April 2013

Anthopoulos media scrum

Alex Anthopoulos:

On Dickey breaking his nail during last start and how that can affect a knuckleball pitcher…

“He wasn’t concerned about it and said it happens all the time, so we’re not concerned about it.”

Did he throw more fastballs than normal as a result?

“It seemed to me, but again, we haven’t had enough starts with him … Seemed like maybe more fastballs and changeups and things like that.”

On missing Lawrie…

“He’s a really good player and he helps us in so many ways. I don’t think the team’s built on one player though. I don’t think it’s fair to say, ‘OK, Brett comes back and all of a sudden we’re going to take off.’ But there’s no question [about] what he does defensively, range, the energy he brings. But at the same time we can’t just rush him back.

“We have to make sure he gets his at-bats. Last year when he came back there weren’t enough rehab games left because the [minor-league] seasons were all done, and he was a little shaky offensively for the first I guess two weeks when he came back. We’re anxious to get him back because defensively, obviously, he’s a plus for us.”

On the seriousness of this year’s injury relative to last year’s…

“Brett’s the one who told us – again, we were going off of him – he said it didn’t feel close to as bad as the first time he had it. He’s taken batting practice now two days in a row. He’s taking ground balls at third base, throwing across the infield to first base, feeling great. So I would think that games are starting to get close now.

“Once we get him the games, we haven’t set a number of at-bats but the  thought is maybe 20 at-bats, 25 at-bats, it could be sooner. But he’s  getting close. We talked about it internally, maybe the New York series  at home, maybe the Baltimore series on the road, that would give him  enough time in the minor leagues. If he goes out on a rehab assignment  and has 10 at-bats and looks great, we wouldn’t be afraid to call him up then.”

On when Lawrie might rehab…

“I would say Dunedin right now, just because of the weather. They were rained out today. So right now Dunedin. If all of a sudden … we may  change that, but if all of a sudden, we haven’t gotten that far, but he would definitely start there.”

Was there a setback at the end of camp?

“I think it was just he came to us and said, ‘Look, I can play’…he
could have played, but he came to us and said, ‘You know what, if we’re
going to be smart about this thing,’ because he’d been through it
before, ‘To make sure it doesn’t nag at me and bother me.’ You see what
happened with Atlanta. Freddie Freeman, he had an issue and he played
through it. I guess he was playing well, but Atlanta just decided let’s
make sure this thing heals.

“Brett could have played, but he still felt something. So, I think it’s him telling us with his body, if I can just get a little more time, I think I’m going to take care of this entirely. It’ll be behind us and then I won’t have to worry about it again.”

Has the defence at third base been concerning? Seems like Izturis has been struggling over there…

“Yeah, just some of the throws, the biggest thing. Again, we’ve talked  about it. He’s played so much third base in his career with Anaheim,  potentially is it the fact that he played so much second base and  obviously a little bit of shortstop this spring. I think we only got  him two or three games at third at the end.

“We weren’t planning on him playing a ton of third base. But he’ll end up being fine. He’s been in the league too long, he’s doner too good a job and he’s played a lot of games there. I think it’s just early on, but he’s been a good defender his entire career, so I don’t expect that to change.”

Are the daily questions about pressure, fair?

“I don’t get them, necessarily. We’re in sports, so I think anything’s fair to be honest with you. It’s part of what it’s about. You’re open to be criticized. At the same time players get praised, front offices get praised. You get criticized as well. I think it’s all part of it. I don’t think anything of it. It’s just whether it’s doing media, whatnot, I think it’s all fair, to be honest with you. It’s not fair if you go after someone’s family or something, but I think everything else is fair.”

Not uncommon for guys joining a new team to press and struggle. Has that been a factor?

“I don’t think so. Because Reyes is hitting .430 or whatever it is and he’s new to the team. Encarnacion and Bautista and some of the other guys that have been here aren’t performing yet the way they can. Obviously they’re going to hit some home runs. And they’ve been here awhile. I don’t know. I know we look for reasons why guys get off to slow starts and again you just can’t make too much of it.

