmness, all those things are evident. And he hasn’t had that huge swing of, ‘Well, you know it’s first-year nerves…’ He’s been, in a very short period, he’s been very reliable.”

Coming from far off the map…
“It just shows you that bullpens can be built and relievers can come from really anywhere. In this case, yeah, he was never really in the main discussion for planning this past offseason, but he’s thrust himself right in the middle of it.”

Bautista’s immediate results in rehab stint, provide peace of mind to him?
“I’d have to say, ‘Yes,’ because if the reverse was there – they’d come without that recent performance, particularly driving the ball like he did – there might be more the feeling that we’ve got to work back into it. Hopefully he hits two balls out of the ballpark tonight, but I think he left there knowing, ‘You know what, my wrist feels good – or my forearm.’ He drove some balls. He swung-and-missed too, which is another tell-tale sign, if that has any indication of being discomfort, it might show up more in a pitch where they swing and miss. So I think some of that has been erased from his mind. But as far as the timing goes, yeah, he comes here with a couple of real positive days behind him.”

Anthopoulos talks catching

The Blue Jays announced a two-year contract extension for veteran Jeff Mathis on Tuesday afternoon. That would appear to force Toronto’s hand this offseason to pick either J.P. Arencibia or top prospect Travis d’Arnaud but that wasn’t the way general manager Alex Anthopoulos explained things during a scrum with reporters.

Anthopoulos believes there’s room for all three catchers on the roster at one time because d’Arnaud could see some time at designated hitter depending on what happens with Adam Lind during the offseason. That might work for a little while but at some point the club will need to make a final decision because both Arencibia and d’Arnaud possess the type of skill set that should enable them to be everyday catchers and if either one is forced to switch positions it would impact their overall value.

Of course Anthopoulos isn’t going to say a lot of that publicly. He would never go into an offseason while stating one of the two catchers has to be traded because it would have a negative impact on what the Blue Jays could net in return. So, for now Toronto will move forward with three potential Major League catchers in the fold plus a temporary replacement in Yorvit Torrealba.

Here’s what Anthopoulos had to say about the entire situation:

On signing Mathis…

“If we didn’t have him, we were going to look for someone like him either way. Obviously J.P.’s the starter and prior to this year, he’s a guy that can handle the load and catch a lot of games. Jeff’s a great complement to him. We know he’s a great defender, he’s a tremendous athlete, he’s a great teammate and I think he accepts the role and he understands the role and he’s still a competitor. If we don’t have him we’re looking for that guy.

“Even last offseason, you look at the free agent market, and for a guy that’s going to be in the back-up role, you’re looking for a combination of things. Teammate, clubhouse presence, athleticism, defense at that position, all of those things and someone that accepts the role, all of those things are important.”

On signing Torrealba…

“It’s an established big league player that has had some success. Jeff’s been handling the bulk of the role right now, him and Torrealba will split the job. He’ll go down to New Hampshire for four games and he’ll join the team in Detroit. So, he’ll be activated on Tuesday assuming no health issues or things like that. Him and Jeff with share the role to start and from there we’ll see how things go but Jeff knows about it and I even called J.P. about it as well so no one’s confused. This is a chance to get a quality big league player and at this stage it was a no-brainer for us.”

On appearing to have too many catchers now with d’Arnaud and Arencibia…

“I don’t think you ever have too many but I understand the question. Obviously with Travis having a great year in Las Vegas and unfortunately he got hurt and was banged up. I think we’ve brought this up before, obviously Travis is a tremendous prospect and he’s that right now, J.P.’s the starter, Jeff is the backup. There has been a lot of flux with respect to not necessarily first base because obviously Edwin’s really taken to that position but there could be potential at-bats at DH depending on how things go with Adam.

“Travis could find some ABs there. Who knows what the offseason is going to bring, it’s amazing how quickly things can change. I’d rather have too many players than too few. There’s always a way to work those things out.”

d’Arnaud would be a candidate for DH and 1B?

“I don’t know about first, we had him take some balls at first base in Las Vegas but right now I think Edwin has pretty much established himself as the guy getting the bulk of the reps at first. I think Travis, at the end of the day, can certainly force his way up here. We’ll find at-bats for him if that was to end up being the case.”

