June 2013

Roster move on the horizon

Jose Reyes is expected to make his return any day now and when he eventually does, the Blue Jays will find themselves faced with a very tough decision. Someone will have to become the odd-man out and the big question surrounding the team is whether it should keep an eight-man bullpen or go back to a four-man bench.

The ballclub entered play on Saturday afternoon having won nine consecutive games and after weeks of constant shuffling the roster was able to remain in tact for a decent amount of time.

It has long been assumed that infielder Munenori Kawasaki would be optioned to Triple-A Buffalo when Reyes is back but that’s not my pick and it’s very possible that my selection will surprise a lot of you.

Here’s a look at the candidates:

Munenori Kawasaki — He’s still the odds’-on favourite for a demotion despite having become somewhat of a cult figure in the city of Toronto. His skill set doesn’t translate particularly well to a back-up role because he isn’t very fast, has relatively average defence and doesn’t offer enough with the bat to become a strong candidate for pinch hit situations.  But even still, if it were up to me I’d keep him around until Brett Lawrie returns from injury. Kawasaki could be used to give Reyes an occasional day off — which might be needed after a relatively short rehab stint — while also seeing some games at second base against right-handed pitching. The only way this could happen is if the Blue Jays go back to carrying just seven relievers. For the record, there’s no doubt in my mind that Kawasaki would have to go when Lawrie’s healthy but for now I think his spot on the team should be safe.

Emilio Bonifacio — Hard to envision a scenario where this ends up happening. Bonifacio has clearly struggled with the bat this season as evidenced by his .204 batting average but he has the ideal type of skill set to be a super utility player that every team likes to have. He has the ability to play the outfield and infield, which gives Gibbons some much-needed versatility off the bench. Perhaps just as important, Bonifacio would combine with Rajai Davis to give the Blue Jays a pair of stolen base threats off the bench that can be used in close games.

Maicer Izturis and Mark DeRosa — Neither player is going anywhere so there’s not much sense talking about this. Izturis has a three-year deal and picked up his level of play during the past month while DeRosa has proven to be valuable against left-handed pitching.

Neil Wagner — Wagner does have an option remaining on his contract so he could become a candidate to be sent down but it would make very little sense to do so. The sample size is still incredibly small but so far Wagner has proven to be a valuable arm that can be used in middle relief. He has allowed just one run in 11 innings this season and comes with an overpowering arm — even if his fastball is a little bit too straight at times. Wagner also has eight strikeouts compared to just three walks over that span and has pitched well enough to deserve a spot on the team.

Juan Perez — Perez is out of options on his contract and the only way he can be sent down is by being exposed to waivers. There doesn’t appear to be any doubt that another team would take a flyer on Perez if that ended up being the case. Just like Wagner, the sample size is still very small, but Perez has yet to allow an earned run in his 10 innings of work this season. He has struck out 10 while allowing just three walks and five hits over that span. Perhaps most important, though, is his ability to throw multiple innings at a time. In order to be the final reliever in a bullpen, it’s important that pitcher can be stretched out when that type of need arises. All five of Perez’s appearances this season have been for more than one inning.

And finally my pick for who the odd-man out should be…

Dustin McGowan — This wouldn’t be a popular choice for many Blue Jays fans but there are a lot of factors at play here. McGowan has appeared in just three games this season and as yet to earn a defined role in the bullpen — he’s arguably the only reliever that falls into that category if Perez can be considered the long guy. The club has no choice but to monitor his overall workload after shoulder surgeries limited him to just 21 innings from 2009-12. It’s true that McGowan has appeared in back-to-back games this season but it was in an emergency situation and it’s something the club would like to avoid more often than not.

The problem here is that McGowan is out of options on his contract and would have to clear waivers before being assigned to a Minor League team. Personally, that’s a risk I’d be willing to take. McGowan is earning $1.5 million this season and has an additional $1.5 million coming his way in 2014 with a $500,000 buyout on his 2015 $4-million option. It’s certainly possible another team would take a gamble and pick up that remaining salary but even if that were to happen I don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world. It would cut a little bit of salary and more importantly open up a valuable roster spot. There’s also at least a decent chance McGowan goes unclaimed.

If the Blue Jays were in a rebuilding mode I’d have no problem at all with keeping McGowan around. It appears his days as a starting pitcher have come to an end but in theory he could still become a valuable reliever. The problem is, in order to find his previous form, McGowan needs more consistent work than he’s getting right now in Toronto. Another assignment to Buffalo would be the perfect scenario to be put on a regular throwing schedule and the organization can take an extended look at his current abilities. It’s just simply not possible to experiment like that at the big-league level when every game is important to getting back into the race. If another team steps in and takes McGowan first, then so be it. McGowan could still be good, but this isn’t Chris Carpenter all over again.