“I remember Kelly Johnson last year got off to an unbelievable start the first six weeks of the season and then obviously he hit a little bit of a funk. Likewise we have guys like Colby start off slowly last year and he
really emerged leading up to the all-star break. I know that all we have to report on is what we see each day and it’s going to be a story.  You just can’t react to tiny sample sizes at this point.”

High number of strikeouts a concern?

“Guys are in a funk as well. They’re striking out but they’re also hitting in the .100’s and the .000’s. So I think that’s part of it when guys aren’t hitting. Are you grounding out, are you flying out, are you striking out? I think when guys start to get back to their norms, I think that will correct itself. We’re still going to strike out some because we have power.

“We’re not going to eliminate all of the strikeouts and we don’t necessarily want to because with that, most times, comes power. We don’t want to lose our power. I think it’s all part of guys not really being up to, I don’t want to say speed, but not performing up their norms yet.”

Edwin’s sprained finger in spring.. could that be a factor in his slow start?

“I don’t know, it could be. It could the extended period, it could be
trying to do too much, it’s so hard to tell. He was so good last season, even with Jose out, he continued to play well. He has done this before, where he started out slow, even in the past with us. It’s one of those things, you have to just wait. These guys, you believe in them, they’re good players, and you wait until they finally snap out of it and start playing well.”

On signing Miguel Batista to a Minor League deal…

“Batista was a Minor League signing. They needed some innings down there just to have any type of role, long relief, spot start. It’s just depth. You’ll see a lot of transactions on the Minor League side that they do day in and day out. I understand that anyone who is a former big league player is going to be news but it’s just for them to have more innings and have a little more length.”

That part of a commitment to Buffalo?

“No doubt. A lot of it, obviously we’re still active, we want to win here but we also made a commitment to try to put the best team on the field that we could there. That’s part of it as well. We’re always on top of it, but probably moreso than we’ve ever been. The Minor League department, any time they have a chance to upgrade and make the team
better, they’ll look to do it.”

Romero update…

“Right now, he’s throwing live batting practice. I think he has done it
twice now, he might do it a few more times. Once Dane Johnson feels
like the changes they’ve made delivery wise, mechanics wise, are pretty
much in place they’ll progress him into games. We don’t have a date
yet, but I would think it’s coming soon. There are only so many times
you’re going to throw live batting practice so maybe a week to 10 days.
We haven’t talked about that but I would expect it to be soon.”

So he’s facing hitters yet?

“Yes, just in live batting practice. He has been throwing bullpens and
then finally they had some guys stand in. It’s obviously different when
someone stands in as opposed to having just the plate there.”

Will he need to go just two innings, one inning while you stretch him out?

“I’m not sure. It wasn’t so much about building him up, or innings. It
was about making sure we made the changes and they stuck. I guess it
has been about two weeks now, I don’t know that’s even a concern. I
don’t know even if he could go five innings that they would look to do
that. I think it would just be a gradual process overall. I would
expect it to be gradually built up.”

On Romero changing more than just the direct line to the plate…

“They’re doing some little things like he’d do a full wind up where his hands would come over his head; they took that away. It’s more starting his hands at his chest, bringing it down to his belt and separating his hands there. These are small things … that can affect your balance and things like that, so just some minor things they’re doing as well. You know, obviously, there’s the main point of your lines to the plate but there are some minor things too whether it’s taking his hands over his head or starting at his chest, where he breaks his hands, things like that.”

On Romero into a game…

“We haven’t set a yet. We’re waiting on Dane (Johnson.) We haven’t said hey, we need this by this date. I’m just assuming, again, he’s throwing some live batting practices and so on and after a while at some point he’s going to get in to a game. I don’t expect him to throw live batting practice for a month so whether it’s 10 days from now or two weeks from now, he’s moving in the right direction I guess is the best way to put it.”

Psychotherapy for Romero or just physical work?

“From his standpoint, he’s been down this path before when he was in New Hampshire. Three years in a row he had five ERAs and it finally clicked for him. He’s been down this path and I don’t know how confident you can be when you’re getting hit and you’re not performing the way you can. I think once the success comes the confidence will come.”

Concerned about your team?

