February 2013

Blue Jays upcoming pitching schedule

March 1 vs Tampa:

Mark Buehrle (two innings)
Darren Oliver (one inning)
Sean Nolin (one inning)
Dave Bush (one inning)
Mickey Storey (one inning)
Michael Schwimer (one inning)
Richard Thompson (one inning)
Neil Wagner (one inning)

Extras — Alex Hinshaw, Juan Perez, Tommy Hottovy, Tyson Brummett
Work — Justin Germano, Claudio Vargas

March 2 vs Philadelphia:

R.A. Dickey (three innings)
Josh Johnson (two innings)
Steve Delabar (one inning)
Esmil Rogers (one inning)
Jeremy Jeffress (one inning)
Ramon Ortiz (one inning)

Extras — Three Minor Leaguers, Tyson Brummett, John Stilson, Tommy Hottovy
Work — Brad Lincoln, J.A. Happ

March 3 @ Philadelphia:

Ricky Romero (two innings)
Sergio Santos (one inning)
Aaron Loup (one inning)
Brett Cecil (one inning)
Justin Germano (one inning)
Claudio Vargas (one inning)
Alex Hinshaw (one inning)
Juan Perez (one inning)

Extras — Two Minor Leaguers, Evan Crawford, Tyson Brummett, John Stilson, Sean Nolin
Work — Brandon Morrow

State of affairs with Jose Bautista

On Reyes and Melky at the top of the batting order…

“People with high on-base percentage and low strikeout rates at the top of the lineup is always good, especially when they can run like Jose and Melky can. They’re going to set the table for us. The better they do, the better that Edwin and Adam and I will be able to drive runs in, and that’s going to lead to more runs, and that should lead to more wins. It’s not solely on them, though. We can get going one through nine because we’re pretty solid. The first half of the lineup and the second half of the lineup are different styles, but there’s still a capability of scoring runs.

“J.P. can drive a lot of runs in and he can hit home runs. So can Adam in the five-hole if that’s where he ends up. Brett’s got speed. Bonifacio’s got speed if he ends up being the starter. Colby’s got speed and Colby can hit home runs. It’s a good mix. I get excited when I talk about the offence because I think that we’re going to be able to score a lot of runs. We did that for two months last year. We were at the top of the league in offence categories when we were all healthy and performing, and we have a much better and accomplished lineup now than we did last year.”

Reyes as leadoff hitter…

“We haven’t had a true leadoff guy here since Scutaro left and even him, he wasn’t a true leadoff guy. He did have some good leadoff hitter characteristics like getting on base and not striking out but he didn’t steal bases. With Reyes, we have the whole package which is going to be huge.

“With Bonifacio we’re basically going to have a second leadoff guy. If you look at his career stats, they’re in percentages they’re pretty similar to Jose’s with stolen bases and getting on base. He might strike out a little bit more but if he ends up being the starter and he hits ninth, that nine, one, two combination, even without getting hits, tough ground balls, high choppers, hit and runs, bunts, they can create some havoc too without even having to hit the ball in the gaps or get some hard base hits.

“That can actually get you excited too because you see a pitcher when they’re dealing and you have three guys in a row that can bunt, get jammed and beat out a ground ball, and also hit a high chopper and get a base hit, then we get to the plate. That’s not bad either.”

Versatility of lineup…

“We’re pretty balanced left to right and we definitely have more depth. When you talk about Izturis and Bonifacio battling for the second-base job and the other guy is going to be on the bench that’s going to give you a Major League starter on your bench. So does Rajai, the guy steals 50 bases a year and he’s going to be on our bench. You feel for those guys because you know they can start on any team but at the same time they’re trying to win and they’re trying to have that depth so those are weapons we can use later in the game in case we have those close games.

“We’re pretty balanced left and right. I wouldn’t worry about our versatility too much even though it’s there. Hopefully we can just play in our basic positions without having to move around too much, especially up the middle.

“So whoever gets the second base job hopefully they get handed the job and they can play every day. Because we’re going to have J.P., whoever ends at second, then Reyes, then Colby in center. We can build around those guys. I think Melky and I are pretty much set to be in the corners and then Lawrie’s entrenched at third. So, whoever is at first the other is going to be at DH. Everything is pretty set except for second base and I don’t think we’re going to have to be moving around which hopefully we don’t get. But in case that does happen, we do have the versatility because Izturis can play everywhere, so can Bonifacio.