On how d’Arnaud’s injury impacted his timeline…

“He would have been up now, the way he was playing in Las Vegas. When J.P. got hurt, Travis certainly would have gotten the opportunity to come up and play the same way when John Buck was hurt a few years ago, J.P. was having a great year down there and got the opportunity. There’s no question he was definitely performing well enough and worthy of a call-up like some of the other guys have gotten but unfortunately he got hurt.

“Long-term he’s going to be fine, we still think he’s going to be a tremendous player and a tremendous prospect. This really doesn’t change anything. When players are good you find room for them.”

d’Arnaud going to the Arizona Fall League?

“Right now, there’s thought of doing that but it’s going to depend on how he recovers, what the doctors says and so on. If we can get him more at-bats because he has lost some at-bats we’ll definitely look to do that.”

d’Arnaud to start next year in Triple-A?

“I don’t want to say that. I want to see how the offseason plays out. I don’t want to sit here and rule out that he couldn’t come into Spring Training and compete for a spot on this team. That’s my hope, without promising or anything, I would hope there would be a scenario where he could come in and compete for a spot on this team.”

If d’Arnaud’s a candidate to DH is Arencibia a candidate as well?

“Yeah, but J.P.’s been the everyday guy here for two years, knows the staff, works well with them, has made tremendous strides. It’s just like anything else, when we ask about some of these other prospects, I don’t necessarily believe in displacing guys that are established and have proven themselves up here. J.P. apart from the injury was having a better year than he was last year, he’s gotten better. He’s our everyday guy behind the plate.”

Would there be enough catching opportunities for d’Arnaud if both Arencibia and Mathis were on the roster?

“I think there is always ways to find, you can always give guys a blow and a rest. I haven’t spent a whole lot of time on it and it’s just because things happen quickly, guys get hurt, I think it’s more about getting guys bats in the lineup. I don’t want to speak for what could be in Spring Training but there was really no downside to doing this one way or the other because I wouldn’t want a scenario where Travis is here playing twice a week like Jeff is. That’s not good for his development, the same way when Buck was here we didn’t want J.P. playing twice a week.

“Both of their bats are good enough and big enough that they’re everyday players. If Travis doesn’t get as many reps behind the plate, that’s fine, his bat is just a unique bat, it has a chance to be a middle of the order impact bat and J.P. as well. From that standpoint, I wouldn’t be overly concerned but things always seem to work themselves out.”

Wouldn’t that devalue d’Arnaud’s defense if he’s not getting regular time behind the plate?

“It doesn’t devalue it. He’s still a good defender but he’s also a great hitter as well. This is a guy that has won the MVP Award down in New Hampshire and was probably on his way to winning another MVP in Las Vegas. At the end of the day, you can never have too many good players, you can never have too much flexibility and there is just no downside to having good players. I think the important thing would be getting their bats in the lineup.”

Chad Mottola on Snider, Sierra, Hechavarria

I spoke with Las Vegas 51s hitting coach Chad Mottola about Travis Snider, Moises Sierra and Adeiny Hechavarria.

– When I asked Mottola if he was surprised Snider was traded, he said “nothing surprises me in this game.” He spoke about a close relationship with Snider and admitted that the Pirates have an exciting crop of outfielders with rookie Starling Marte — who was considered Pittsburgh’s No. 3 prospect heading into this season by MLB.com — Andrew McCutchen and, now, Snider.

Below is the transcript:

“I wish nothing but the best for Travis and continued success and hopefully we got something in return that will help us going forward.”

Have you talked to him since the trade? 

“Briefly. It’s always tough the first time you get traded. You develop so many relationships and bonds with players and coaches. He’s a special man off the field. The first time it happens you feel a little confused and nervous walking into a new clubhouse. Unfortunately, I can attest with as many clubhouses I’ve walked in — you get used to it. You realize there are no hard feelings and you just have to do your job. That’s the brief talk we had.”

What are some of the things you guys worked on this year and in what areas was he able to improve?

“He improved on the mental side much more this year. We worked on a lot of fundamentals last year and he got consistent with that. Now, when things break down, it doesn’t mean something is wrong. You can hit .300 but you still fail seven out of 10 times. So don’t be so anxious to change. Throughout the years, he went through so many changes. It was like ‘Hey, we are sticking to this plan and just because we fail a little doesn’t mean we are going to change all over again.’ And that’s what we worked on this year — more the mental side. That’s where he is at now and in life. At the time of the trade, he knew he couldn’t control it and he is going to keep doing what he’s doing.”

