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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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)
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 rounder — Murphy, Patrick Hamilton HS (AZ) RHP R/R HS 6’04″ 195lbs
4th rounder — Smith, Evan Mary G Montgomery HS (AL) LHP R/L HS 6’05″ 190lbs
5th rounder — Lietz, Daniel Heartland CC (IL) LHP L/L J1 6’02″ 200lbs
7th rounder — Greene, Conner Santa Monica HS (CA) RHP R/R HS 6’03″ 165lbs
10th rounder — Custons, Garrett Air Force (CO) C R/R SR 6’00″ 200lbs
12th rounder — Mayza, Tim Millersville University (PA) LHP L/L JR 6’03″ 205lbs
13th rounder — Locastro, Timothy Ithaca College (NY) IF R/R JR 6’01″ 175lbs
15th rounder — Davis, 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 rounder — Reeves, Mike Florida Gulf Coast University (FL) C L/R SR
23rd rounder — Kalfus, Brendan St. Marys (CA) OF S/R SR 5’11″ 180lbs
24th rounder — Hurley, Sean Central Arizona College (AZ) OF R/R J2 6’03″ 225lbs
27th rounder — Florides, Andrew Holy Cross HS (NY) IF R/R HS 6’01″ 170lbs
29th rounder — Pickens, Garrett Delta State (MS) RHP R/R 5S 6’01″ 185lbs
36th rounder — Harris, David Southern Arkansas University (AR) IF/OF R/R SR 6’01″
37th rounder — Barber, 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.
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.”
“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.”
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:
“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¬ebook_id=49838020&vkey=notebook_tor&c_id=tor
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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
“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.”
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.”
Anthopoulos media scrum:
On the decision to option Romero…
“After today’s game we sat down and talked for quite a bit. Myself, Tony LaCava, Pete Walker and obviously John. Ricky was better today, there’s no doubt about it and he’s making strides. You can see it, his changeup was so much better, everything was better but he was not there yet. The more we thought about it, could we have started with him? Sure. Ultimately it may have come in Toronto because he has made strides here but if he’s not ready and he’s not as sharp as he needs to be, we need more time.”
“We thought about where we would send him, we ultimately decided, the other affiliates it’s cold, rain outs, we want to make sure he gets his work in. We’re going to continue to work with him down here where it’s warm, where can get his work in, and really just continue to get the direction of the plate because he’s making strides. Like we told him, we just ran out of time in getting him to where he needs to be.”
On how Romero took the news…
“Ricky, if you ask him, the bar is set so high for him because he has that type of ability. If you ask him, Ricky are you at your best right now? He knows he isn’t. Even if he’s not at his best, he’s still really good but he’s also working on things too. We did this a few springs ago with him, we were able to get it going in time for him to make the team right at the end and that was the hope again that he was going to get it right back at the end and we weren’t going to have to look back.
“Ultimately, the more we talked about it, we saw a lot of good things and he was fine but it’s not the Ricky we know he can be. We can try to just keep going, and when you’re at the big-league level it’s hard to continue working on things, or take a little more time, get him back to where he can be and from his standpoint, he understood, he’s a pro. That goes without saying. It’s always a tough conversation but he knows, he’s not exactly as sharp as he needs to be and he knows it’s going to take a little bit more time.”
Did Happ’s performance this spring impact the decision…
“No. That’s not to take anything away from J.A., this was about Ricky. Obviously we’ve seen what he has done, take away last year, three years in a row he was a horse for us, 225 innings, 2.90 ERA and everything he has done. He has been outstanding. It’s about getting him right and getting him straight. If we didn’t know what his ceiling was and what he can be, it’d be totally different. It’s about getting him right and obviously the sooner the better for us.”
Romero’s outing on Tuesday the final straw?
“No matter what, the entire time, things change in Spring Training so fast. Each year, I’m to the point where I’m almost not even going to watch the first few weeks of spring. You almost just have the watch the last 10 days or so. We sat down, we still have some other moves to make, you’re talking about the roster all of the time but today was one of those things, spring is done for all of the starters, these guys have pretty much all pitched and what’s the best thing to do. We weren’t going to make any evaluations until everyone was done.”
More on Romero’s results…
“It’s not results as much as we see some things he needed to change. You talk about direction and lines to the plate, it’s basically your balance going to home plate and where your front foot lands. It sounds easy but it just takes time when you start repeating it. He has done this before, he just has a tendency to do it. It’s one thing if it’s results, you’re just not getting results and you just have to continue to pitch and get out of it, we have a plan for him.
