September 2012

Anthopoulos talks 2012 and previews the offseason

Alex Anthopoulos has been forced into a lot of interviews during the past week but for once he was able to avoid having to answer questions about Yunel Escobar. Anthopoulos arrived in Tampa on Saturday morning and plans on remaining with the team through its final road trip of the season.

He took some time to speak with reporters about the 2012 season while providing some interesting comments about the offseason and what to expect for next season. On the main site, you can find my article on next year’s starting rotation but the rest of what Anthopoulos had to say can be found below.

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Alex Anthopoulos:

On all the injuries this season…

“The hardest part about it is, you lose players in season, but the guys you lose going into next year. That’s obviously the hardest part about it. It just reinforces more than ever, and I know this is a year that we’ve had more than anybody else or we’ve ever had in this organization, just reinforces the notion of continuing to add depth more so than ever and even when we have young players, prospects, if we can and even if we think they can come up here, do a good job and be solid, if they have options left let’s just stockpile that depth and they can all just wait there.

“I remember years ago, when J.P. was here, I don’t remember the exact year, the year that Marcum and McGowan year, maybe Litsch came up the same year, we had guys like Zambrano, Ohka and obviously those guys didn’t work out. Not that they were the right signings because obviously they didn’t perform well enough but knowing you had those guys waiting in the wings are your insurance, as your backups, that’s something you look back at.

“Sometimes you want to give kids the innings, want to give them the opportunities but it’s not the worst thing in the world if they’re sitting down there as depth and they’re ready to go because you know guys are going to get hurt or guys aren’t going to perform and you’re going to need a changeup.”

With the exception of those 2-4 weeks after all of the injuries, though, you have to be relatively satisfied with the starters?

“It’s changed, obviously if you would have asked me at the beginning of August, I felt our offense was outstanding and it was. We were leading all of baseball in runs scored and the bullpen really came around. But that’s another thing too, you realize six months is six months. We’ve talked about teams that are in contention through the trade deadline, we’ve seen collapses, we’ve seen all of those things, you have to play the full six months.

“I’d say when evaluating our team, we’re always best to evaluate it month-by-month or third-by-third but really have your final evaluation at the end of the year because things change. From that standpoint, the rotation, I think we got through it. We scored a lot of runs and guys like Happ did a solid job, Aaron Laffey did a solid job for us. But, again, you have to do it over six months and even Alvarez over the last three starts has been solid, Romero has been getting better, but you need it over six months.”

Did you over-estimate the Major League ready depth of the organization?

“I think we felt we had bodies, looking back, what you learn from it is just the reliance on young guys. I know you could look at Oakland, they have all these young guys in their rotation. You look at 2010, we had Morrow, Romero, Cecil, Marcum and the fifth starter was a combination of guys. They pretty much made all of their starts and even for us, the first two months of the year, Drew was up after 2-3 weeks, but Drew, Kyle, Brandon, Henderson, Romero, those five guys I think were leading in starter’s ERA.

“That’s not to say it would have gone on for six months, but relying on health is probably the biggest thing and relying on health with some of the younger guys is the biggest thing. There are a lot of teams that have done it, they rolled out a bunch of guys. A few years back there was the Twins that were doing it with Slowey, Blackburn and so on, and it looked like for us it looked like we were going to be able to do it and even in 2010 we did it. But I think more than youth it was just having bodies, having more and more bodies to protect us. You can never have enough.”

For the postseason this year, there’s 4-5 teams that finished under .500 last year. Does that an encouragement going into the offseason?

“Certainly. It definitely has to be and really the focus is on the rotation. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to look to get better offensively or in the bullpen, but you see how teams obviously that have pitched but haven’t scored as many runs and they’re still in contention, they’re still there. What we did in the middle of the summer, we masked a lot of the issues in the rotation because the offense was performing so well.

“We’ve shown at times the team that we can be and with the extra wild card, I know I’ve said this a lot of times, it’s not to say what we would have done the last third of the season, but at the trade deadline we were two out of one of the Wild Card spots, there were teams that were 10 games up in divisions and they lost those leads. So that’s not to say it would have continued but we’ve shown the ability to put it together for awhile. It would have been much easier to evaluate if everyone had stayed healthy and remained on the field.”