It had to be tough on him constantly going up and down over these past years, no?

“Without a doubt. He came in from Spring Training this year and you could just see the way he handled everything this year, that he never let it bother him. Day-in, day-out, he came and did his job. Other players in this game, the human side gets to you, and this year he didn’t let it affect him. It’s a test to him that he’s going to be in the middle of the pennant race now, and he can have a little fun with that.

“It’s one of those things. The Blue Jays move on and we will see what happens from there.”

Do you think Travis benefits from a change of scenery?

“I think it’s one of those things that only time will tell. He has been through the ups and downs in Toronto. This year, I think he came in with the mindset that he wanted to be with the Blue Jays and now he’s not. We’ll see, in time, how it shakes out. All the stuff he worked on is going to help him in life and in baseball.”

What do you see him becoming in a couple years?

“It’s one of those things where I don’t want to get caught up, as much as I love the guy, I don’t want to get caught up in the guy that is gone from here now. I have no idea what he is going to be. I know we worked so hard and did so many things and I wish him nothing but the best. But it’s one of those things. I hope he goes on to have a great career and I will continue to be in touch with him. But I don’t want to dwell on … it has already happened. It does no good for us, or the Blue Jays.”

What was the relationship you two were able to build on a personal level?

“You can’t help but get close to guys you’re around. You go through the grind yourself personally and then you see the guy doing the same thing. There is a lot of stuff that happens in life besides baseball. I just opened the door up, whether it is in the batting cage or in my office, for the guys to go ahead and speak and get those feelings out. The next thing you know, you are talking about things other than baseball. You develop friendships, become a mentor, if you want to call it that. And those are probably going to be carried on throughout life. Guys know you went through the experiences that they are going through, so they trust you in life and in baseball. And that is where it is at with him.”

What was Sierra doing in Vegas that helped him earn the promotion?

“He has shown great flashes of being that guy that they compared to — the Raul Mondesi, Nelson Cruz-type player. I think they wanted to see for themselves. It was an opportunity with all the moves made to look at the guy. I think he has to be a little more consistent in his approach but you know he will go down fighting. So you can live with the mistakes he will make at the big league level because they’re going to be aggressive mistakes. It was a good time for them to see what they have in him moving forward.”

Where does his arm and raw power stack up in the organization?

“His arm and Gose’s arm are the best in the organization. And his raw power is up there. Obviously there is Encarnacion and Bautista, but he’s close behind them as far as raw power. It’s just a matter of bringing it out more often and consistently.”

As someone who has worked closely with them, how happy are you to see these guys, one after another, get their first taste of the big leagues?

“It’s real satisfying. It makes your job exciting. With the time change in Vegas, you get to watch four or five innings of Blue Jays games of the guys you had, and then you sit there with all the other players that were just playing side-by-side with them — it kind of gets their attention knowing they are that close. We all kind of gather around the TV right after batting practice and watch all the guys. It makes it real easier to get their attention when they know they could go up any day.”

Do you think Hechavarria is ready?

“I think he’s ready. I think he’s ready to help them win day-in, day-out, whether it’s defensively or offensively. He comes ready to go every day. Sometimes, when we talk about the human side, when a guy is having success, they can slack off their work a little bit, but he hasn’t shown that at all. It’s August, and he is still grinding away and hasn’t skipped a beat.”

Where is he at with the bat?

“He has become more consistent. Sometimes he stays too far inside of the ball and gets under it. But he has taken a much more solid approach in using the whole field in driving the ball. Where, in years past, he has kind of wanted to serve the ball to right field, just to kind of survive. Now, he is starting to trust himself that he can drive the ball from gap to gap. He’s learning he can do this. He is getting a little bit more self-confident each day he steps to the plate.”

Chris Toman

 

Bautista talks injury and trade deadline

Here’s the full transcript in Q+A style of today’s scrum with Jose Bautista. He gives his thoughts on how the rehab from a sprained left wrist is going, about the Blue Jays activity at the trade deadline, on the lack of offense in recent games, plus his take on Yunel Escobar/Moises Sierra/Anthony Gose.

Bautista:

On how far the wrist has come…

“A long ways. It definitely feels much better but obviously with the type of injury in that area of a baseball player’s body and having to be able, or needing to be able to, handle a bat and swing it at high speeds with some weight on the bat, given that our bats are almost two pounds, is something that I don’t feel comfortable with going right now and saying that I’m able to play.