“We know what we need to address it’s ust not coming as fast as we wanted it to come. It takes time. It could be the next start, all of a sudden it comes, it’s outstanding, he’s sharp, or it’s two starts from now, or three starts from now. He definitely took a step in the right direction today, it’s getting better, he just needs more time.”
Timeline for when Romero will be back….
“We have to get him back to where he was. We haven’t even gotten (to that point). This isn’t one of those things, we need to get him right mechanically. How long that takes, I don’t know. It could be very fast, it could take a little longer, we’re not putting a timeframe on it. Once we get him right mechanically, I think the results are going to follow.
“We’re all going to know and we’re all going to see it. You can go out and throw shutout innings but you can watch certain things, it can be line drives, it can be deep counts, you know someone’s not right mechanically. The performance might have been better than the line or the performance is not as good as the line. For him, it comes down to how does the stuff look, how does the command of the stuff look and how is his balance going towards the plate.”
Romero’s role? Is he now the sixth starter? Is there a place for him on this team?
“I have no idea where we’re going to be at. Obviously we have to move forward but I have no idea what the roster’s going to look like, what’s going to happen. Obviously if he gets back to where he can be, he’s one of the best starters in the game and I think he ends up being on anybody’s team at that point, certainly ours.
“But without trying to forecast what happens a week from now, three weeks from now, a month from now, it’s impossible to say. But I can’t wait for that day to come, when he’s ready and he’s back to what he was.”
Facing low level A-ballers and what can be gained…
“It’s not the results, it’s is he balanced. I know I brought up the example last year against the Yankees he was really good, I remember the second inning against Philadelphia earlier this spring he was really good. He was right where he needs to be, when he’s doing that, he’s on, he’s there. The problem is we’re getting it in spurts, we need to get it over six innings, seven innings, eight innings and then to do it over again each time. It’s there because he is showing it in flashes. We just need to get him back to the point where he’s doing it night in and night out, start to start, and then he’ll be back.”
Progression through the minors, will he go through every level?
“I don’t know. We haven’t gotten to that point. We’re open to anything. We’ll just see how things go but we haven’t gotten that far. Right now, if this was June or July, I don’t think he’d be in Florida. The problem is, is that it is cold, we miss a lot of games and also it’s a good time to continue working on some things especially with the Florida State League, that’s our affiliate.
” If he needs time to work on things, he can throw more bullpens, more sides, doesn’t matter if you’re playing short. For whatever reason if he needs to throw more sides you can work on things. That’s a big part of it, but we may change course a week from now.”
But eventually he’ll need to face better competition…
“Absolutely. But there have been times where we’ve had guys that have some success and you can call them up at any time, from anywhere. It certainly can be from here.”
On whether outing versus Pirates could have changed the club’s mind…
“Obviously if he was right back to where he was, Ricky and his delivery was right, sure, he’s outstanding. We were hopeful that at any time he was going to be right and we were going to continue until we ran out of time, continue to work with him and believe in him. We certainly do, we just need a little more time. If spring had gone on a week or two more maybe things change.”
Who will work with him in Dunedin…
“Dane Johnson is going to be the point man and obviously Rick Langford has worked with him in the past. They’ll be the guys to work with him day in and day out.”
Were Romero’s knees a factor…
“Obviously we’ve talked about that as well and we don’t see any correlation. It’s as much balance as anything else so it’s not drive, it’s not power, it’s none of that. Way back in 2008 or 2009, he was doing a lot of drills because he would spin off and fall off at times and throw a little more across his body and cut himself off. That’s your direction to the plate. When you’ve been doing something for so long, it just takes time to get back into a routine and do it inning by inning.”
All physical or is it mental as well…
“You can see when he’s right. I even find there are times when he’s going through his delivery and you can say okay, even before the ball crosses home plate you can tell that was good. It just takes time. We have to get him right.”
Comparable to Halladay?
“I don’t think so at all. I wasn’t here but that was a total overhaul, arm slot, delivery, this is more lower half and getting his body direction on line. It’s something we have done with him in the past and he just reverted back a little bit.”
Spent all winter and spring saying he’s in rotation. Does this affect your credibility in clubhouse?
“No, because Ricky knows. I can easily ask Ricky, and I did, are you exactly where you need to be? And he said no. In a lot of ways you’re doing this together. We can continue and you can get by, and do what you’re doing, he made it through six months last year, he made every start, he battled, but we knew he wasn’t at his best. We can sit idly by and just let him continue to just grind through it or we can get him right. I think that’s ultimately what it came down to.
“This isn’t about results as much as, obviously, the delivery impacts the results. He knows he has something he needs to address and fix and he’ll continue to work on it. It’d be different if he didn’t agree he had to make the changes. He completely agrees, he said I know I have to make these changes and I know I have to get them down. He’s working on something that he hasn’t completed yet. We just didn’t have enough time to get him to complete it. He’s certainly on his way, he’s making progress and he’s starting to get close.”