Do the Orioles have anything that you can look at and emulate?

“I think the one thing, the way the bullpen’s performed. I don’t know what you can emulate, guys are having great years, it doesn’t mean they’re not good, but ERAs in the ones and the low twos, but I think contending teams are always going to have to have a good bullpen. I don’t know that there’s many teams that contend that have weak bullpens.

“So, that’s the thing that jumps out about that team and people can debate the one-run games, there’s all kinds of reasons I know, people have talked about run differential with them, I think the Diamondbacks one of the years they made the postseason, they had a negative run differential as well. But the thing that jumps out for them is certainly the bullpen and the strength of the pen.”

For the fanbase, do you have to make quick moves in the offseason to move forward with your own organization?

“I don’t look at the timing of it. We need to get better and I think for the fanbase they just want to see a better team, a better product, a team in contention. If you told the fans that we’ll provide that for you on Jan. 1 rather than Nov. 1 I don’t think that they would really care. But I think it goes without saying, we’ll try to be aggressive and get things done but there’s no question the focus is going to be on getting better.”

You have to sell tickets too…

“I don’t look at it from that standpoint. It’s impossible for me to try to operate that way. But I think if we’re looking at big league players, and get better, it can only help things. But I don’t look at it in terms of sales, all that stuff takes care of itself if you win. It’s not about one offseason or a sales campaign, it’s about putting the winning product on the field and the rest will take care of itself. Try to make moves, add big league players and that should speak for itself.”

You mentioned a couple of weeks ago who had spots locked down for position players. What about the starting pitching? Who has guaranteed jobs there?

“The only guys that we promise — I don’t know how the offseason will go, I definitely want to add as much depth as we can in the rotation — we’re only locked into Brandon and Romero. They both have guaranteed contracts and that’s not to say we don’t have guys that are front runners, obviously if Alvarez continues to perform well, but he has options left. I just don’t want people coming into Spring Training assuming they have a job lined up. Or, we make a trade in the offseason or we sign someone and I have to make a phonecall and say, you know what? I changed my mind. The two guys with guaranteed contracts are them, and everybody else, there are guys that will put themselves in a good position, they’ll compete. Depending on what we do, they might get jobs by default but the goal is going to be to add as much depth as we can.”

With the bullpen seemingly pretty well locked down, does that free up a little bit more time for you in the offseason to focus all that energy on upgrading the rotation?

“I think it helps but I would still like to add depth to the bullpen. You still want to have depth. I was just reading how the Reds lost three or four relievers in Spring Training this year. You sit there in Spring Training and guys that have options left and could be on the team but get sent down, we rarely go through with a 12-man staff from start to finish.

” I’m much less concerned, if someone deserves to be on the team or doesn’t deserve to be on the team, we have to do what’s right for the organization. So, if we can depth, and someone had options, has to go down and wait their team, we’re going to do it because we’re going to be a stronger organization for it.

Does having Buffalo make that easier?

“I think in terms of Minor League free agents it does, the proximity, things like that. But in terms of our prospects, developmentally, we sent them to New Hampshire. We still had guys that worked with them, developed them. Is it nice that they’ll be in the IL? Sure, but I think the real advantage, in terms of players, is being able to sign Minor League free agents. It’s tough to recruit guys to do to Las Vegas and put up stats.

If you consider Morrow a two or a three in the rotation, you don’t know where Ricky is, does that change what you’re looking for in the offseason?

“No. Bottom line, they’re all going to make 30-plus starts. At least 30 starts out of each spot, if not more. So get as many good starters as you can. Forget about titles, forget about order. I don’t even remember who the Braves Opening Day starters were all of those years. Or even Halladay, Hamels, Cliff Lee. I don’t think anybody cares, they’re all great. So, from that standpoint, they’re in our rotation, if we can somehow pull it off that we get three guys that would slot in ahead of them, wow, we’re going to have a really good offseason. But I’m not overly concerned with where guys are slotted. We just have to get better.”

Would you be more inclined to part with top prospects this offseason compared to last year?