Q+A with Jamie Evans of the Velocity Program

There’s been a lot of talk about how the premise for your program came from tennis and in particular how those type of athletes don’t experience the same type of injuries do. Can you explain the connection between the two sports and how it helped inspire the program?
“Yeah, basically when you look at a tennis serve and a pitcher throwing a baseball, biomechanically the shoulder and body are doing about the same thing and tennis players do a lot more serves than baseball players throw and their injury rate isn’t even close to what baseball players are. From there, looking at it, and basically because the tennis player doesn’t let go of the racket there’s a smooth transition for the arm because the weight remains the same.

“Also, the strength is built on the back side and the front side because it’s the same amount of weight on the acceleration and the deceleration that takes place. As opposed to throwing a baseball, the decelerator muscles don’t get worked because they let go of the ball so in a baseball situation it’s missing five ounces where the acceleration has five ounces.”

When did this program start?
“It started four years ago and obviously in the beginning it was everybody doing the same thing like you would do with any testing procedures. Once we saw a group of people improve and then another group of people not improve, for me, that doesn’t make sense as an instructor and wanting to help people improve.

“So we started looking at the group of kids that improved and then the group that didn’t improve as much when all of them were working just as hard — because I was monitoring it — and there were some trends that started showing up in the testing phase. I started tweaking the program off of the original trend and from there it became very individualized in the testing process so we can get to the specific needs the player has so everybody can see improvements when they’re doing the velocity phase of the program.”

I know you can’t disclose what goes into the exact testing process but generally speaking how is the program individualized for each athlete after that initial work is complete?
“What happens is from the test, the program is designed on which balls they need, how many reps they need to do and how much recovery time they need in the program. All of that goes into the equation, obviously for the youth, age, height, weight all of those things are constituted in there as well because they haven’t matured yet.

“For the pro athlete, some of the ones that are just getting in, they still have some maturation, but the guys at the big-league level there’s not a whole lot of maturation that’s going to take place physically. So we then go into age, how long they’ve been playing professional baseball and taking a look at the amount of workload they’ve had throughout their life and career.”

On his relationship with Steve Delabar…
“Well first, I had never met Steve until after he had been in the big leagues with Seattle, we had never really laid eyes on eachother. The only thing I knew about him was what his bubblegum picture looked like which was kind of cool (editors note — They did all of their initial correspondence over the phone). For me and him, it was one of those, when I was talking with him in the beginning his dream wasn’t to be a Major League pitcher anymore it was to help kids out.

“But when he started going through it, his arm started feeling good and when he got back to his original level I think his head started clicking, ‘Alright my arm is back, I’m okay, the elbow’s not going to break, everything’s good, let’s see if this is actually a velocity program now’ and I think he took it to another gear.

“That’s the one thing about the program, it works, but it takes some effort into it. It’s not like you can take a magic pill and be done with it. There’s some work that has to be put into it this and he got to that point, he said, ‘alright let’s see what happens’ and went at it in a completely different gear and then the numbers started getting to the point where I was blown away, he was blown away.

“There were times that we were talking on the phone as he’s going through the program and even when he was getting on the mound he had me on speaker, we were talking and going through everything. It was invaluable for me because I was able to learn from — at that time — a former professional athlete to get much better feedback than you’d get from a
15- or 16-year-old kid.

“Obviously the program is today where it is with the Blue Jays and the amateurs and the rest because of his story. I couldn’t ask for a better ambassador for the program both on and off the field. Whether Stevie likes it or not, me and him are linked. I like it, I hope he does.”

Delabar has said that if it wasn’t for this program there’s no chance he’d be pitching in the Major Leagues right now. I’m assuming there’s an opposite kind of sentiment that you share, that the program wouldn’t be where it is because if not for Delabar and his ability to bring a lot of awareness to the program?
“Correct, there’s no doubt about it. It’s kind of like a marriage. What the program did for him and then what he’s done for me, it’s a give and take. Obviously I definitely wouldn’t be at the level of awareness with what people are doing and talking about the program without him because let’s be honest his story is miraculous. A lot of that can attributed to Stevie himself and the type of person he is but for me to play a role in it and how he got there is phenomenal.”

Are you surprised at how fast this program has grown? I’m sure there must have been a wow factor over the past year and obviously to the point where you were hired by the Blue Jays as a consultant…
“Wow, probably doesn’t even put it into perspective. For me, this is a godsend. It’s one of those things where I don’t think I could have ever imagined how this has taken off. I saw some success at the youth level, college level, with Stevie but then the way it’s taken off and the people that have supported the program, the only way I can explain that is thank god.”

In talking with Delabar, he’s mentioned about not being surprised that Brett Cecil’s velocity has increased after using the program. Is that the same type of reaction you have to these types of stories as well?
“For me, now, that’s the expectation. At the beginning, it was, ‘wow, that’s awesome.’ That’s what we were looking for but now I go into it with the expectation of the player getting that. When I met Brett and realized the work ethic he had, I knew it was going to happen.

“I think the big thing is, whenever you’re doing something new, do you really believe it’s going to work? When you take medicine do you really believe it’s going to work? When guys really buy in, go after it and believe it’s going to help, it works. How hard they work with the program really makes a difference.