“If I have to move around, hopefully I don’t, but I’ll volunteer myself. Edwin can actually play third whenever it’s needed. Adam used to play outfield, he can play first, he can DH. We can move around, Melky can play in any spot in the outfield, so can I, so can Colby, so we can move around.”

Bonifacio even more valuable during Interleague Play…

“Especially because of the double switch. Izturis too, he can play the outfield if needed. We have a good bench. DeRosa can play everywhere, first, third, outfield. Name it, even if shortstop or second if needed. Especially in a National League game, double switch, late in the game, we’re going to have to do whatever it takes to win each particular game. We’re not going to just sit back and rely on people stepping up to the plate and driving the ball. Whatever it takes, maybe we need to make some moves and we’re going to be able to plug guys in, in different positions on defense in the aftermath when we have to go back.”

Chemistry tough with so many new guys?

“It depends on the guys. If you have a group of guys that are kind of pulling the rope their own way and not the team way, it could happen. But the sense I get from meeting all of these guys is that’s not going to happen. They’re all Major League established players. They’re not out to make a name for themselves, they’re not prideful players where they’re going to take their personal stats over team wins.

“I think everyone here has the same goal in mind and that’s winning games and hopefully going to the World Series and being world champions. Because of those reasons I don’t think team chemistry is going to be an issue at all.”

On having so many Dominican players and what that brings to the club…

“We’re just like any other Latin american from the Caribbean, close to the equator. We’re just high energy, warm, passionate people at anything we do. We bring that to the table when we play baseball and these guys have seen me play for awhile and Edwin and maybe a lot of other Dominicans that have been through Toronto.

“We play with our emotions on our sleeve and that’s usually a good thing. It can be negative in certain situations but hopefully we don’t take that to the negative side and we can keep it on the positive. Because of the skill set that a lot of these guys have, high energy, high speed guys, we’re going to have a loose clubhouse with a lot of happy people with people running in and out and keeping the energy and the emotions running high at all times and I think that can drive a team to be always in a good move, be happy and when people are happy and we do what we love for a living and getting paid for doing, it gets you excited to get out of bed everyday to go to work and when that’s the energy around you’re going to do the best you can every day.”

It’s from the culture…

“It’s from a mix. Demographics don’t lie, they’ve been studied for a lot of years in social and cultural qualities and characteristics. That’s just how our people and our race is as a whole. We have those traits because that’s where we’re from.”

Expectations do they bring added pressure…

“No, at least not for me. I can’t speak for everybody but expectations for me are usually good because they make you feel that people think you’re capable of doing it. I have no problem with people holding me accountable for my job. If I didn’t feel like I was good enough, I probably wouldn’t be here and I probably wouldn’t be doing this for a living.

“Just because people expect me to play good, that’s not going to add any more pressure on me. How would you feel it your editor told you that you had to put in a good article by noon. You’d probably not have any pressure because you do it all the time. You just sit down and do it and that’s what you get paid to do. Same with us. At least for me. I don’t feel any added pressure. I don’t think anybody individually has to do anything outstanding here in order for the team to succeed.”

What’s it like taking hacks with R.A. Dickey…

“I’ve only hit off him once. He was a different pitcher back then but it still wasn’t fun. It wasn’t fun hitting off Wakefield and he throws way harder than that and more pitches. But luckily I don’t have to worry about that anymore because he’s on my side. I don’t have to worry about hitting off him.”

Fastest workers in Buehrle and Dickey does that help…

“Of course it does and hopefully Ricky can go back to doing that because that’s what he was really good at his first two years. I can’t really speak for him and the reasons why he changed. I can guess but I’d rather not do that now. Hopefully having those examples in front of him it will get him back to his own ways which allowed him to be successful in the past, that was working quick, inducing ground balls, working off the sinker and throwing a lot of strikes. It does help a lot on defense because it keeps you on your toes, plus it keeps that momentum going your way.

“That’s why I think some of those guys stay away from the big innings because they throw a lot of strikes, they work quick, and even when they have runners on base, just because they work quick means they can’t steal bases, can’t certain things, which keeps them out of the big innings so that’s going to be huge.”

Did you mention that to Ricky?

“A lot of stuff was mentioned to Ricky, from my end, to the manager but after awhile you just kind of felt like he was just adding too much pressure on himself and you just wanted him to get out of it and do as good as we know he can. After awhile, we just let him go to work and let him figure it out on his own. It was just one of those odds years. I’m not worried about him, though, I think he can get back. But last year was definitely tough for him and tough for us to watch him go through it. I’m a big believer that he’s going to be back to being the pitcher that we all know he can be and he has shown in the past.