“We were (last year). I think it all depends on what the deal ends up being. We made a lot of really good players available. At times it was three, two, four, it’s just how many and does it make sense. I don’t know that you’re more willing, or not willing. The more time you have the better feel you have for your own players too. I think we had players that were a little further down in the Minor Leagues and now they’ve graduated to a higher level. We know them a little bit better. I think their value around the league should be stronger because there’s no question, the prospects that are closer have more value.

“Not that people don’t think guys in low-A ball are valuable but everyone realizes they might have to wait three-to-four years. There’s performance risk, there’s injury risk. As guys move up, assuming they perform, their value increases. I think we’re in a better position, I think our assets are stronger than they were a year ago.”

More Escobar fallout

Yunel Escobar was supposed to make his return to the Blue Jays’ lineup on Friday night following a three-game suspension but instead he found a seat on the bench. Toronto manager John Farrell met with Escobar on Friday afternoon and following that closed-door sitdown, it was decided that the Cuban shortstop needed at least one more day away from the game.

Here is the official reasoning behind the surprise decision:

John Farrell:

On the decision to sit Yunel…
“When we met earlier today, it became increasingly clear during that discussion that he needs another day to get back and be ready to play a Major League game.”

More Yunel’s choice to sit out then?
“It wasn’t his choice. It became very clear during our discussions about all that has taken place, all that has potentially anticipated going forward, that he needs another day.”

Is that a result of something he did or didn’t do once getting to Florida?
“No, it’s not so much staying in shape or baseball activity, it’s just about how he’s dealing with the fallout of what he did. He’s remorseful for what took place and as a result he needs another day to get things in line.”

Has Yunel spoken to you about what he anticipates from the fans in Toronto?
“No, he hasn’t because I don’t think he fully understood the ramifications at the time of doing what he did. So this is all a first for him. Regardless of intent and all of the things that he has expressed, all of these experiences and the backlash that has taken place, I can tell you, on his part, have been unanticipated.”

Another meeting with Yunel tomorrow then?
“There’s nothing scheduled tomorrow. It’s anticipated and expected that he’d be ready to play tomorrow but if the case exists that he needs another day to get through this, we’ll be open minded of that move on.”

From the tone or the language used?
“Just a number of things that he’s processing right now.”

Based on what you’re saying then, it sounds like this has been mentally draining on him and has led to this decision?
“He’s remorseful, he understands that he made a mistake and regardless of what his initial thoughts were, those are drastically different than what he’s dealing with right now. He knows he made a mistake and he’s not ready to play a Major League game tonight.”

Were you almost like a father figure during this meeting?
“You deal with people, you manage people, you manage a game and they’re inter-related. It was clear in the discussion that he needs another day.”

It’s pretty obvious this has become pretty hard to deal with for him…
“Consequences exist for every action and these are the consequences he’s dealing with. That doesn’t mean we’re turning a cold shoulder to him but at the same time he’s coming to grips with the fallout and the backlash that has taken place. If that means dealing with others in the organization that are available, if in fact that is determined to be needed we’ll provide that for him. But we would expect in short order that he’ll be back on the field.”

You said this was your decision — did he want to play today?
“Through our discussions it was clear that he felt that he needed another day as well.”

Any of this a carryover from Tuesday’s news conference? Something that wasn’t done or said?
“I wouldn’t say it’s a carryover from the press conference. I will say that it’s a continuing process for Yunel now that he’s realizing what the backlash has been. It wasn’t something that he said or the way he came across, it’s the scope in which this has offended a large number of people. With all that feedback, he’s still processing it.”

Would anything have been done differently if Bautista was still around?
“No one saw it. I can’t say that is Jose was here that would have made a difference. That’s not to point the finger at Jose and say you’re going to keep everyone in line, that’s not the case at all. The fact is, it wasn’t seen and just so we’re clear, writing on eye-black patches is no longer permissible.

“That won’t be a case in the future and while you trust certain slogans aren’t going to be on display, you give players some freedom to play as they are as people, but as we talk about routinely, when being an individual takes away from the team concept, it’s our job to pull that back and that’s what we’re doing.”