“So they get in there and really go at it and you get a good return on time and investment. If you go in and just go through the motions, yeah you’re going to get a little better but you’re not going to get a ton.

“From my perspective I’ve flipped it around, the people who go into the program you have to put in the work and they’ve put in the work so they’re able to perform. It goes back to the situation where there’s a marriage there. The work ethic plus the program equals results. If the work ethic falls short then the program’s going to fall short.”

A lot of the talk regarding this process is about the potential for increased velocity. But it seems to me that the potential for maintenance and improving one’s ability to bounceback after an outing is just as important, if not more.

“To be honest with you, it’s called a velocity program because people will read it because it says velocity. Velocity occurs, it’s a marketing situation, we know velocity’s going to happen but the first thing that the program was founded on was creating strength or equilateral bilateral strength between the front side and the back side so that the shoulder works better and more efficiently.

“When the shoulder’s stronger and healthier and works more efficiently, the recovery rate goes way down because there’s not going to be as much damage done to one side or the other. For a Major League pitcher out of the bullpen it’s huge because they’re able to go out and feel the best every time out. For a professional athlete that’s what you want to feel
so that you can go out at your highest level every time your name’s called.

“I think there’s a psychological element to it as well because if you don’t feel great you sometimes won’t go out and perform great. The bounceback is also huge for starters, I think it gives them an opportunity to feel better between their starts so they can throw a
little better side, they want to work on their breaking ball or something like that during their side session, they’re able to do that, feel better and get more out of it because they don’t have to recover the way they would have prior to doing the program.”

You were brought in to talk to the Blue Jays players last offseason and obviously there’s a lot of players currently in the organization that are taking part in this program. Would you be able to talk about the relationship you now have with the team with everything advancing to the point where you’ve been hired?
“First thing is, the Blue Jays are a first-class organization. I’ve spent time dealing with other clubs as well. Obviously the Blue Jays were the ones who put the gas pedal down on it, but I’ve talked to a number of other clubs and organizations.

“The thing I’ve noticed about the Blue Jays is how passionate they are about the players, which I thought from a business standpoint wouldn’t be the case in pro ball. But they want the players to succeed all the way through. The other thing I noticed was their willingness to ask questions and ultimately embrace the program. They didn’t go into this blindly like ‘we saw this work with Delabar so let’s go out and do it.’

“There were a lot of conversations with the brass from top to bottom. When they decided to go with it I was super excited and they’ve been nothing but great, opened their arms up and
have asked me to help in any way that I can. I’m pretty excited and on top of that, the medical and training staff they have and the pitching coaches, they’re top notch, their information is phenomenal and what they’re doing with the guys is phenomenal.

“The one thing I want to make sure that people understand in all of this, the program is just going to be in addition to all of the great stuff they’re doing, and they’re doing wonderful things. This is just a small little pepperoni, it’s not even a piece, just a small little pepperoni, that’s put on the pizza and they’ve got a great pizza already it’s just one more topping that’s
being put on.”

What type of role will you have as a consultant for the organization?
“Basically I’m here for them to use me however they want to use me. They’ve hired me so I’m working for them in any capacity that they see I can bring value, I’d certainly go in and help in that situation.”

This is probably an understatement, but you must be excited to become associated with a Major League ballclub in an official capacity?
“Absolutely. I was one of those kids at five years old that wanted to put on a Major League Baseball uniform. As I was going through it, the dream stayed alive until I hurt my shoulder and when that happened the dream kind of died. As the program started going, started dealing with some professional athletes, good things started happening and the dream was revived again. I’m truly blessed that I’m able to fulfill a dream, to be a part of a Major League organization.

“The dream’s still fulfilled, in a different capacity, but in this capacity I love it to death. Being able to help guys, that’s been my dream for the 20-plus years to help players and now I’m able to help some of the elite, the best the world has to offer and it’s a dream come true.”

Considering your past injury, was finding a way to help pitchers limit injuries always your mission in regards to creating a program like this?
“Absolutely. Shoulder injuries, arm injuries, in baseball it happens across every organization across baseball, it happens across every level. If there’s anything that I can do in this whole quest to make shoulders healthier, that’s why we were trying out the things we were trying out.

“Is the program going to prevent injuries? Yeah, I’d like to think it’s going to prevent some. Is it going to abolish injuries? No, it’s not. The sport and the way it’s played, I don’t care what sport it is, injuries happen. I guess my quest is to limit the amount and severity and if the injuries do occur trying to get the players back to where they were before or perhaps even a bit better.”

Steve Delabar:

On his reaction to Evans being hired by the Blue Jays as a consultant…
“It’s great, he’s been a big part of the throwing program and it’s good to see that it’s paying off for him.”

What’s your reaction when you hear Evans and other people saying that the program wouldn’t be where it is today if not for your ability to help promote it at the professional level?
“To hear that kind of stuff is just what you hear. We’re here today doing what we do, doing what we love and to see him benefit from it’s really good to hear.”

Where would you be if it wasn’t for this program?
“I wouldn’t be here. I definitely wouldn’t be here. I was 27-years-old at the time when I started the program and guys like that don’t get a shot if the velocity number’s not there. That radar gun is everything that got me here.”