Surprised he was hurting physically?

“No, not at all. I could kind of tell from the way he was throwing and the velocity dip a little bit and the movement of his ball and the fact that he couldn’t really have the control that he showed in the past. But those were just guesses, I couldn’t tell you for sure but in my head maybe there was something going on. But pitchers pitch through that at times. He’s not going to blame his lack of success on that either.”

He doesn’t, but he also acknowledges more than he did before…

“Of course, but he’s competitive and he’s going to give it his best no matter what. When he’s out on the mound, he’s not going to think, his elbow’s hurting, his shoulder, his knee, whatever. He’s going to go out there and do his job as best as he can given his condition on that particular day. He battles his ass off and I think that’s something to be admired. Even so, he had a tough year, but he had the bad ending of the year.

“His first two months, even though his ERA was up and he had a lot of base runners, he was still like 8-1 or something, he was giving us a whole lot of chances to win games. I’m a big believer in Ricky, I don’t think the Ricky last year is the real one and I think the real one is going to be back this year and hopefully we’re going to keep him on that note for the rest of his career.”

Doubted that the time would come this team would spend?

“It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you don’t see any hints. But they had a plan and they’re not the type of people that operate on telling people what they’re going to do first. You guys know that they keep their cards close to their chest but they do have a plan and I don’t think it’s really the players or anybody else’s responsibility to kind of be a step ahead of them and really think or be proving anything that we’re going to make any moves.

“They’re the ones running the show for a reason, they’re good at it, they have a plan and they executed it when they thought the moves were needed and the timing was right to do them. It was one of the promises that was given when I signed here and they definitely came through.”

Alex bounce ideas off you?

“He always bounces stuff off all of us. He doesn’t ask for permission or he doesn’t seek approval but he wants to know everybody’s feedback. Most of the time it’s not about the physical ability or the baseball player that he is acquiring but the person. He wants to know what type of guy some of these players are. If they’re good in the clubhouse, if they’re good people outside of the stadium and how they’re going to gel in the clubhouse and if it’s going to be an issue and stuff like that. It’s more on the personal side more than anything, I think the baseball analysis is done by him and his team and they’re the people who make those types of decisions.

“But if questions are asked about guy’s personalities and stuff, we’re honest and that’s important for a clubhouse because we don’t want to acquire someone that’s going to be a black sheep or a rotten tomato and kind of ruin the whole atmosphere in the clubhouse or the team chemistry. I think he does a good job, trying to not only figure out who the player that he’s going to get but the person as well.”

Melky different player now?

“I played with him in three different levels in the Minor Leagues and he was an All-Star in all of them. I thought he was a Major League caliber player back then. He’s a great person, he is not perfect, he made a mistake and has admitted it and that’s in the past. But I thought his baseball skills have always been way above average and he has shown that year after year. I can’t say why he didn’t have success in New York, I can guess a couple of reasons but I don’t like to guess too much especially when I’m talking to you guys.

“I don’t think we’re going to see anything different. He’s a great hitter, he’s going to make contact here, he’s not going to strike out too much. He’s going to steal bases, play solid defense and hold runners, which I think a lot of people are overlooking in what he’s going to bring to the table on the defensive side. He has a great arm and knows where to throw the ball in certain situations which is going to prevent runs. It’s almost as good as driving in runs, preventing runs. We’re going to have a lot of fun, he’s going to bring a lot to the table for this team on the field and off the field. He’s a Major Leaguer with a lot of success in the past so we’re happy to have him.”

AA said you’d be willing to go to his press conference and they said it wasn’t necessary…

“I watched the whole Escobar thing from afar and I think there were a lot of things that got lost in translation and lost in the cultural differences. Personality of the player, which when you’re put under the microscope in the public’s eye, everything is under scrutiny and people’s personalities are not taken into consideration. People are very judgmental when you’re put in that type of situation, especially after you made a mistake.

“I think his situation could have been handled better by having a good liaison, a good person translating and kind of just letting the public know exactly what the player was feeling at the time. I think I could have brought that to the table with Melky, they chose to address it in a different way and I think it was a good way to address it. I volunteered, they passed and I don’t have a problem with any of that.”