On teammates’ reaction to this situation…
“There has been, from what I’ve seen, there has been a wide range of reactions. Surprise with the suspension because in their minds this wasn’t an issue. To the other end of the spectrum, that because of the issue, there have been a lot of questions that have been answered by other people inside of the clubhouse that otherwise might not want to answer them. But he’s a teammate and we can’t turn on a teammate, it is part of our family as the Blue Jays to support him, to correct what might need to be corrected and to move on together as a group.”

What does Yunel need to do, or show, to get back into the lineup?
“In talking with him, just a sense that he has some of these distractions under control. That he can focus on the task at hand once he gets back into the lineup. We recognize too that he’ll be a focal point and we spoke of that, how he plays, how he goes about his actions on the field, what some of the response might be from people in the crowd. That might be a further distraction if he’s not accepted for whatever performance he does on the field and know that that might be forthcoming.”

MLB changed the rule on eye black or the Blue Jays did?
“It’s been included in the equipment where no writing can be displayed on any type of equipment, including the eye-black patches.”

More on MLB banning written words on eye black…
“No, it’s not case by case. When you see either a number or initials in the batting gloves or sweatband, that has been pre-approved. So when you have a hand written slogan that’s on display, that’s above and beyond.”

Yunel Escobar (through interpreter Luis Rivera:

What have the last few days been like for you?
“It has been really tough on me. I haven’t slept well the last three or four days, I’ve been receiving a lot of calls from friends and family to give me some support but it has been hard for me knowing that I made a mistake, I hurt some people, it has been really hard for me.”

On Farrell keeping him out of the lineup…
“I’m living in a tough situation that happened, I put myself into it. It’s going to take a little awhile. I spent three days and today I took groundballs, I took groundballs yesterday, I took groundballs today and I’m going to start putting my mind back in the game today so that I can play a Major League game.”

Did you expect to be in the lineup tonight?
“I always come to the game thinking I’m going to in the lineup. But after I spent some time inside the clubhouse, all of the things that were going through my mind, it was better for me not to play tonight.”

How important is it to be back around your teammates?
“My teammates are like my family. We spend seven months together, we know each other really well. Those are the people who make my life a little more comfortable.”

Anything you’d like to say to the fans?
“I’m having a hard time dealing with the situations. I’m really sorry for what happened on the field … If I hurt somebody from the bottom of my heart I feel really sorry about it. I’m looking forward to meeting the people in Toronto and go from there.”

Important for you to finish the year strong?
“Always from Day 1, I always think about finishing strong every year and this is not an exception. I always try to finish strong so I can continue with my career.”

How long until you think you’ll be back in the lineup?
“In case they need me tonight, I might be able to play tonight, if not, tomorrow. Tomorrow I will hopefully be ready to play.”

Fallout from Escobar

Here are the main highlight’s from yesterday’s situation involving Yunel Escobar and his three-game suspension for writing a slur onto his eye-black patches:

Yunel Escobar:

“It is just something that has been said around amongst the Latinos, it’s not something that is meant to be offensive.

“It’s a word used often within teams. It’s a word without a meaning.”

“I agree with the suspension, I don’t have any problem with that.”

“I am embarrassed and for the organization, the Blue Jays, as well.”

“It was just a joke, it was my idea but wasn’t directed at anyone in particular.”

“Honestly, it has been a terrible experience in my life and career. It’s something I am sorry for.”

When did he know he was in trouble?
“Yesterday afternoon when I heard there were some photos on the internet. I was surprised because I didn’t think that something like that would cause any problems. I didn’t do it to offend anybody, so it surprised me.”

Chance to speak with your teammates?
“Honestly, my teammates, my coach, I had to apologize to them. I apologized to my teammates and my coach because it was not their fault.”

Does Yunel have gay friends?
“I have friends who are gay. The person who decorates my house is gay, the person who cuts my hair is gay. I have various friends who are gay. Honestly, they haven’t felt as offended about this, there’s just a different understanding in the Latin community with this word.”

Question not translated…
“I understand now the actions that it did and that it was a great error.”

I don’t understand why you’d write something on your eyes if you didn’t want anybody to see it…
“I wrote it but I didn’t do it to make anybody feel bad, or to offend anyone. It was 10 minutes before I left to play the game. I just wrote it.”