On the number of athletes participating in the program having increased so much over the past year…
“There are more guys getting involved with it because they see other guys doing it and they see okay it’s not just one guy that benefits from it, it actually helps other guys too. So you start to see the program actually start to work with other guys and other guys get the benefits as well.”

On the program being as much about maintenance/bounceback ability compared to just a velocity increase…
“Well the velocity side is the selling point. If you throw that out there people are going to buy into it but it’s a shoulder strengthening program and there’s also arm speed included with it. But the main thing is to balance out the shoulder and get it strong.”

You obviously saw an increase in velocity when you began the program? Where did you hit on the radar gun prior to your injury and going on the program?
“Absolutely. I was probably 89-92, maybe at best. I think one time I hit a 94 and then after the program I’ve been 93-98. I attribute the whole thing to the program. 

“For me it was more, I want to do this because I was coaching high school and I wanted to teach the program to the kids. I wanted us to have the best arms in the area and I had heard these crazy numbers so I had to find out for myself to find out how the program works.

“If I’m going to teach a product I want to know how the program works because if I’m teaching a product I want to know how the product works. I started doing it, sure enough the velocity started going up and I gave it another shot.”

Do you feel like the Blue Jays are getting ahead of the curve by having so many players embrace the program?
“With the knowledge that we have coming in with my side and the outlets that I have to go to get the information quickly our organization has definitely taken a step ahead as far as taking another way to get healthier arms and changing things up from the norm. Everybody that goes through it definitely benefits from it somehow based on how the program is tailored to them.”

Have you been surprised at all by Cecil’s increased velocity this season?
“What he’s doing now is not a surprise to me. Some people are going ‘wow’ but to me I expected that and anybody that contributes the time and effort into the program is going to get those results too.”

Do you know enough about the program now that you do everything on your own or is there still a lot of dialogue with Evans?
“I definitely have to refer to him on a lot of things because I don’t know the program through and through. There are some things that I can answer quickly because I’ve been through it. I wanted to teach it, I wanted to learn it. But I have to refer to him on some stuff and some stuff he wouldn’t tell me because it’s his program so I have to definitely go back to him and do the best I can, answer the questions that I need to but at the same time I have to go and then maybe come back to it later.”

Brett Cecil:

What’s your reaction to Evans being hired as a consultant by the Blue Jays?
“It’s great. Obviously I did the program. All of the things that I’ve done, tube work, cuff weights, whatever, nothing has made me feel as good as doing the program. We could start getting more and more guys to do it and getting healthy results from it I think it’s going to be great and I absolutely think that’s going to happen.”

There’s been a stereotype about this program in the past and how it might not actually work. Do you feel like that’s being disproven as more and more pitchers embrace it?

“For sure. I think, like all people growing up around baseball, I was told you don’t ever throw a weighted ball. You just flick the wrist and that’s it. You don’t do anything with the shoulder, elbow or anything like that. Obviously that’s all been disproven and weighted balls aren’t
dangerous as long as you’re doing it right. That’s what Jamie is for, he gives everybody an individualized program based on what their velocities are, he has ways to figure out what kind of workload they can handle.”

Have you been surprised by just how much your velocity increased after doing the program?
“No, that’s kind of where I was expecting to be, right where I am. I think there’s still more in there. Delabar he came to us and he was 93- 95 and I’ve seen him some games he’ll be sitting 95, most games he sits 95, punches 96 and as high as 97. Who knows in the offseason, my program will change, Delabar’s said he has never done anything the same in an offseason that he did the offseason before so hopefully I can get a new program and search for more.”

Velocity aside, it seems like a big benefit to this program is the potential to have an increased ability to bounceback strong after outings?
“It gets my attention everyday on how my arm feels. There hasn’t been a time in whole season when my arm has felt 100%. It might be a little tight but there hasn’t been anything out of the normal and it exceeds everything I’ve felt in all my years of playing baseball. It’s unbelievable how it feels the next day after I pitch.”

How often did you consult with Evans during the offseason while doing the program?
“We met eachother once when I did my testing and that was it. I think at the beginning, it was almost like an every day thing for the first week but once I got the hang of it, it was like once a week, then every two weeks. I think there was one time in the offseason when I told him I was feeling, he told us he wanted us to tell him where we felt the discomfort after doing the full workload, and then that way he could tell us where the weak links are in our arm, I think it was either my tricep or bicep, he said okay, take this down, increase this, take that, take this, whatever, and I never had another problem since.”

Do you feel like the Blue Jays are getting ahead of the curve by having Evans as a consultant for the organization?
“I think it’s a great move by the Blue Jays to do that. You see Dustin, unfortunately he has been scuffling with injuries for so long, and then they put these weighted balls in his hand, does the workout with Jamie personally and he goes to Triple-A, arm feels great. He comes up here and throws back-to-back days, if that’s not a testament to how effective it is I don’t know what is.”