“I’m not going to start playing before I’m capable of doing what I can do. Or, I can help the team win games. I wouldn’t put myself in a situation to either hurt myself worse or help the team win games.”

Thoughts on the deadline…

“Not much has happened. Obviously we needed some bullpen help and we got some. So, that’s a real positive.”

On Yunel supposedly being disruptive in the clubhouse…

“It’s kind of upsetting because I know it’s just somebody making up rumors to diminish his value or just to ruin his reputation, in both case situations is pretty low of anybody to try to do that. I don’t see the reason why anybody would be targeting him personally and I’ve been his teammate for two and a half years now and I am the first one and attest that he is a great team player and he’s a great addition to any ballclub so we’re happy to have him and I’m glad to know and see that those were just rumors and I think he is one of the center pieces of this ballclub and I would hate to see him leave if he ever did. I wouldn’t want any other shortstop in the whole Major Leagues on my team that’s not him.”

On the amount of discomfort he feels in the wrist…

“Right now, nothing. But when I swing the bat, it’s some discomfort and the fact that that’s there, the recommendations from the hand specialist were not to push it too hard, too soon, so that’s what I’m going, taking it one day at a time. There’s no need to re-aggravate it, especially when I’m just hitting in the cage. I’m still ahead of the suggested gameplan according to the hand specialist.

“Their recommendations were initially to not even attempt to pick up a bat for two weeks and I’m at 16 days and I’m swinging in a cage with some liberty and somewhat of a free feel to my swing. It’s just that the speed of what I’m doing is not full speed. I’d say I’m still ahead of schedule and feeling good.”

On whether he envisions rehab games or do simulated work here…

“I don’t know, it will probably be a decision I would have to make later but my initial thought is if there’s enough games that I have missed and I do need any sort of playing time, my initial gut feeling is that I would rather do it somewhere else where I don’t disrupt the 25 guys that are here. Some teams have done it in the past and flown guys just to throw to somebody on the Major League team but that’s not what I would recommend.

“To me, initially, if I would only have to miss the exact 15 days of the DL stint I would have felt comfortable just going into the games right away. But obviously that timeframe is no longer realistic so it all depends on how many more games I miss. It will be addressed at the time, if I do need, and how many at-bats, and where it’s going to be depending on obviously where we’re playing at and where our upcoming games are going to be at.”

On whether offense struggling adds to his frustration level…

“I’m frustrated that I’m not out there and it’s frustrating to see our team lose any type of games. But it has been (three) games. It’s not something to freak out about or go thinking that the offense is not clicking. Sometimes you run into good pitching and that almost likely has been the case in the past (three) games. Guys have thrown good against us and there’s also been quite a few good plays made by the other team. This is a tough ballpark to score runs in. They’re a hot team, playing good, pitching good and hitting well. I don’t know, they have six or seven games that they have won in a row.

“Two games, is not that big of a deal, or nothing to be worried about. I think the most important game obviously is today and we have a chance to not get swept so I think that should be the main focus and then just take Oakland series for what it’s going to be. Obviously another team that’s playing good ball but a team that we feel confident enough that if we play up to our capabilities and execute when the game starts we should be able to beat them.”

Impressions on Anthony Gose…

“I think he is a player that brings a lot of energy, sort of like what Brett does. Just not as animated or as enthusiastic about it but nonetheless when he’s on the bases, he can disrupt the other team’s defense and how their approach to how they pitch to the guys that are batting and how they go about it as well and how quick their pitchers are going to work.

“That thought itself can get a pitcher off-track and help the guys at the plate. Defensively, he has done great I think. Obviously batting average wise, he’s not where he wants to be but it’s a small sample, that doesn’t mean anything.”

On talking to Moises after adventure on the bases…

“I don’t think it was an adventure. I think he stumbled around second base. He did get held up. Obviously I’m not going to recommend him doing that ever again but he knew where the ball was, the play was in front of him, it wasn’t behind him. He knew he could make it given his speed. So I think it was a great play that he scored. If he would have gotten thrown out maybe we’d be having a different discussions. But obviously he knows himself better than Butter and he thought he had it 100% and he did.