Word seems to have different meanings. In Cuba how would it be used?
“It depends on how you say it and who you say it to.”

When did you start writing stuff on your eyes?
“At the beginning of my career, if you look at my photos when I wear stickers I write something on them.”

What did you mean with the word you meant?
“I didn’t mean to say anything with it. It wasn’t meant for anyone and it wasn’t meant to offend.

Question not translated…
“Honestly, the ‘you’ is not referencing to anyone specifically, it’s not directed at anyone. It’s just a word.”

Alex Anthopoulous:

“I think what came out through all of this is the lack of education. It’s not just an issue in sports, it’s an issue in life.

“It’s clear that the problem isn’t going away, this is just an example of it.”

“Something we are not proud of, we are not happy and Yunel is going to, I think now, become and advocate and work with those groups.”

“I don’t know if there is a right way to deal with these things. I don’t think you are ever going to satisfy everybody. It’s ultimately, how do we move forward?”

“From a Latin perspective, the word is used a certain way — it doesn’t make it right but that’s not to say it is just specific to one culture, one race, one dialect. …

“At the end of the day, the Blue Jays become a vehicle, Yunel becomes a vehicle to improve things, to make things better. As unfortunate as all this is, some good will hopefully come from it.”

MLB hasn’t done anything?
“No, the formal suspension is from the club. Obviously this was done with a lot of parties involved. We spent the day at the commissioner’s office today, the PA was there as well, spoke with the commissioner, spoke with Paul. Had everybody really involved but ultimately the way the suspension comes out, it’s from the club.”

John Farrell:

“There are a number of occasions where Yunel has written a message on the eye-black patches that he does wear and because it is frequently done on his part, really, no one paid attention to it.”

On his reaction…
“My reaction initially was one of surprise because knowing Yunel in many different situations, this is completely out of character as I know him as a person and as a player.  And, it speaks to clearly that those who wear this uniform have an inherent responsibility that goes along with a Major League uniform and there’s very much a social component to that.

“We’re in the spotlight, we’re a spectacle to young people, to people of all walks, our fanbase is a diverse one and this is no different. We did address the club before coming in here today, we made them aware of the penalties and the suspension is there but more importantly knowing that all are going to be exposed to this in our clubhouse. We tried to make this, and will continue to try to make this, in a positive way to continue to educate as Alex has outlined. Initially, it’s a surprise as I know Yunel as a person, from what he did on Saturday.”

Often has words on eye black… every questioned what those words were?
“No, I haven’t because the ones that we were aware of were always about something uplifting and motivational to his teammates: ‘Let’s go today” or something that’s of encouragement. So there was really no reason to think there was anything derogatory and anything pointed to one individual or any group. So honestly, and personally, I didn’t think anything of it.”

But someone on the bench would have noticed…
“If someone had seen it, I would suspect that someone would have said something. Or, at least seen it up close enough to see what was actually written. I know that when you look at the video and when you zoom in on it, and you expand the size of that photo, yes it becomes legible. But, because it had been written, and other messages had been written that were nowhere near this inflammatory, there was no reason to suspect anything different.”

Is homophobia a problem in MLB clubhouses?
“I don’t believe so and I say that because I don’t see any examples of that. I know we’re here discussing what was interpreted by someone as a homophobic action, but you don’t see that.”

Carlos Villanueva:

“You have to respect the way things work here. But sometimes it has to happen in the first person point of view for us to change the way we view things. I know he’s extremely embarrassed, we’re extremely embarrassed for him, we know it’s not an easy thing. I know he doesn’t want to deal with it, but he has to, he has to step up, especially how things are nowadays, you just have to watch what you say, or what you express out there.

“Sometimes it takes an incident, hopefully it doesn’t happen for anybody else like this, but it goes through experience.

“Hopefully guys who are here and guys that are on other teams can learn from this and understand that it can become a huge distraction and it can become something detrimental to the team and to the city.

“If he’s in the box and he calls time and he yells it at me, maybe. … Some guys can take it as an insult, I don’t think in our sport, and the way clubhouse banter works, I don’t think it would offend that many people in the clubhouse. But it only takes one person to be offended and that’s why we have to stop it from happening again.