Q+A with pitching coach Pete Walker

Here’s what pitching coach Pete Walker had to say during a scrum on Wednesday afternoon regarding several key members of his staff:

Why only one inning for Brandon Morrow when all of the others are going two innings during their first time out this spring?

“It’s what he did last year. We’re going to stick to what worked for him. He had a great spring last year, came along nicely. Gave him the necessary days off that he needed to keep him fresh and things worked very well so he’s going to stick to the plan.”

So it was more his own personal decision to go just one inning rather than the club’s?

“Obviously it worked last year and he wants to get off to the same start he did last year. It’s kind of a mutual decision.”

How is the workload determined for other pitchers?

“More or less it’s going to be a pitch count. It’s going to be 30 pitches and then all of those numbers to start off right now, we’ve discussed them, and obviously the pitches are the primary importance. If some of those starters are listed for two innings, they certainly aren’t going to throw two if it’s a long first inning.

“We have time, we’re getting them right, most of them are on their five-day rotation right out of the chute. The second outing will only be two innings as well. We have an extra four or five days in the spring so we’re going tomake sure these guys are where they need to be at the end of Spring Training to start the season, get the right number of innings and control their pitches throughout.”

On Casey Janssen’s progress from a shoulder injury…

“He’s coming along as expected. It’s a little slow, we’re still hopeful that he’s ready to start the season. If he’s not, we’ll go to Plan B but we’re prepared for that. Right now, he’s doing everything he needs to do to be ready for Opening Day and that’s his goal.”

Janssen’s plan for the next couple of weeks?

“He has a couple of more sides and then we’re going to get him into a couple of live BPs. But his schedule is subject to change at any time. We’re going to take it day-by-day, see how he’s feeling. Our goal is to just get him 100% whether it’s Opening Day or seven days after that. There’s going to be no rush to push him. Obviously, if he’s going to be the closer in Toronto we want him to be 100%.”

How much work does Janssen need to get in before the start of the season?

“I think with him, that’s a tough one because obviously our concerns are him being 100% so it’s impossible to put a number on it. We’d like to get him into games by the 13th or 14th of March. Realistically to get him to start the season, he needs to be able to go back-to-back days, he needs to be feeling great after those back-to-back days because when we bring him up to Toronto and he’s pitching in front of 50,000 people, the expectations are high, the team’s ready to go.

“He wants to be 100%, we don’t want to put him in the situation where it’s a struggle for the first week or two. We certainly wouldn’t do that. I think it’s not really a number of innings, it’s just after that back-to-back outing, if he’s feeling great he’s ready to go.”

Lots of time remaining to work out the kinks…

“There’s plenty of time but certainly we’re not going to rush him right now. He’s coming along at the pace that the doctors recommended and we’re going to stick to it. If there are any setbacks, we’ll go to Plan B. Right now, he’s feeling good and he’s on schedule.”

Josh Johnson lost some velocity last year. Wasn’t entirely unexpected since he was coming off a shoulder injury the year before. Where do things stand now?

“I think he looks really strong. The conversations I’ve had with him, and some of the video I’ve seen of him in the past, he looks really good and he’s feeling really good. I’m very encouraged right out of the chute.

“He has turned into a pitcher. He knows how to pitch. He’s not as concerned with the velocity being in the mid-90s consistently. if he’s in the low 90s at times, he knows how to pitch. He keeps the ball down. He has incorporated that curveball now which is going to help a lot to keep the hitters off balance. But his location and fastball command is impeccable right now and it’s fun to watch.”

With the curveball in place he could become really dominant if the velocity returns…

“There’s no doubt about it. That’s what we’re hoping for. But what he did last year, if he can just carry that into this season, I know he’s really encouraged with the breaking ball. The fastball, if that velocity jumps a click, great. If it doesn’t, we still have a super pitcher.”

On Esmil Rogers…

“He has a tremendous arm. I’ve seen quite a few good arms here to be honest with you. There’s some power and some untapped power. But he’s a guy that came into his own a little bit in Cleveland, struggled a little bit in Colorado. You look at the numbers and you’re trying to figure it out, I don’t know what was going on there. It could have been the Colorado air. But in Cleveland it came together a little bit, used his slider a little bit more and he knows how to spin the baseball and has a power arm. He seems to be a very athletic kid, just learning and getting better.”

Who are the untapped power guys?

“(Jeremy) Jeffress is a guy, tremendous arm. And even some of the non-roster guys I’ve seen so far. Very deceptive deliveries and guys that can definitely help throughout the course of the season.”