“I don’t think there was an adventure there but I do think I can help him out and others in any other aspect if they approach me or something kind of extraordinary happens and I feel like I need to put in my two cents, or I should. But that’s not the only reason I’m sticking around, I need to be with George (Poulis) and he’s taking care of my rehab and that’s where I feel comfort and that’s where he feels comfort so that’s why I’m here and not any other reason.”

Q+A with Anthopoulos on trade deadline moves + more

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos had a conference call with reporters Tuesday to discuss the trade deadline — specifically the Travis Snider for Brad Lincoln deal — the bullpen, the rotation, and the promotion of Moises Sierra from Triple-A Las Vegas.

Was addressing the bullpen the focus? 

“It’s not so much about focusing on one area. There is no doubt the bullpen for 2012 could still be improved, and even beyond that in 2013.

“Ultimately we had to go into an area of depth. You don’t necessarily want to trade the guys we did but you also understand we were going to have to give up value one way or the other.”

Do these trades address needs more for the future or now? 

“I think it does both. I think if you look at our club right now, our offense, we have one of the better offenses in the entire game. We obviously dealt from a position of strength … We added two big league players to our bullpen.

“I think we’ve improved our club because of where we are positioned right now. I don’t think there is any doubt about that at all.”

Were you willing to take on a rental player? 

“Oh, sure. We talked about a lot of players that were rentals. That was definitely not the focus. Ideally, everyone wants to get a great player with a lot of control. That’s obviously the player that every GM wants to have. … We talked about a number of players that were under short-term control — whether it be to the end of the year or one year beyond this year. We had a lot of dialogue there.”

Is Brad Lincoln someone that could start now or in the future? 

“I don’t think we would ever rule it out because he has done it before but, when we looked at him, the primary appeal is his ability to pitch late innings. A power arm with swing and miss stuff and that was really what he was acquired for. Obviously there is added value, or the upside, maybe one day he would potentially be able to start.

“Again, that wasn’t the primary focus when we acquired him. … He was acquired to fill a late-inning relief role for us going forward.”

More on Lincoln: “Our scouting reports are really high on him as a late-inning reliever.

“I don’t think we had anyone [scouts] that was not excited about him and the way he was throwing the ball. I think all our scouts felt pretty strongly about him. I think it was a unanimous, everyone felt that it was a very, very good talent for us.”

You traded Snider, an everyday outfielder, for a reliever. How do you balance value?

“Travis is hopefully on his way to being an everyday player and a good everyday player. He does a lot of things to help the team win. He’s a winning player and I think that is probably as big a compliment as you can give a player. Great teammate, work ethic, character .. it’s off the charts. He runs the bases, defensively, all those things. Tremendous power potential.

“We all know that the talent and the ability is there. At the same time, finding late-inning relief help isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do as well.

“I think Travis is someone with the potential and certainly the ability to become a very good everyday player. Being able to come back up here, [he] was just on his way to getting back on track to doing that. I know he hasn’t established himself to that yet but there is certainly the ability to do that.

“I think Brad Lincoln is the same way. He hasn’t been a bona fide late-inning guy right now but I think he’s well on his way to being able to do that. In terms of balance, I think you have to look at what makes sense for your club. We have needs there. … It made sense for us. I think from a value standpoint it was fair.”

On why the club likes Lincoln and Steve Delabar (who it acquired from Seattle for Eric Thames):

“I think there is no question we added bodies, two good bodies that have the ability to strike guys out which was important to us. Guys with above-average stuff and guys who have the chance to be here for a while. That can only improve our bullpen, especially with the number of free agents we have in our bullpen.”

Liked you’ve said before, the bullpen is a volatile area when you build a roster. How do you know what to give up for these guys?

“You aren’t going to get anybody for free, you are going to have to give up good talent.

“Two young talented players that were high picks that are just starting to establish themselves, maybe Travis a little bit behind because he just got back up. Brad has really had a nice year and has really started to emerge late in the year. I don’t know that either really are truly established. I guess you could say there is volatility to both guys with their careers and they are hopefully trying to establish themselves on both ends, for both teams.

“I think that is where there is a similarity there.”

Did you engage in talks for starting pitching? 

“We did. I think we were involved in a lot of things. Starters, position players, anything that we felt could help our club. It does get a little frantic, I guess, especially as you get to today. Ideally you don’t want to necessarily have a lot of dialogue on the last day just because things do seem a little bit rushed when you have to get training staffs involved, doctors, things like that to review files. … I think we had pretty healthy dialogue in a number of areas because, obviously, we still have a number of areas we can improve on this club.