“It might be used among the Latin guys and we joke around, and in our countries it’s very macho, but it’s not right, using it as a joke or not. It doesn’t make it any better and it won’t go away just like that. He said, it’s just a simple thing I did, well, you know what, no it’s not, it’s something you have to know, it shouldn’t have to take all this for it to happen to become a big deal. He’s gone through other stuff before, too, but I think this will put him over the fact he know it might only cost him three days, or a fine, but it might coast him, nobody wants a guy that’s going to come on a team and cause controversy, and he understands that. He’s remorseful and we have to work with him, he’s our teammate, we can’t just turn our back on him now.

“Knowing Yunel, he’s gotten a bad rap before, either when he was in Atlanta or here. I don’t know him as a bad person or a guy with bad character. I think the most important thing is that he understands he messed up. He seemed very remorseful when he addressed us.”

“He could be suspended for 20 games, and if he doesn’t really care, it doesn’t matter. The next step is for him to learn what he did is wrong and why it’s wrong, and to go from there.”

“It doesn’t matter where you come from. I don’t think we can use the fact that ‘Oh, we come from Latin America’ as an excuse. Sometimes it just takes for an incident [to learn]. Hopefully it doesn’t happen to anybody else like this. It goes through experience, and nobody wants to experience it. I know, right now, he doesn’t want to be in front of the cameras, he doesn’t want to do any of that stuff, but you have to face the music.”

Edwin Encarnacion:

“I feel real sad, knowing Yunel is a great guy, I know what kind of heart he has and he would never use that word to offend anybody. “(Latin players) always play around with that word but we don’t use it to offend anyone. Just use the word not the meaning of the word.”

When asked if he noticed Yunel on Saturday and why didn’t he say anything, Encarnacion said “No, I wasn’t looking at him. During the day games he always writes something on his eyes … but I didn’t notice those words Saturday.”

Encarnacion said Escobar has used other words including “Chilling” which is the same as in English, and “Gamboa,” which means, loosely, someone who is bow-legged.

“I am surprised knowing that we were just playing around with each other, how big it is now and how sensitive it is. But no one told him anything Saturday, he always writes something on his eyes.”

Ricky Romero:

“Obviously it’s no laughing matter. It’s something you don’t mess around with as an athlete. I’m sure he’s learned his lesson. I know guys in this clubhouse and that the organization don’t tolerate that at all. All you can do now is educate him.”

“Am I surprised at how big it is? No, not really. Like I said it’s no laughing matter. You never want to put yourself in a situation like that.”

On why no one said anything to Yunel: “He writes stuff on his eyes all the time. You just get so caught up in a game you’re not really trying to look at someone’s face all the time. For me, I was getting treatment (Saturday) so I was in and out a lot, I didn’t see it.”

Omar Vizquel:

“We say that word very often, and to us, it doesn’t really mean that we are decreasing anybody or talking down to people or anything like that. It’s just a word we use on an everyday basis. I don’t know why people are taking this so hard and so out of place or out of proportion. Obviously he has to explain why he wrote it, but it is a word that is normal to us and we use it all the time. I don’t think he was meaning something out of the ordinary, really.”

“I’m surprised that I’m walking in here and everybody’s asking me about this. It’s like, ‘What happened? Who died?’ It’s just a word that we use. I don’t know why he said he put it on [his eye black]. He was probably joking around with some guys on the team or somebody who was watching him. I realize the problem now, the magnitude of the problem, but I don’t think people should be that alarmed or that surprised.”

“I guess every man has to be responsible to what they do and what they say. He’s not a kid anymore. He’s a man, and he has to admit his problem and his mistake. I’m glad he stepped up and said that, but I don’t think people in Toronto or people wherever that saw the sign need to be that worried or that panicked about this. It’s a regular word for us that we use all the time.”

AA holds court

General manager Alex Anthopoulos spoke with the media on Wednesday about a number of topics. Below is a partial transcript. The remainder of the transcript will be posted Thursday.