Upcoming Grapefruit League pitching schedule

The Blue Jays have released their pitching schedule for the first five games of the spring. It’s important to note that the amount of innings aren’t necessarily set in stone. It ultimately will come down to pitch count. If the starters have a long first inning then it’s less likely they’ll come back out for a second frame.

Feb. 23 @ DET:

Brandon Morrow (one inning)
Brad Lincoln (one inning)
Steve Delabar (one inning)
Esmil Rogers (one inning)
Dave Bush (two innings)
Ramon Ortiz (one inning)
Neil Wagner (one inning)

Extras — Chad Beck, Sean Nolin, John Stilson, Tyson Brummett
Work — Ricky Romero

Feb. 24 vs. BAL:

Mark Buehrle (two innings)
Sergio Santos (one inning)
Aaron Loup (one inning)
Jeremy Jeffress (one inning)
Chad Jenkins (two innings)
Alex Hinshaw (one inning)
Tommy Hottovy (one inning)

Extras — Three Minor Leaguers, Tyson Brummett

Feb. 24 @ NYY:

J.A. Happ (two innings)
Brett Cecil (two innings)
Justin Germano (two innings)
Claudio Vargas (one or two innings)
Richard Thompson (one inning)

Extras — Three Minor Leaguers, Mickey Storey, John Stilson

Feb. 25 vs BOS:

R.A. Dickey (two innings)
Josh Johnson (two innings)
John Stilson (one inning)
Mickey Storey (one inning)
Chad Beck (one inning)
Sean Nolin (one inning)
Tyson Brummett (one inning)

Extras — Three Minor Leaguers, Neil Wagner
Work — Brandon Morrow

Feb. 26 vs MIN:

Ricky Romero (two innings)
Steve Delabar (one inning)
Esmil Rogers (one inning)
Dave Bush (one or two innings)
Ramon Ortiz (one or two innings)
Neil Wagner (one inning)
Richard Thompson (one inning)

Extras — Tommy Hottovy, Alex Hinshaw, Claudio Vargas
Work — Mark Buehrle, J.A. Happ

Q+A with new Blue Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola

To the surprise of pretty much nobody, Chad Mottola was hired to become the Blue Jays’ new hitting coach when John Gibbons was brought on board in November. It was a natural promotion considering Mottola spent the past four years as a Minor League hitting coach and review rave reviews from some of the club’s top prospects and struggling veterans.

Last year’s hitting coach, Dwayne Murphy, is still on the staff but will spend the majority of his time in charge of baserunning and outfield defense. In some ways it’s a perfect mix because Murphy has already established strong working relationships with the likes of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. So some of the veterans will be able to continue their work with Murphy while Mottola seems better suited to deal with the younger players on the team.

Here’s what Mottola had to say about his overall coaching philosophy and working with Murphy…

Process taking over as new coach, what are things you look to establish…

“What’s nice is that I’ve had a lot of the younger guys early on in their careers so kind of getting them back to where they were and letting Murph continue with the guys he had success with.”

Is it tough, though, having your predecessor still on the coaching staff?

“Not a shared position but having Murph makes it different than most… I wouldn’t say it’s shared but I’m going to let the guys lean on Murph when they need him. Murph’s going to be here for outfield and base running which is a priority and I think was needed at times last year. Going into camp, he’s going to have those guys more often than being in the cage and being around the cage. When he’s needed, he’s going to be used, if not when the younger guys, I already have a pretty good relationship with we’re going to go with what we had in the past.

“Murph’s nickname is pro and it’s for a reason. We have a pretty good relationship where there’s no ego with either of us. Going into it, having that established relationship makes it easier.”

Inherit team that has last two NL batting champions..

“Yeah, for sure. I’m getting to know those guys the first couple of weeks, find out what their philosophies are and build off what they’ve done in the past.”

Approach or philosophy how is it different from Murph…

“There’s not going to be much change with the guys who have had success. There are plenty of guys that had success under Murph and then I’m going to kind of work with the younger guys and see what they need to change to be what they can be.”

Getting guys in proper head space (ex Lind)…

“One thing about baseball is everyone has hit, everyone has their own opinion and everyone feels like they can fix everybody. One thing is that everybody has good intentions but one thing we’re going to concentrate on this year is having one message. So there is no mixed message, there’s not anybody trying to sneak in and be like hey I know you’ve done this.