“Until you win the World Series, I don’t think you should ever be satisfied.”

Does the way that Laffey/Villanueva/Cecil have been throwing change way you looked at needs for SPs this season?

“No. Like you said they have done a very solid job for but, again, we definitely could improve in that area. That’s not to single anybody out. If you look at the numbers and where we rank, until you rank 1 you can always improve.”

Rotation wasn’t biggest area to address?

“I think there has been some stability. You look at the way guys like Laffey have performed — I know they haven’t done that in their career. But you look at just the numbers and what they’ve done since they’ve been in the rotation. You look at guys like Villanueva, an ERA below 3 — to be fair to him, I’m not expecting that necessarily to continue. Obviously Romero hit a rough patch and Alvarez has been hit and miss, but he’s someone we’ve seen how good he can be when he’s on his game. I think we did have some guys that really solidified themselves. Cecil, lately, has been solid. He has given us some quality starts. We acquired J.A. Happ, who we thought could be someone that could give us a hand in the rotation, and he is certainly available to do that. … I think we have stabilized the rotation more than anything else.”

After injuries:

“We really weren’t sure who was going to take that opportunity and run with him, and I think we finally found some stability there.

“Again, we still have issues long term. We can continue to look for more guys now. We can continue, obviously, in the offseason.”

Why is Happ not in rotation?

“Because I think we have had everyone else doing a solid job for us. Laffey has done a good job, Villanueva has done a good job. I think Alvarez has finally started to find himself and obviously Romero has certainly earned the right to throw in the rotation. I thought last night he looked a lot better. Obviously Brett, that last game in New York, I know the numbers weren’t good going into that start, and that last game in New York he had a quality start and beyond that he has continued to have quality starts for us.

“We are going to ride the hot hand. We have guys doing a good job and we will continue to ride those guys until we need to make a change.”

More of a sellers market value-wise compared to other years?

“It seemed as though, and maybe because maybe we weren’t sitting in the same place, it seemed as though there maybe was a little more dialogue than years past. … Most times we try to focus on a few items, maybe 1-3 things that we would like to get done … We really try to focus on getting those deals done.”

Close to anything today?

“We thought we were moving toward something late last night. We had a late night here, really late. Didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, and it carried over to the morning and ended up falling apart.”

What was the biggest need a month ago?

“We were always looking to add arms any way we could. … It was either in the bullpen or the rotation. We had needs in both areas.”

Who’s the left fielder of the future?

“Right now, it’s really open … I don’t know if we are really locked into anyone right now.

“A guy like Sierra is someone that we like as well. But again, he is behind the other two right now on the depth chart but we still feel we have some pretty good depth from an outfield standpoint.”

– Sierra is behind Gose and Davis on depth chart. AA mentioned that Davis could stay in the mix into next year, as the Blue Jays have a $3M club option on him. 

Could there be a dynamic between Gose and Sierra like there was with Snider and Thames?

“I wouldn’t rule anything out, and obviously we have Rajai Davis as well. I don’t think we are going to lock ourselves into anything. … The only guarantees in our outfield right now are Jose Bautista in right field and Colby Rasmus in center.

“For me to sit here at the end of July and try to say who’s our left fielder going forward, when we have guys with options and control, it’s way too early to make a decision like that.”

What are the reports on Sierra?

“He is someone we have talked about earlier. There was even a point in time we talked about him last summer for a short period of time. He is someone who has been on the radar, he has been on the 40-man roster, he had a good year in New Hampshire last year. He has certainly done very well from a statistical standpoint in Las Vegas — defensively, he has been outstanding.

“It would be interesting to see him and Jose Bautista throwing from right field to compare the arm strength. He has as good an arm probably as any right fielder in the game. High-energy player.

“We think he has the type of upside to be a Nelson Cruz-type player. I know, obviously, Cruz is a bit of a late bloomer but his skill set and his tools certainly match that. Obviously he’s not there yet and he has to go out there and do it. We are high on him, we are excited about him.”

Playing time? 

“I’m not sure exactly playing-time wise with Gose being up here and Rajai being on the team — John will make the decision there. But he’s on the 40-man roster, and being up here certainly won’t be bad for his development.”

What would you say to the fans that may have been expecting more?