Casey Janssen:

On his relationship with Evans…
“He talked to the team back in Baltimore last season and then I actually had lunch with him in Baltimore this year and kind of talked about the program. Sometimes I use Steve a little bit just with him being the voice of Jamie and then I actually called him in Chicago to keep it
fresh and maybe give me some new ideas as to the way help the shoulder.”

You’re obviously in a different situation than Delabar and Cecil because you started the program once the season began. So, how has the program worked for you so far?
“I think Jamie’s still a little conservative with me because I started it in the season and I think you make your gains in the offseason. I don’t want to misspeak on the program but I think it’s an aggressive offseason program and I think for me being new to it, I think it’s more on the conservative side because I have the potential to pitch every day and that I’m still not necessarily 100%. (Evans) being away, he doesn’t want to re-invent the wheel with me and then have something turn for the worse.”

Have you noticed a difference yet?
“It’s a little hard to tell. I notice it more in my catch, you get a little more backspin, obviously that’s a result of the arm speed. I haven’t necessarily seen a radar reading spike but hopefully that’s on its way. What I’m doing, I don’t know how the full program is, but I
think it’s more of an arm maintenance as opposed to the four miles per hour gain that maybe others are on.”

So you’re planning to stick with the program this offseason I take it?
“Yeah, I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to the offseason with the program. I want to see what it’s all about, it’s kind of one of those nothing to lose. I don’t think I’m going to lose any velocity, if you get a couple more and you get a shoulder feeling like I assume Delabar’s
and Cecil’s arms are feeling, how could you not want to test it out and try it and hopefully the gains are similar to theirs and the shoulder feels as good as it looks like theirs feels.”

Blue Jays hire Jamie Evans

ARLINGTON — Jamie Evans has helped a countless number of pitchers over the years with his Velocity Program and it has now resulted in a job with the Blue Jays.

Toronto officially hired Evans this week as a consultant to the organization. He is one of the originators of the weighted-ball program which has been used by the likes of Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil, Casey Janssen and most recently Dustin McGowan.

Evans has worked with a lot of athletes from other organizations as well but the Blue Jays appear to be getting ahead of the curve by securing a position for him within the organization.

“I’m excited to join the Blue Jays, they have an unbelievably knowledgeable staff who care about their players and I’m hoping to help in any way that I can,” Evans told MLB.com

The program involves the use of weighted balls to strengthen muscles around the shoulder. As part of the process, pitchers use various holds and also go through their throwing motion without actually releasing the ball.

The workout routine seems to have the ability to increase a pitcher’s velocity while it is believed to help avoid injuries as well. Cecil began using the program during the offseason and went from throwing in the mid-to-high 80s to now consistently reaching 93 mph.

Delabar brought a lot of attention to the program when he credited it with helping him return from a fractured right elbow. Toronto’s right-handed reliever was out of the game and working as a substitute teacher in Kentucky when he began using the program with student athletes he was helping coach.

The strength and velocity returned and the next thing Delabar knew he was being asked to workout for the Mariners. He eventually signed a contract and is now one of the more reliable relievers in the American League as evidenced by his 1.85 ERA in 34 innings this season.

“As far as my professional baseball career, it was basically over,” Delabar said earlier this year. “There wasn’t much I could do at 26, 27 years old. ‘Hey, guys, I’ve never been above high [Class] A. Do you want to give me a Major League job?’ It doesn’t work like that.”

“I did the program because I was going to teach the program. With a broken elbow, I didn’t know if I was going to play again. I just wanted to teach this program and help these kids at our academy, and sure enough, it helped me.”

Evans has tailored his program over the years to each athlete’s individual needs. There is an offseason workout program and a different one that can be used during the season which serves as more of a method for maintenance and recovery.

For a while there was a stigma associated with the program that it might be some sort of fad but that has been begun to change in a hurry. With more success stories continuing to pour in from around the league it opened the eyes of a lot of pitchers, including Janssen.

“The toll of a Major League pitcher compared to high school teenagers is different, but after I saw some results from some friends, I thought, ‘What the heck?” Janssen recently said.

“I wasn’t going to do it initially, and then obviously with the shoulder injury, you’re looking for ways to feel better. From watching some of these guys play catch and how good they feel day in and day out, you’d be crazy if it didn’t interest you.”

The Blue Jays’ personal connection to Evans began in earnest last season when he was brought into the clubhouse to explain his program. That was what originally piqued the interest of Cecil while former Toronto manager John Farrell had his sons begin the work this offseason as well.

Other players who currently use the program include Rangers right-hander Jason Frasor, top college prospect Tyler Beede and countless others.

(Article will be updated early Sunday afternoon with today’s reaction of Blue Jays pitchers on the news)

Blue Jays sign 16 of their picks

The Blue Jays signed 16 of the 40 players selected from the 2013 First Year Player Draft and five from the top 10 rounds on Thursday. Terms of the deals were not disclosed but should leak out over the coming days.