“With Adam, I played with him, I coached him, we’ve done everything so we kind of know his personality and how to get him in the right position mentally to hit and I think that’s where he was at in the past, it was kind of mental.”

Being up with the big league club the past two Septembers must help…

“It makes really simple. Murph and I know eachother, I’ve sat in the cage hours upon hours and watched him work. He allowed me to work with guys which you don’t see in baseball of a big league coach allowing someone to come up in September and say go ahead have at it. So going into it, we have the same thing going, if a guy hops into our cage, my cage, or his cage, there’s nothing personal. There’s no worries about what he’s saying, we know how to work together.”

Past years coaches have tried to impart their own philosophy on hitting…

“I work individually. I think that’s what’s important about this game is that everybody has their own personality and their own style. They’re going to strike fear into their own team yet they’re going to let different guys have different approaches.”

Approach with Lawrie, priorities…

“We have a relationship in the past just getting him to slow down. He gets himself in trouble, the same thing that makes him great is the same thing that gets him in trouble. So just slowing down and quit trying to get the ball at 40 feet, let it travel a little bit.”


“The talent in him is unbelivable. The things he does, the way he gets to the front of the box and we’re just going to get his quick hands to work in his favor rather than going through swing changes all year. I think we have a pretty good base going into the year and we’re going to try and keep it there.”

Rasmus made transition to front of the box last year… sticking with that?

“We modified it a little bit but it’s one of those things where as time goes on we hope we’re not going to see five different stances after an 0-for-4. We’re trying to get a consistent base and then we’re going to stay there.”

What are you trying to modify?

“We’re still doing some things, getting his hands a little bit lower and getting him in a better position to hit.”

Newcomers does it take time to get familiar with them…

“I think more getting to know their personalities. I think their track records speak for themselves. More than getting them comfortable here, the sooner that happens the better off we are. Guys that have the track records, kind of stay out of their way.”

Been with Gibby before…

“Yeah, I actually was in camp for a couple of years, had about a month and a half up in the big leagues with him. As far as our personalities, they’re great. Let the guys play and when they need us we’ll get involved. But with the talent we have now, it’s a good mix.”

Hitters facing live pitching Sunday…

“That’s all for the pitchers. Spring Training in the first week is for the pitchers. It’s one of those things that hey guys, get what you can get out of it, let the pitchers get their work in.”

Looking for specific things who are coming back from injuries…

“Just make sure they’re healthy. Early on, it’s a longer spring this year with the Classic going on, not necessarily numbers for sure, just make sure we’re healthy and then worry about the last week getting ready for the season. “

Lind speaks out about last year’s coaching staff

There were plenty of clues last season that 1B/DH Adam Lind and manager John Farrell never really saw eye-to-eye. There were some mild complaints from Lind during Spring Training that he was being told conflicting pieces of advice from various sources. There was also the rare public criticism by Farrell who went on record saying Lind was out of shape after he had been sent to the Minor Leagues in May.

The disagreements became more public during the offseason when Lind made an appearance on the Fan590 radio station in Toronto following Farrell’s departure to Boston. He talked at length about the lack of communication, Farrell’s fondness of the Red Sox even when he was an employee of the Blue Jays, and Farrell’s emphasis on the running game which reached an abrupt end during the final two months of the season.

The comments were taken by some as sour grapes but even if that’s the case there was a lot of truth in what Lind was saying. Several players have echoed similar sentiments off the record but to date Lind has been one of the only Blue Jays’ players not afraid to stand by what he firmly believes were the issues in the clubhouse for the past two seasons.

Lind was back at it again on Saturday afternoon. The comments weren’t intended to be malicious but instead provide somewhat of an understanding for what he has gone through the past couple of years.

Here’s what Lind had to say about the coaching staff from 2012:

“You guys were around the last couple of years and you have a manager telling you one thing, who was a pitcher, it makes it tough because he was from Boston where they were very selective and things like that, coming up through this organization it wasn’t something we preached or taught at the lower levels. That’s what he wanted to see and then to have a hitting coach like Murph, who’s an aggressive type hitting coach, sometimes you get a little confused on who you want to please.

“It was all in good faith and respect, but he would have his things out of me that he would want to see, and he would tell me that. You’d go to the cage and try to do your work or after an at-bat during the game and he would have more advice to give you. It would just get your mind thinking.”