Expectations on team speed up this decision to send him down?
“No, because ultimately, we’ve said this many times, it’s hard to work on things at the big-league level. If there are no changes to be made and you just need to get through some things, fight through slumps, but when you need to make mechanical changes whether you’re a pitcher or position player, it’s hard to do that in an environment that’s results oriented.
“If we need him to throw five changeups in a row down here, it’s hard to do that against the New York Yankees because he needs to feel that extension on his front side just to make sure he gets it. It’s hard to do that when the games matter so ultimately what has to happen, we need to get these three outs, do whatever you can do to get those three outs.
Last week’s Minor League start, was that when this move was really considered strongly?
“You can save a lot of breath and a lot of conversations when you give yourself more time because your opinions can change. The one thing we knew was that he was working on things. How did he look? ‘Great, it’s coming.’ And that’s it. It’s now a matter of carrying over his bullpens into games and that takes time. It’d be one thing if Pete Walker and Pat Hentgen were coming back and saying it’s not coming back in the bullpen. But at times they’d come back and say, he looked great today … Is this the day it’s going to finally come? But we’ve been down this path in 2009. We just needed to stick with it, be patient, and we were finally rewarded with it. This time, it’s going to take a little more time.”
“We did it together. Ultimately, it falls on me to make the decision but Gibby and I ultimately make the decision together but Pete is very involved and obviously Tony LaCava’s in there too. We talk about it and say, where do we think he’s at. We talk about things that we saw and you’re starting to take the entire body of work. But really it comes down to delivery wise, is this the right thing. We debated it. Is he better off being in Toronto and is it going to come there? So, that’s part of the discussion.
Was it unanimous?
“Yes. Ultimately you come to that but it takes time. We were talking about some other spots on the roster, you start talking and you go one way. Then after five minutes of talking it out, we went a completely opposite way. Guys we thought were going to be on it, all of a sudden we’re going to change it. We’re going to sleep on things but that’s how quickly things change and that’s why you have to give yourself as much time as you can and you can’t make snap moves.”
Happ’s performance make this easier?
“I don’t look at it that way. This is about Romero. We have to get him right. It’s a matter of, the right thing for him is to get him back on track and we need more time to do that. If we didn’t have anybody, I’m sure we would have done something.”
But it’s a nice luxury to have…
“That was by design because you always want to have depth. We’re going to continue to try to add depth no matter what. We still need people to stay healthy and perform. Depth, we’re still going to continue to look for that the entire year.”
Described as minor tweaks. Expectation this will resolve itself sooner rather than later?
“I don’t know. It’s not a major mechanical change but it takes time. If I asked you to write with your left hand rather than your right hand, it doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal. We’re not changing the way your arm moves but it would take time to end up doing that. Just changing the way you land on the mound is not a big thing but it takes time and it takes repetition to do it, to do it with every pitch and to do it over and over again. We’ve been down this path before, it took some time then. Maybe if we had started a little bit earlier, a week earlier, would he be 100% right now. Those are all things you can look back on.”
Confident if and when this gets solved it’s a permanent solution?
“You have to be. I haven’t really thought that far ahead. He has been great, he has been great for a long time. He was a horse for us for three straight years when we got him ironed out. He was an All-Star and we’re very confident we’ll get him back to that.”
In Minors as long as it takes?
“Until we can get him right, sure.”
Talked to Happ yet?
“I called him after we told Romero, I told him ‘We optioned out Romero, wanted to call you directly. You’re going to be the fifth starter. I wanted you to hear it from me first before we announce this tonight.’ “
How much was yours and Gibby’s public backing in recent weeks was for Romero’s benefit?
“It’s what we ultimately believed because if we hadn’t been through this before it’d be very different. I remember in 2009, I think he walked four in an inning. We were getting ready to send him out. Same thing your coaches are telling you in the bullpens, don’t worry about what you’re seeing in games, it’s coming, it’s getting there, we’re working on it. The exact same thing happened. Since we’ve been through this before and it was a success and it worked out, there was no reason to change or deviate from that at all. Especially when you saw flashes of that too.”
On Romero’s Minor League outing…
“At times the stuff was good but inconsistent again. A lot of the same type of things that we’ve seen. At times you’d see good curveballs and changeups and a good sink. I think in the first inning he was pretty solid, balls weren’t hit really hard … It has been similar. We just obviously need to try to get him back on track and be right.