“No, it’s too early. The same way, there will be a time when we’re playing very well and you’ll ask me how good do you feel about this team and I’ll say I’m not going to make too much of a five-game winning streak or whatever it might be over the course of a season. It’s too long, I’ve been through it enough years now, enough seasons to know the peaks and valleys.

“Again I just brought up some examples earlier, Oakland wasn’t even on the radar in the middle of the summer and they won the division and won 94 games. I guess the Pirates were 16 games over .500 at the trade deadline and, you know, things change so fast no matter how well you’re playing or how poorly you’re playing.

“To me, I’m not really going to start to bear down until August or
September, to be honest with you. Even if you’re playing well, things
can change fast. I mean, we were two games out of a wild card spot at
the end of July and then the last two months we played very poorly.
Again, late August, early September is when you really start to say
okay, that’s how fast things can change.”

With Cecil having more velocity this year has that made you want to look into the weighted ball program more than you might have in the past?

“I know Aaron Laffey has done it and just from what I’ve seen I think
his velocity has been the same as it’s always been, with a guy like
Brett, I remember our trainers felt even a year ago that the velocity
would come back, he’s pitched at this velocity before. If someone all
of a sudden had never shown any type of velocity and all of a sudden
they did, it was newfound velocity, I’d say maybe there was something
to it.

“Brett lost all that weight last year, adjusting your body, I’m sure he feels very good about it and that’s great but he’s thrown hard before. To me, I know there are some people who have done it and I’m using Aaron Laffey as an example because I know he worked on it in the off-season as well, if it works for someone, everyone has their own routines and that’s great, but Brett has had velocity before and it’s just a matter of getting it back.”

Minor-league inventory and how offseason trades impacted that…

“New Hampshire last season, we didn’t have a very good season and we
had all those guys, I mean we had all those players in the minors they
weren’t all in New Hampshire, it’s going to be like everything else,
not every team is going to be performing exceptionally well, we’re not
necessarily going to have great prospects on every team.

“I’m anxious to see guys like Smoral pitch, I saw him on the Saturday before the season started in spring training and I hadn’t seen him throw before. He was 96, it was exciting to see what was coming out of his arm, the way the ball jumped, so I’m excited for when he finally gets into a game. There’s obviously when Stroman does come back in the middle of May, that’ll be fun to get him back as well.

“Sean Nolin is getting close, he’s throwing some bullpens so once he gets back in the rotation it will be fun to see him as well. We’ve got some guys in extended spring that aren’t showing up in the boxscores yet. We still feel like we’ve got a pretty good crop of guys, even relative to some other teams, we feel like we have some high ceiling guys, we’re high on Sanchez and Osuna.

“Sanchez the other day was up to 99, Osuna was up to 97 and he’s 18, so they’re pretty exciting high ceiling prospects for us. Antonio Jimenez is looking like he’s coming back soon, so we’ll get a shot in the arm but we always want to win, it’s easier to develop players when you’re winning.”

On why they claimed Edgar Gonzalez…

“We’re always trying to build as much depth as we can. We’re carrying eight guys in the bullpen, that’s not going to continue, he realizes that, that very likely when we go to seven, we’ll have a change there. Once Bush threw three innings, if we’re going to have eight guys in the ‘pen and a guy like Gonzalez can come in and just give us that length if we need it if we’re up a lot or down a lot, someone who could save the bullpen a little bit because we do have some one inning guys, it’s someone who has experience and can pitch and throw strikes.”

On finding a trade for Jeffress…

“We have until Sunday to put him on (waivers), we’re going to see if
there’s a deal there, I don’t think so right now. There hasn’t been any
interest at this point.”

Arencibia on catching Dickey — Reaction from Game 1

J.P. Arencibia:

On his early struggles with the knuckleball that included three passed balls…
“I think especially early we were both kind of jacked up. It was just a little different at the beginning but then settled down and felt comfortable again. He was throwing his pitches and we were working well but I think early, with the adrenaline going on, it was dancing in, out, up, down, so that makes it tough.”

More on difficulties of catching a knuckeball…
“If you talk to any knuckleball catcher, guys that caught a knuckleball, it’s going to happen. I think early, too, I was a little bit straight up with him and once I made a turn in my stance I kind of adjusted to him a little bit better. It was more consistent in the zone. But that kind of pitch you just have to brush it off and go to the next one. After that, like I said, we were able to settle down, we felt a lot better and I felt real comfortable behind the plate.”