You can also read Chris Toman’s notebook for more on Lind and Villanueva:

On Romero…
“I was so encouraged with the start against New York. I told him this, I thought his stuff was outstanding, his command was outstanding and that was only a few starts ago and that’s why I was so curious about the follow-up start. He didn’t pitch well but I don’t think necessarily the defense helped out. That’s not to make excuses but it’s a combination of things.

“The only thing I can point to is Brandon, last year. He struggled for a good part of the year and I think the last three starts were outstanding. I remember that last start in Chicago was really good, he ended the season on a strong note. So, I think you’re looking for the same thing, you’re looking for him to end the season on a strong note. Stuff is still there, the arm strength is still there, I wish I had a reason as to why it hasn’t gone as well as it has but that’s why I think it’s important to finish out his starts and see how he ends up.”

How important is a W for Romero…
“I know people talked about the record and all that kind of stuff. I don’t really look into that, it doesn’t really change what we’re doing as an organization, doesn’t really change what we’re doing as an organization, doesn’t change where we’re trying to go. If you tell me that he has to lose tonight to win the Cy Young a year from now, I don’t think anyone has a problem with that. I just don’t get caught up in that kind of stuff. He lost that game in New York 2-1 and he pitched great. I don’t know that the stat means a whole lot.”

Does it mean something to him though…
“I don’t know, I’ve never talked to him about it. I’m not trying to be cliche but team game, team wins. The guy has been an All-Star, he’s young, he has great ability. I just don’t think it impacts his career, get him back on track, get back to being the great starter that we know he can be.”

Have any clue on what went wrong…
“Command is probably the biggest thing. You look at the walk totals, that’s definitely been an issue. That’s the only thing you can point to statistically. But he’s flashed it. I don’t want to labor the point but the start in New York it was all there and it wasn’t too long ago. From the scouting standpoint, he was so good, the changeup, the curveball, the fastball, the sinker.

“I don’t care what lineup he would have faced, he was electric. So, it’s there. If I was talking about something he did a year ago it would be different but it’s there, the arm strength is there, it’s just about commanding the ball. I don’t know the exact answer. I know he just showed it to us.”

Extra rest seemed to help in New York. What do you read into that…
“I don’t know and that’s what I’m curious to see. There’s no question, the extra rest he had that going into New York. John’s talked a lot about the back-to-back 225-innings, 210 innings, Ricky works so hard in between starts, offseason. You wonder if it’s a matter of maybe learning to pace himself a little bit more. I don’t know.

“I don’t know that I’m ready to draw any conclusions but maybe there’s something to it. Maybe he has to adjust his routines. It’s not the same guy but I remember Roy Halladay I think he realized he had to scale back a little bit with his offseason. He did so much work during the offseason it started to impact things during the year. He would adjust his bullpens, scale back a little bit, it’s just learning to work a little smarter.

“Maybe that’s one of the solutions, I’m not sure. I’d still like to see how these next few starts play out to really have a more definitive answer. You guys will certainly ask me again at the end of the season and I’ll probably have a little more to say on it because I’ll have more information.”

Reasons for backing him off…
“It was just trying things. We didn’t know if this would work but I think all we could point to was the New York start. John and I talked about it, pointed to the New York start, he had an extra day of rest. Maybe he’s just worn out, we don’t know. We don’t know, he’s fine, his health is fine, his arm strength is fine, but we don’t have anything to lose to try. It’s not like we’re doing this in May.

“We’re sitting here in late August, early September, we’ve tried all kinds of things. That New York start was as good of a start as we’ve seen in months and it came on the heels of more rest, so why not. If we had the answer sooner, we would have done something sooner, but this is something I don’t see the downside in trying.

“It might just be this season where he needs a bit of rest, maybe he needs some rest in the offseason, maybe he tweaks his program. I think everyone adjusts. I’m using Brandon because he’s a starter, you look at the first two springs we had Brandon, he had small issues. Broke down first Spring, we scratched him before the Astros start last spring. For Brandon, not everyone’s the same, maybe we built him up too fast, too soon. He was throwing 98 March 15 and maybe we needed to gradually build him up.

“This past spring, I think it was fastball, changeup, and then he only incorporated his slider later and it was just, let’s try this. Maybe he had ramped up too soon. People you hear about going through a fatigue period in the spring.