“I guess just probably the same mantra I’ve always really talked about. We are always trying to continue to make the club better. We certainly aren’t going to make a move for the sake of making a move or make a ‘quote unquote splash’ for the sake of doing that. I think there is plenty of opportunities to do those type of things in free agency in the winter. I think the fans understand that we are ultimately doing what we think is best for the short and long term of the club.

“I don’t think anyone wants us to make a bad deal. We have the ability to make bad deals to make a splash and get a big name. A month later, two months, everyone will probably look back and say that was a mistake. I think the fans realize, and they certainly follow along in terms of making the right deal.”

Lots of reaction to the trades

On the main Blue Jays site you’ll find an article on general manager Alex Anthopoulos explaining what happened in the hours leading up to the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline, why some moves were made and others weren’t. You’ll also find a notebook with items on Moises Sierra making his Major League debut, Steve Delabar/Brad Lincoln talking about joining the Blue Jays, and Opening Day left fielder on the mixes emotions with facing his former club on Tuesday night.

Since there’s plenty of reading to do there, I’ll get straight to the leftovers. You can find a lot of the quotes below that didn’t make it into today’s articles:

Steve Delabar:

Seems like it has been a whirlwind year for you so far…

“It’s funny you say that. I asked my wife, ‘You thought last year was kind of crazy and a wild ride, like now this year we’ve gone to Japan and been back and gone all over, been sent down, back up and now we’ve been traded midway through.’ And who knows what’s going to happen the rest of the season. Hopefully a playoff run and hopefully a chance to compete for the World Series. It’s been an amazing ride. All I can say is it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

Read that you went through an intense regimen to work your way back from the elbow injury… 

“They are weighted balls. They look like baseballs, just different colours. It’s a weighted baseball program, built to strengthen the shoulder and also increase arm speed at the same time. It’s based off of getting kids to stay on the field longer. Stronger shoulder, healthier shoulder kids are going to be able to be able to throw a lot more and stay on the field longer.

“I actually did the program because I was going to teach the program. With a broken elbow, I didn’t know if I was going to play again. I just wanted to be able to teach this program that we had at the indoor facility where I’m from. I just wanted to teach it, so I said I’m going to do this program and I’m going to help these kids at our academy. Sure enough, it helped me.”

That was the rehab to get here?

“That wasn’t the rehab. It was a broken bone, so there’s really not too much you can do for a broken bone, except to just let it heal. As far as my professional baseball career, it was basically over. There wasn’t much I could do at 26-27 years-old. ‘Hey guys, I’ve never been above High-A. Do you want to give me a major-league job? It doesn’t work like that. I did this program on a whim to try and help some kids and it just helped me out.”

How did you become aware of that program?

“I learned it through the owner of the facility that I work at, Joe Newton. The Players’ Dugout, Elizabethtown, Kentucky. I’ve been working there for the last eight years and he knows a guy from Maryland, Jamie Evans. He came up with this program and said you’re never going to believe this thing. It’s awesome. He only had a few clients at the time, so it wasn’t a big product. I diod the program. We only had 19 kids last year and now we’ve got over 300 from this past off season and it’s going to grow even more than that.”

Did it increase velocity too?

“The velocity did go up. Before, I think I touched 94, mostly around 90-92, 93 maybe. Now I’m 94-97, running up there even higher some days when it’s nice and arm out.”

On the Baseball Academy he was working with….

“It’s still a work in progress. We’re trying to see how far it can go and spread the word, because obviously you think about a program and what I can gain from it, but really it’s we want to get it out there and stop seeing kids get hurt. Help your arm so kids don’t have problems when they’re 8-years-old.”

On he knew on the Blue Jays…

“I only knew the names. I’ve met mostly all the guys so far. Everybody’s great. I’ve only known them from across the field, but I’ll meet them a little bit more.”

On having an opportunity to solidify spot in the big leagues…

“I just want to come in when I’m called up and do the best I can. I have no say on anything that goes on as far as moves like that. I just try to get in and be as consistent as possible.”

On giving up a high number of home runs…

“I began working on a slider, a pitch that kind of can combat the right-handed hitters. Those are the guys that have been hitting hme runs. The main focus is to get that third pitch, or maybe just another pitch, that I can throw when I’m behind in the count, so those guys aren’t just sitting on fastball. Because when you’re supplying a lot of the power, all those guys have to do is catch up with it and it goes a long way.”