On Dickey’s knuckleball compared to the spring…
“Early it was dancing a ton and I think maybe in and out of the zone more than it has been. There was a lot more balls than he usually throws, usually he throws a lot more strikes. I think it could be the adrenaline on both sides but it was really darting every way possible and made it tough.”

On whether it’s a frustrating pitch to catch….
“Frustrating wouldn’t be the word for it. I think it’s a challenge. First thing that they told me was, listen, you’re going to miss balls, you’re going to miss balls with guys on third base and they’re going to score, and you have to put it behind you. Because there are going to be pitches that he throws that no one could have caught unless you have a fish net that’s for large fish, it’s not going to be an easy ball to catch. That’s the fun of catching it, I think it’s a challenge and once you’re able to settle in and stuff like that, it was a lot easier. Definitely early the ball was pretty tough.”

On difference between catching Dickey and other pitchers on the staff…
“It’s a night and day difference. He’s a guy that you have to wait until the last second. You can’t anticipate where the ball is going to go because you don’t know where the ball is going to go. Guys that have caught Dickey before a long time, the guys who caught Wakefield for a long time, they say the same thing. You never know where it’s going to go and you really just have to try and be as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately early on it was tough but then we were able to settle in.”

On catching relievers after handling Dickey…
“It looks a lot harder. You change your glove, you change your stance back to your normal stance and you definitely have to make an adjustment. But it’s part of it and I don’t think it’s really tough, it’s just making the adjustment. I’m sure for (the hitters) it throws off their timing and the good thing is tomorrow you back that up with a guy who is low-to-mid 90s and it’s going to tough to hit.”

More adjustments while catching Dickey or just the one about opening your stance behind the plate?
“Just that one. Henry was like, ‘hey man I see you more square than usual and try to open up a little bit more.’ Right away, that inning, I opened up and I was a lot more free. That could be part of it for me, just whatever the excitement, you don’t think about things like that, you’re really trying to concentrate. You creep, creep, creep to where you feel normal and then you notice, okay I understand, and once I turned it opened it up and made it free again. Those are just in-game adjustments you’re going to have to do and everyone is going to do them, especially as you get more experience, you learn to make those adjustments.”

When did that conversation take place? Between the second and third inning?
“It was after the third inning actually. The next three innings I felt great with him and I think that made a big difference. As soon as you open up your right leg, you open up, so you’re more free with the ball instead of if you’re straight on it’s a little tougher to adjust. He settled in, too, and really started throwing strikes consistently which is what he usually is.”

On the early crowd reaction which included some boos…
“I’m not worried about that. It’s definitely easy to play from the stands. That’s being a fan, that’s part of being a fan. There’s no hard feelings in that. Hey, I want to catch it too. They’re screaming, ‘catch the ball’ I want to catch it too. I’ve been trying, you know what I mean? I’m not trying to miss it, it’s a tough pitch. It is what it is, you shake it off and you try to do your best. No one is out there trying to muffle any balls or any of that stuff. It doesn’t really bother you, you just know that’s part of it.”

On the difficulty of losing Opening Day in front of a sold-out crowd…
“What’s tough is that we’re not going to go undefeated this year. Going into it, I thought we had a chance to be the first 162-game winner. But, you know, sometimes you have to look at yourself in the mirror and realize, hey maybe we can go 161-1. So, that’s the plan now. Listen, there’s a lot of games in this season and you definitely can’t be up and down in this game. You have to be as even keeled and consistent as possible. We know what we have in this clubhouse, just go out there, have fun and play. If we do that, at the end of the year, then we can talk about what’s going on. Unfortunately my dream of 162-0 is not going to happen.”

On Masterson’s outing….
“I think the real big pitch was the bases loaded. Lindy hits that ball square on the screws and it turned into a double play and I think he settled in after that. You have to tip your hat to him, he threw some turbo sinkers. He has a really good sinker, he was able to throw the four-seamer for strikes, flip in the slider to try and get people off the fastball. But he’s a good pitcher for a reason and he did a good job.”

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