“There’s no manual on this stuff, I think a lot of it is trial and error and you take in as much information as you can. If you’re getting clues or hints, maybe that extra day of rest led to that outing in New York. So maybe he is and doesn’t realize it. I’m not sitting here saying that’s the reason. Maybe it is, we’re trying some things to see if it might work.”

On Villanueva…
“He has done a very good job, I’m stating the obvious. But there’s no question, to watch him last year I think he made 13 starts for us. For eight he was outstanding, for the last four or five, but I know he had an arm injury so there’s definitely a reason for the dropoff in performance. So again, it’s hard to ever pinpoint when you’re looking at a starter, you’re looking at 30 starts or 32 starts, 200 innings, if you make all of your starts. Durability, things like that, that’s part of the equation.

“There’s no question when he takes the ball he has done a great job. Obviously, part of the criteria, and that’s not to take anything away from him, but that’s the unknown with Carlos. He has never had 200 innings, he’s never had 32 or 34 starts. I think we’d all say we love what we see with what he has done for us. He’s a great teammate and all of those things but we’ve only had bits and pieces of him starting. Last year, when he had an extended look, very good for eight and then the other four there were some durability issues there. But I think the conditioning, I think he learned from that, he prepared himself better in the spring and so far he has done a very good job, he’s maintaining his stuff.”

Do you have comparables — salary wise — for him?
“You certainly do, but I don’t know that there’s a lot. Ultimately I guess there are a lot of guys on teams that are swing guys, spot starts, guys that make 10-11 starts, and put a lot of innings out of the bullpen but it’s very hard. I can’t tell you, probably Carlos couldn’t tell you, what would he do, would he pitch 200 innings? Would he make 34 starts? How would he perform over that period of time. We don’t have anything to base that off of.

“I just said we don’t have enough information but that’s not to say we don’t like him or don’t want him back.”

Are you skeptical of him?
“I guess I don’t want to use a term that’s derogatory to the player. I don’t want to doubt him. But I also have to be objective and realistic too. It’s more how do you value a player. And again, Brandon Morrow for example, we extended him last year, the year before he had 149 innings I think and we got him up to 180. We felt like, okay, he has shown us that he can get to that level. 180 is not 200 but he can get to that level and we felt comfortable at that point.

“We felt like we had a good handle at that point on what he can do as a starter. It took time to build him up, there’s always the unknown there when you build someone up with innings how they’re going to react. We’ve seen a lot of starters do well for two or three months and then the second half of the season the workload and all of that ends up having an impact. That’s the unknown and there’s not enough time left in the season to have Carlos be a starter from Day 1 to see the body of work. But off the sample we have now, it has been great.”

Are you given a set payroll?
“It’s discussed, it’s discussed collectively. Where the team is at … it’s not set in stone.”

“Depending on the circumstances, players, it can vary. I think it’s a combination of things.

“What are the salaries of our arbitration eligible players, what holes do we have to fill, what do we need to do. I think we go into every offseason trying to be in a certain area. Then again if there is a player that comes up, a trade that comes up, it’s not, ‘No we discussed it’ … we can have dialogue about anybody at any given time.”

“Our payroll is going to go up, that I know. No doubt about it.

“It has climbed each year and it will continue to climb. To what level does it end up climbing? That remains to be seen.

“I think our payroll will continue to climb into a pretty good area.”

Was d’Arnaud close to forcing his way here?

“He has missed time the past few years. He was having a great season, so I don’t want to take anything away there. He was on his way to doing that but he got hurt and he missed some playing time there. Even in Dunedin, the first year we got him, he missed a lot of time. In New Hampshire last year, he missed a little bit of time but still put up a great year, an MVP year.

“I think with Travis the injury slowed him down a little bit. I don’t have any doubts he was on his way to doing it, he just didn’t get the chance.”

Has his knee injury impacted any schools of thought?

“Rather than trying to get him ready quickly to rush out to the Arizona Fall League, let’s let the knee completely heal. I don’t want to rule out anybody competing for this team at this time unless people are clearly entrenched at positions, which there are obvious guys that are entrenched at positions that have produced and done a very good job.

“Again, that might change in the offseason if we make a trade or we sign a free agent.”