On familiarity with Toronto…

“I played in Quebec, in the Can-Am League in Ottawa. I played up there in ’08 and ’09. The fanbase is amazing and I saw it again yesterday here. It’s an incredible fan base. Somebody said, it’s one team representing a whole country, so that’s a huge fan base. I look forward to playing in front of the home crowd because they have such a huge energy.”

Brad Lincoln:

“I’ve struggled in my career as a starter at the big-league level. For me to go in the bullpen gave me the opportunity to show what I’m capable of, just go out there and attack guys and not be so scared of the bat, I guess I was scared of contact and trying not to let them get a hit. Now I’m going to come right at you and here’s my best stuff. That’s got my confidence where it needs to be.

“My mentality fits that pretty well. For me to use my stuff like I know how has been a long time coming. Now it’s finally starting to come together.

“It’s either time to put up or shut up. For me, at this time of my career, I’m going to have to start putting up numbers to stick around. That brought me to the realization now is the time to step it up.”

Eric Thames:

On getting a fresh start…

“It’s just a great opportunity. I felt like in Triple-A I had no idea what was going on, what was going to happen. Now, talking to the GM of the Seattle Mariners, and knowing it’s a fresh chance for a new start with a great band of teammates. It’s very exciting and you can’t help but feeling enthused. I really am, it’s a great opportunity for me to come here and play ball with a new team and develop with these players.”

On how difficult this season has been…

“It was very trying because it was my first time going through that media firestorm. It was different, it was a learning experience, I feel like I came out a better man and that’s the biggest result that I could ever ask for. Now, it’s just hit the ground running, keep learning, keep adapting to the game, keep learning from the veterans and it’s going to be very exciting.”

On when he found out about the deal…

“It happened in about the eighth inning last night. The team found out that Snider was traded to the Pirates. So, I was like, well does that mean I’m getting called up or what’s going to happen. I’m hitting in the middle of an at-bat and the coaches called for me to come in. I come in and they said, you’re going up, just relax.

“I went to change my stuff and they’re like, ‘hey, nevermind, you’re getting traded to Seattle.’ Just wait a few minutes, they’ll call you. It was weird. I had kind of an out of body experience. I had never been traded before, I grew up with a lot of those guys in the system. Going through that was definitely a unique experience but I’m very excited to be a part of this organization and ready to move forward.

On how weird it was that both he and Snider got traded in the same night…

“Somebody had a tweet and it was really funny. They said, ‘the battle for left field ends in a draw.’ We were both traded and I had a good laugh about that. It is what it is, teams change throughout the year and it’s just part of the business. Injuries happen and you just have to roll with the punches.”

On why he is so excited about the deal…

“There are a whole bunch of factors contributing to it. I’m on the West Coast again, I’m a San Jose, Calif. native. Fresh air, Vegas it’s hot desert air, it wasn’t good for me. To be out here with the trees and everything, great young group of guys, it’s going to be a great rest of the year for me.

“I think that’s the worst part is having me playing them. It’s great to see them and give them all hugs and see their smiles. It’s great but I know these guys so it’s going to be a weird feeling tonight.”

John Farrell:

On what the two trades mean for the bullpen…

“There are two components, one is a short-term one, and it bolsters our bullpen now, and with their age and years remaining under contract, there’s an eye to the bigger picture, as well.

“This answers some of those questions going forward of who you can build with.

On how difficult it was getting through with the arms available after injuries began to set in…

“There was a dropoff in terms of dependability and really Major League experience and consistency when we looked at three or four guys we’d go to in games we were either down a run or tied or ahead versus some others. It probably, because of that limited group, caused overuse on Frasor’s part and unfortunately we’re all paying the price of his absence, but the additions have given us much more depth and the ability to keep games closer in those days when we’re maybe down a run or two, with the potential of scoring some runs late.”

On when Bautista will be back…

“We envision it hopefully toward the end of this road trip but that’s a best case scenario in our minds. We have to make sure every step is complete along the way with Jose.”

On rotation with Morrow coming back in August and Happ waiting in the wings…

“Brandon’s not coming back and going to the bullpen. When he’s built up enough he’ll be inserted right back into the rotation. While J.A. might have some frustration with the current role, and that’s understandable, that’s where he is currently, we know there’s very capable ability to be back in the rotation once the need occurs. The greatest challenge for any player is aligning their own personal goals with that of the organization, that’s always a give and take along the way.”

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