“We’ve seen that over the course of spring and there are other times he has been in the zone and stuff is good. We’re working to get him back on track, we’re going to keep going.”
More on Romero’s struggles…
“I think the performance last year, we’re trying to get him back on track. That’s always been the game plan. Obviously he wants to get back on track as well. You can never dictate when it’s going to happen, when it’s all going to come together.
“You’ll see flashes, you’ll see glimpses but it’s just for him putting it together from a consistency standpoint. We’ll just continue to work at it.”
On Romero’s adjusted mechanics and whether they carried over into the game…
“I thought the first inning, delivery, he was being on line, things were a lot better. These aren’t major, it’s more his lines to the plate, his balance, his delivery, there are times you can see he’s trying to guide the ball and he’s not really letting the ball go. It takes time to repeat it, to get back on track.
“Overall, the first inning, I said his lines looked better, he wasn’t falling off as much, there wasn’t a whole lot of hard contact and his stuff was still good. Balls up in the zone, you walk a guy or two, that’s when things get out of whack for him.
“It’s all about command. With Ricky, it has never been stuff. We’ve all seen it. He sinks the ball, does all of those things, it’s just the walks, the stats, that has been the issue. It’s a matter of trying to get him back into the strikezone, when he’s in the strikezone his stuff can play with anybody’s.”
Is it possible that Romero would work through those issues in the Minors or does he still have a guaranteed job?
“We haven’t talked about it at all. Obviously we evaluate it start by start. We’ve said we have our five starters, he’s one of our five starters. As we go through it, the first conversation I’ve had about it is right now.
“I’ll talk to Gibby, talk to Pete, we’ll talk to the player as well. We haven’t had any change of plans, the plans are still the same but just like anything else you’re constantly evaluating.”
Sounds like you’re saying the Minors is an option for him…
“I’m not because we haven’t even talked about it. Right now, our plans haven’t changed. I just got done seeing the performance and just giving my first thoughts but we haven’t even talked about it yet. Right now, everything is still status quo, we’re still on course to have the team we were planning to have.”
On going into the dugout to talk to Arencibia and Walker after Romero’s outing…
“I can’t do it during the game, but in a Minor League game it’s easy to do it. You’re asking about the action, the lines, this and that, what did they think and so on. We’re not getting into it, it’s just really quick, two seconds, how did he feel? He felt good. That’s pretty standard. The first question is how does he feel. He feels fine. You want the results to be better, that goes without saying, that’s all you’re doing at the end of the game.”
On whether it’s possible the changes will just ‘click’ and Romero will find himself again…
“I think the fact that he has done it three years in a row, it can be back at any time. He can be back in the zone. Even last season, as rough of a year that it was, it was late in the year, the start in New York in July, he was great. That’s what I would have thought, it’s clicking, it’s back, it was an outstanding outing for him and then obviously he reverted back. I think it’s shown that at any time it can click.”
On whether he’s had a sit down with Happ…
“I’ve talked to J.A., he knows he doesn’t need to request meetings. It’s one of those things, we talk all of the time. Talked to him in the offseason. I’ve talked to J.A. plenty. I think with J.A., we talked at the beginning of Spring Training, said look this is the game plan. Obviously we’ll see what happens at the end of spring training but this is what the game plan is.
“Like anything, until the roster is final, because we told him, right now it could be long guy, it could be optioned, it could be anything. I think it’s like any player at this stage that’s competing to make the team, where do I stand and do I have a shot? Until we make the decisions we don’t really have clarity one way or the other. I’ve talked to J.A. on and off a lot of times. He’s fine.”
So you’ve talked to him this spring…
“Yeah. I know it was made to be a story like there’s a big sit down or something but it’s not like that at all. J.A. knows his circumstances. It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t really have a choice in it. He has options remaining, it’s the way the rules work.
“Like I said before, the day J.A.’s happy to pitch out of the bullpen or pitch in the Minor Leagues something’s wrong. Same thing with any one of our players, if they’re an everyday player or if they’re happy to not have the greatest role that they can, those aren’t the types of guys you want. That’s standard, that’s completely expected.”
Thoughts on the competition at second base…
“It would not surprise me if at the end of the day those guys share the role. I think it’s going to evolve. One thing we’ve talked about, you’re going to get more defense some Izturis, maybe when you have someone you think is going to put the ball on the ground a little bit more maybe Izturis plays.
“Depending on who’s on the mound, who you’re up against, you’re going to mix and match. Lawrie’s going to need a day, Reyes is going to need a day and with some of the left-handers as well. I think there will be enough playing time for both guys. I don’t believe at this stage one guy is going to have the job 140-games plus. It can evolve, someone could run away with it, but they’ve both played well.”