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.
“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.”
“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.”