Here is the list of players who signed:

3rd rounderMurphy, Patrick Hamilton HS (AZ) RHP R/R HS 6’04” 195lbs
4th rounderSmith, Evan Mary G Montgomery HS (AL) LHP R/L HS 6’05” 190lbs
5th rounderLietz, Daniel Heartland CC (IL) LHP L/L J1 6’02” 200lbs
7th rounderGreene, Conner Santa Monica HS (CA) RHP R/R HS 6’03” 165lbs
10th rounderCustons, Garrett Air Force (CO) C R/R SR 6’00” 200lbs
12th rounderMayza, Tim Millersville University (PA) LHP L/L JR 6’03” 205lbs
13th rounderLocastro, Timothy Ithaca College (NY) IF R/R JR 6’01” 175lbs
15th rounderDavis, Jonathan Central Arkansas (AR) OF R/R JR 5’08” 188lbs
16th rounder Jansen, Danny Appleton A West (WI) C R/R HS 6’02” 215lbs
21st rounderReeves, Mike Florida Gulf Coast University (FL) C L/R SR
23rd rounderKalfus, Brendan St. Marys (CA) OF S/R SR 5’11” 180lbs
24th rounderHurley, Sean Central Arizona College (AZ) OF R/R J2 6’03” 225lbs
27th rounderFlorides, Andrew Holy Cross HS (NY) IF R/R HS 6’01” 170lbs
29th rounderPickens, Garrett Delta State (MS) RHP R/R 5S 6’01” 185lbs
36th rounderHarris, David Southern Arkansas University (AR) IF/OF R/R SR 6’01”
37th rounderBarber, Brett Ohio University (OH) RHP R/R SR 6’01” 180lbs

Also, there was a media scrum with Blue Jays director of amateur scouting Brian Parker earlier this week. There have been a couple of articles on the main site but I didn’t have  a chance to post the full Q+A until now. Since the signings happened, might as well get it up now. Enjoy.

Brian Parker:

Value guys that slipped…
“We took the approach this year that we were trying to get a few of those guys. I think we’re hoping to save some money in the top 10 to give us some flexibility later. Brentz is someone we hope to talk to this summer, Lauer is another one, Tewes is a third one. Those are three kind of high school pitchers that we have some interest depending on what happens for us in the top 10 those would be some guys we’d look at.”

On going in with a set plan or with multiple ones…
“A little bit of both. You go in with a plan and then you adjust. I think it’s obvious one of our plans was to target pitching. We’ve traded a lot of pitchers in the last year and we weren’t going to pass on position players if they were better but it just so happened we were able to get some of the arms we liked and had interest in. It was a focus to try to add as much pitching as we could so we were able to do that.”

On high number of high school arms that were taken…
“I think that’s just how it played out on the board. We had some college guys we liked but when it came our time to pick the best one was the high school guy. We didn’t go all high school because that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to mix it up, it just so happened it ended up going to high school. There were some college guys that we were very high on and would have considered in a lot of the higher round spots.”

Lots of high school arms in the system as well…
“It’s one thing we do well. When you do something well, it’s try to get as many of those types of guys as we can. Dane Johnson our pitching coordinator and our Minor League staff in general has done a pretty good job of developing those types of guys, whether it’s high school or college, we’re looking for a certain type of thing and those are the types of guys we got.”

Lack of diversity in the portfolio concerning?
“We took some college arms that we like a little bit later. Matt Boyd and Graveman that we took in the top 10, they’re college seniors but they’re actually very successful college seniors at big time baseball programs. Those are two college starters that we like and we think can mix in with the high school guys. They’re both pitching in the Super Regionals this week and they might be in the college World Series next week. I think we mixed some of those guys in a little bit later. When you’re at the top of the Draft you don’t want to pass on a better player or a better talent because we’ve already taken three high school guys and we don’t want to take another. We just wanted to get as many guys as we could.”

Sign quick part of drafting strategy?
“Absolutely. I think the sooner we can get these guys, especially the high school kids, the sooner they get into our system and get going the better. If our guys can get their hands on them Day 1, that’s better not only for what they can do this year but where they can go next year. It helps them this year but more importantly it gives them a jump start on where they’re going to be placed next year too.”

Confident in advance of Bickford in signability…
“I think it’s one of those things, especially higher in the Draft, the top few rounds, you really need to know on that kind of stuff before you take a kid. We did our research, we did our background on him and the other guys at the top of the Draft and we feel good, we started talking to him and his adviser, we feel good but obviously things happen. It’s of those things where we feel with where we’re going.”

On strategy of going underslot on some guys early to pay guys after 10th round…
“It’s more case by case. If we were able to get a guy for a little less than we could use that money later. In some cases, we might pay a later guy more than an earlier guy but it’s more in relation to the top 10 rounds. That’s where the money is counted by MLB and that sort of thing. Without the extra picks, we had to see what was there when it came our time to pick. I know they had a lot of the comp picks early last year, we didn’t have that, we had to just wait and see who was there when we picked.”