More on the mixed messages and when they became an issue…

“Probably the first half of 2011. I felt really good at the beginning of 2011 and then I just ran out of gas. Then you start hearing all the voices from a bunch of different places, not that that’s an excuse or anything, but you hear them and you try to please people, especially a manager, because that’s who puts your name in the lineup cards, so you kind of want to do what he wants.

“At the end of the day it came down to me. I was the one given the opportunity to play. It’s on me, it’s not on the manager, that’s in the past and now we’re going to go forward with a very good lineup that we have this year.”

On the backlash he received from fans last season…

“I’d see my numbers and know what they’re thinking. I’ve been at bars during football games and things like that and have probably done it myself.”

On the difference of this year’s staff…

“This year the coaches will be given the freedom to do whatever they want. They have the trust of Gibby so he can just manage and sometimes the type of personalities we had on our staff last year, they micromanaged a lot and sometimes that can affect the way we play and the way we coach. This year the coaches have been given the opportunity to have free rein and do what they need to do for us to win games.”

More on the differences…

“I know with the staff that we have now everyone is confident in what they can do. They’ll be allowed to do their job the way it should be done. We’re going to work collectively and individually with the coaches.

“It’s going to be a fun experience working with Chad and having Murph in the mix as well.

“It’s a different staff. I think we learned as an organization from our mistakes the two previous seasons. The coaches are going to be free to do their jobs, have free rein to do what they think should be done.”

Any back issues?

“It’s good right now.”

Has the yoga helped?

“I hope (laughs). That’s why I did it. The back doctors suggested I do it. One of the unexpected things about it was that I actually enjoyed it. I mean, the time seemed to go by quickly. I wasn’t exactly looking at the clock for the whole hour and a half of each class.  I didn’t quite get into the spiritual side of it but I’d like to do that, too.”

Media scrum with Mark Buehrle

On expectations following the club’s busy offseason…

“I think I’ve come to realize that making expectations or putting stuff where we’re going to get to isn’t a good thing because every year I feel like we have a good team. The last couple of years we haven’t gotten to where we want to get to. Coming into a new team, on paper we look good, we have to stay healthy obviously.

“I think that’s with any team, we need to stay healthy and keep guys on the field and I think if we do that then I think we have a chance to get to the playoffs. From there, anything can happen.”

On having to leave family behind in the U.S. because of Ontario’s ban on pit bulls (Buehrle owns four dogs, including one American Staffordshire terrier which is banned in the province)…

“I think we’ve wrapped around it. At the beginning it was, just realizing the family wasn’t going to be there. Miami, we were able to live out in a different suburb so they’re there. But I think the biggest thing on that was we’re trying to bring awareness to the breed ban. Some families aren’t as fortunate as we are to be able to maintain two houses and be able to live away. She’s going to come see us, it’s not like we’re not going to see eachother.

“I’m not going to see the dog for awhile but we’re trying to bring awareness for the breed ban and help out those less fortunate than us. I don’t want to make it a big story all year, it does suck that the family’s not going to be there. But guys go through it, guys deal with it. We’re going to deal with it, we’re going to make it work and I’ll see my dogs whenever I can.”

Any success with people in Ontario on having the ban lifted…

“To be honest, that’s mostly my wife. I’m going to do what I can when I’m there. The last four or five years we’ve done some stuff with the teams that we’ve been with, doing rescue stuff, she has kind of spearheaded it and has been the leader of it. I’ve done what I could but obviously with going to the field every day and playing. She’s not going to be there, we won’t be able to do as much but if she has some stuff I can do in my off time I’m going to do everything I can to try and help out.”

On impact teammates will have without family being around…

“Obviously you’re around these guys a lot so we have a lot of time down here to gel together and get to know everybody. A lot of new faces obviously but yeah, just having these guys around, I know a couple of the guys getting traded over from Miami, playing against some guys, I know Sergio from Chicago. It’s good to know a couple of people over here and it’s going to be fun getting to know everybody and hanging out with guys.”

Been without family before?

“No. We’ve been lucky, this is our first time having to go through this. Kids are just getting into school this August so we haven’t had to go home for school, we’ve had them together. The last three years of this contract are going to be away and it’s something we’re going to deal with. It’s going to be tough in the beginning and not seeing your kids but people deal with it and we’ll make it work.”

Hard feelings about Miami after the club broke its word and dealt him during the offseason…

“We took the chance going in, with a no-trade clause. That was one question my wife and I kept asking, knowing what (Miami management) had done in the past and what the plan was , if it was going to be a long-haul thing or just one or two years. From what we got told, we decided to sign there.