Also some leftovers from a scrum with Alex Anthopoulos…

Balance between selecting pitching/position players.
“There is. We didn’t set out to take nine arms in the first nine picks. But we didn’t want to force it. A lot of times you sit there going ‘well, do we need a shortstop? Do we need a third baseman?’ There’s so many failures in the draft. If you start trying to draft by needs, other than when you’re filling you’re organization, that’s where you make mistakes. You really have to take the best player available.

“Position players are tough, and not that many teams have success with it. And that’s why you’ll see most position players come in the first two round of the draft. There was a position player we would’ve loved to have, but he didn’t fall to us… There’s always players that we like. All of our draft picks in the past, I don’t think we’ve been able to select the first player on out board, but you do have to take the best player available. It worked out that way. …it just fell that way.”

Allocation of resources same as 2012…
“No. This year it seemed like there were fewer signability players that we were very high on. There were two players that would’ve been well over slot deals. Guys we would’ve loved to have. One of them we would’ve strongly considered with our tenth pick. He just wanted to go to school. Another one we would’ve strongly considered with the 47th pick, same thing, wanted to go to school.

“We would’ve paid them, especially the 47th pick, well above slot. They just didn’t want to play in any capacity. You look at Smoral last year there was a price point to forgo him going to school. … It was all reflective on what talent was available at the draft. We did feel like that with the 10 pick we’d get a good player, but we didn’t think the depth was there that had been there in the past.”

Bickford signing…
“We’re not concerned about it. … with all that being said there’s no guarantees. We’ll try hard to sign him. We believe he wants to play pro. I say this each year, you can lift all my quotes for the first two or three years. The same ones apply. We’re optimist, we’re going to do our best, and we hope to get him signed.”

Seniors signed 6-10, strategy?
“There was some strategy to that. Last year, I think we went on a round 3-10, 4-10, and I think last year they were all $1,000 seniors. Here, the talent level was close. There was a bunch of players that we felt, because of the way the draft is set up and the pool of money would not go into the top 10, although they were top 10 to us, so there was added upside to save that pool money on 6-10, and be able to take them after the 10th round. But it gave us flexibility. …Now that the money has been saved in those top 10 rounds, that’s the key. You can reallocate however you want after the 10th.”

Anyone in particular?
“Plenty. There’s players that we took 11-30 that we would’ve taken in the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth. There was questions on their signability. They were a little vague on what the dollars would be. So we had a good sense they would slide. And now we have the ability to move around. We still took players that we liked. There’s no question that the fact they there were seniors were a huge part of them being selected.”

High number of school picks…
“We looked at a lot of college players as well. At the 47th pick we had a college player lined up, got taken a few picks ahead of us, so we went with the high school player. It just worked itself out that way. We didn’t go into it saying high school or college. There’s certainly some college players that went ahead of 10 that we would’ve loved to have at our pick at 10. It just worked out this way. Everyone says the same thing, best player available, you factor in the risk. But, that’s just the way it worked out for us.”

Brian Parker explains Blue Jays’ 1st-round pick

Here’s a transcript of tonight’s conference call with the Blue Jays director of amateur scouting Brian Parker after he selected 17-year-old right-hander Phil Bickford with the 10th overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft:

Why Bickford…
“He has one of the best fastballs in the Draft. He’s an athletic kid and I think we’re all very excited to get this guy going. I think one thing we do well here is develop high school pitching and I think this is a guy that we’re really looking forward to getting going with our coaching staff and all of our player development guys and getting him into our system.”

On whether Bickford will be a tough sign…
“We’re going to get into signability with him in the next couple of days when we wrap up the Draft. We’re confident we’re going to get something with him but we’re going to work on him with that once we’re done with these next three days.”

On whether there were other players being considered when the Blue Jays went on the clock…
“We lined up our board and when it came to our 10th pick he was our top guy. We thought he would be there and this is one of the guys we targeted. When our pick rolled around this was the top guy so we were very excited he was still sitting there.”

On what the Blue Jays liked about Bickford…
“This guy has outstanding fastball command. He has a big arm, we’ve seen him up to 97 this spring, sits 93-94. One of the things we like, and of the things we work on in this organization, is fastball effectiveness, fastball command and the ability to throw strikes and get people out with his fastball. We feel he had one of the best fastballs, college or high school, in the Draft.

“We’ve seen a good changeup from this kid … He’s just one of those guys that’s everything we’re looking for. He’s tall, he’s athletic, he’s young with a good arm. It’s a high ceiling arm that is just the type of guy we’re looking for.”

On Parker’s first Draft day after taking over for preview director of amateur scouting Andrew Tinnish…
“It was an exciting time. It was kind of a long day waiting to get to our pick, we picked 10th. With everything going on, we had our board lined up and we were waiting to see who was there when we picked. Once it became obvious who would be there when we picked I think we were very excited as a group and as a staff, that this is the guy we targeted and we would be able to get him.”

On what they know about Bickford’s personality…
“I talked to him briefly this spring when I was out seeing him. This is a good kid, we’ve done our homework on him. He’s a good young kid that loves being on the field. His team won his championship out there last week and we had a couple of guys out watching him. It’s just an exciting arm with a lot of potential and somebody that we think can really jump into our system and get going quickly.

“No. 1 he’s a competitor, he’s all about baseball. We know he loves being on the field, loves competing and all he wants to do is win. Those are attributes we are big fans of and in addition to his tools and his on-field ability it’s kind of a separator for us when we start digging into the kid himself.”

On whether he’s polished for a high school pitcher or is a bit of a project…
“He’s kind of both. We think the fastball is a very polished pitch, a very effective pitch he can use to get outs right now in pro ball. We think his secondary stuff is developing, we think his changeup is his better pitch right now but we think he has a chance to have a pretty good changeup and breaking ball. I think there are some development opportunities on that side of it.

“When he signs, he’ll go down to Florida and be down in Dunedin with our guys. Once he gets going and once he gets stretched out with Dane Johnson and our Minor League pitching guys they’ll start putting him on a plan to where he goes from there.”

On whether there are concerns about signability issues…
“We looked into it, we’ve checked into this kid’s background, we’ve looked into him and we’re confident we can get this guy signed.”

On whether not having multiple early picks in this year’s Draft allowed the Blue Jays to narrow the field and make it easier to pinpoint who they wanted…
“That really didn’t have anything to do with it. More to do with it was that we picked 10th overall. We could narrow the group down from there. We focused on a group of guys, one of the things was we made sure to scout all of the top guys. We weren’t quite sure coming into today who was going to be there when we picked so we wanted to be ready to go in a couple of different directions depending on who was there. That had more to do with than the lack of extra picks this year.”

Does the fact that he has a commitment to Cal State Fullerton present any problems…
“No not really because almost every high school kid out there has a college commitment and that’s kind of the territory we have when we take high school guys. That’s involved with every high school kid that we take.”

On the Blue Jays’ continued trend of drafting tall, athletic pitchers…
“I think it’s something we look for. I think athleticism is something we focus on with pitchers, especially high school kids. Those are the types of frames and athletes that we’re looking to get into our rotation and hopefully lead our rotation one day. It says something about our Minor League staff and our player development guys that that’s something we do well. I think it’s an advantage that the Blue Jays organization has and if that’s an advantage that we have we’re going to try and get as many of those guys as we can.”

Does his delivery need a lot of work….
“I don’t think so. It’s an athletic delivery and those are the types of things that we look for. As long as they’ve got some athleticism and some on-field ability those are the types of things we normal player development they can develop into the type of guy we’re looking for.”

The full article on tonight’s selection by the Blue Jays’ can be found here: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130606&content_id=49837890&notebook_id=49838020&vkey=notebook_tor&c_id=tor

Cabrera set for his return to San Francisco

Melky Cabrera will make his highly anticipated return to San Francisco when the Blue Jays open a two-game series at AT&T Park on Tuesday night. The reaction from Giants fans should be interesting to say the least considering Cabrera was San Francisco’s best player until he was suspended shortly after the All-Star Break because of a positive drug test.

The ensuing months became somewhat of a soap opera as Cabrera refused to talk about the suspension with San Francisco reporters and never spoke directly to the fanbase about what happened. He essentially vanished overnight and many of the Giants players have gone on record over the past several months about how they used to be close but he no longer returns their messages.

Perhaps in part because of the way things ended, or because the Giants didn’t want the distraction, San Francisco opted not to reinstate Cabrera after his suspension ended during the postseason. He’s only spoke about the Giants on a handful of occasions since then but he held a brief scrum with reporters on Sunday afternoon in San Diego in advance of the upcoming series.

Here’s the Q+A from that scrum with the help of interpreter Luis Rivera:

On going back to San Francisco…
“They treated me really well when I played there and they gave me an opportunity to play every day and I had a great time playing for them.”

Fan reaction…
“I don’t worry about that, it’s up to the fans, it’s nothing I have control of. I’m just going to play the game. If they decide to boo that’s fine, if they decide to cheer that’s fine with me too. But I’m not going to worry about that, I’m just going to focus on the game and try to help my team win.”

Surprised you weren’t added to postseason roster…
“That was their decision. I was ready after I was suspended, I went down and got ready just in case they needed me. They didn’t need me at the time, they won the championship and I was very happy and glad that they did it with or without me.”

Hard feelings…
“No, I was fine. I was ready to go but it was their decision. They decided not to use me, nothing I can do about that. I was ready but that was their decision.”

Looking forward to going back to the city…
“I’m going to be in the hotel to just get ready for the two games.”

Slow start in SF and how that compares to current Blue Jays team…
“I hope that’s the case. We have a lot of good players here, as good as the guys in San Francisco and I feel like these guys are going to start getting on and we’re going to finish strong before the year’s over.”

Legs causing issues…
“Everyday I’m feeling a little bit better.”

Biggest difference in play between April and May…
“It’s going to be a long season, every day I continue to play I’ve felt better and better. Games and at-bats are making a difference for me right now.”

Hitting leadoff…
“Anywhere in the lineup they use me, I’m fine with me. John is the manager and whatever he needs I’m fine with it.”

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