“I don’t want to talk too much on it. I wasn’t too happy at the time and still not too happy with those people down there obviously being lied to. It’s in the past and I’m looking to move forward.

“It took me a couple of months and I think I got over it a little quicker than my wife. I think she holds onto a little more. We both realize there’s nothing we can do about it. From what we were told, it’s kind of hard to let it sink in.”

Did anyone from Miami reach out after the trade…

“(Marlins president David) Samson called me on the trade and then when the article came out where I said that they lied to me, he tried to reach out again and I pretty much said ‘I’ve got nothing to say, I don’t know if you want to hear from me right now. It’s not going to be the friendliest thing.’ I haven’t talked to anyone since then and I don’t really intend to.”

What did Samson say?

“He told me they didn’t see the kind of season we were going to have and the attendance was low. He kind of went that route. He apologized and said that ‘I know we told you these things, but unfortunately we have to do this.’ “

On what he’d say to people who don’t have pets and don’t understand why he is so upset about the ban…

“Being a responsible pet owner, you can’t just dump your dog on somebody else or take a chance of breaking a law and taking him up there. We’ve had people say ‘Oh, you can bring him up here and knowing you have money, no one is going take your dog because they know you’re going to fight against it.’

“But the thing is, Slater will have to sit in a cage until that court date gets there. It could be two weeks or it could be three months. People who don’t own dogs are not going to understand that you’re leaving your family, your kids, behind over a dog. We just feel that all the training we’ve done with our dogs, it’s better they stay with my wife.”

On the supposed myths surrounding pit bulls and what he would say about the breed in general…

“They’re real loyal to their owners. Obviously everybody thinks they’ve got the locking jaws and they’re strong and mean but the way his temperament is, he’s awesome with our kids. He’s awesome when we have parties at our house and kids run in and ask where slater is. Every kid wants to go right to him.

“That’s the shame. Just because the way he looks is kind why we’re going to be separated. I know people are scared of them and freaked out by them but it’s mostly the owners, not the dogs. If you’re going to tie your dog up out back and treat it bad, it’s going to treat you bad right back. If you tie up any dog and don’t show them love and abuse them or don’t show them attention, I think any dog is going to be aggressive and have bad behaviour.

“Often the news stories you see on TV about a pit bull-type dog biting somebody and you look at the dog and it’s not even a pit bull. People just throw that name out there.”

More on Slater…

“We adopted him from a shelter. He was going to be put down the next day. We do a lot of work with Hope Rescues in Illinois. It just happens to be the week she was coming home (to Chicago) from Spring Training that she got returned and she was ranting and raving about this dog and I told if if she felt like that, to adopt it.”

On the upcoming season and the hype surrounding the team…

“You can obviously say we have a good team on paper but that’s why we have to go play 162 games. You don’t crown the winner in spring training off what they  did in the off-season. All the experts pick who’s going to win the World Series and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody have the two teams who actually end up in it.

“I like our chances, but we have to come out here and gel together and everybody has to stay healthy.”

Distractions in Miami last year… Johnson said the new stadium caused a lot of issues…

“I’m pretty laid back and don’t let stuff bother me. I like to have fun on the mound. I’m out there laughing. Good start, bad start, I just throw it out the window and get ready for my next one. Obviously I’m down to No. 3 or No. 4 in the rotation, so that’s always a good thing.”

On the Blue Jays getting Dickey and how it changed his outlook on the team…

“When you get a guy like that. The last couple of years he’s been dominating games. I faced him three or four times and two or three losses were courtesy of him. He was fun to watch. He’s a great pitcher.”

On his pitching style…

“I throw four pitches in any count. Obviously I’m not the hardest thrower so I have to go out there and keep guys off-balance. I just know I have faith to throw a changeup in a fastball count. I feel like I can throw any pitch in any count.”

Spring’s almost here

Hello folks, Spring Training is almost upon us. Partial coverage from Dunedin will begin on Tuesday with full coverage starting on Wednesday in what will be my first full day in Florida. Now that the offseason is over, expect daily coverage on the blog in addition to of course the daily coverage on the main site.

I’ll also periodically submit some photo galleries during the workout days prior to the start of the Grapefruit League season. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB for all the breaking news throughout the spring.

In case you missed it earlier this week, here’s the Spring Training preview article that should get you set for everything in camp: http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130207&content_id=41475634&vkey=news_tor&c_id=tor