Here is Alex Anthopoulos’ final news conference of the season. I apologize in advance for a typo here and there. I wanted to post this tonight but also have articles in the works for the main site but it has been a bit rushed. Instead of waiting any longer, though, he’s Anthopoulos:
Top priority this offseason?
“The starting rotation. A lot of where our team goes is going to be predicated on what we do with the rotation, it’s clear we have needs there, especially with the guys that were injured, they are not going to be ready for the start of the year or even the middle of the year. That’s definitely going to be a major area of our concentration in the off-season.”
Leadership an issue?
“It could be a combination of things, people define it in so many different ways, there are so many examples of it. Take Roy Halladay for example, I know he’s not a vocal, fiery guy, he is on the field, but he leads by example. Some guys will be more vocal and so on, I think a lot of it is we have a young team, and even though you can have young players that show attributes and the ability to lead, not all of them can and not everyone has comfort doing that necessarily. Beyond all that, winning is big part of it, when you win, things go a lot better, when you don’t win, I’ve seen both sides with teams over .500 and under .500, that’s when some of the other things come out. That’s not to say there’s not areas we can’t get better at, we can’t improve but there’s no question winning cures a lot of things.”
Payroll going up?
“It will, it will definitely go up, there’s going to be a little bit more to work with going forward into the off-season than last . there’s no question with what I’ve been told about where we can be, we’ll be able to look at players we wouldn’t have been as serious about or wouldn’t have fit. Again, and I tried to say this last off-season, it’s not a bottomless pit, it doesn’t mean we can have everyone we want, we’re going to have to be creative and make some things fit, but it’s definitely more to work with than we did last year and that will certainly be exciting.”
Prospects versus free agency?
”The trade route may have been a more attractive avenue in the past, well if there’s a little more flexibility from a payroll standpoint, free agency might make more sense. If you look at the return and you can say we get to save these four players in trade and spend the dollars on a free agent, that ultimately might make more sense. It will have to be a combination. If that rotation can be shored up and it needs to be, that’s really going to dictate where this team goes.”
Fan increase leads to more payroll?
AA not involved at senior level, only knows what he’s been told. “Revenues for this organization have gone up and those revenues are going to be plowed back into the payroll. We talked about that last off-season, I think everything has been up across the board and the exciting part is we get to re-allocate that into payroll. In terms of pressure and things like that, I don’t look at that way at all, it’s more opportunities, maybe being able to look at players we may not have looked at in the past. That’s an exciting thing.”
Accountability for disappointing season?
“There was a lot of change to the roster and rather than trying to put it on a coach or a manager or things like that, the results of the current season you can put on me for the roster I give the manager and the staff. I know we’ve talked about the injuries quite a bit, that’s certainly part of it as well, but it is a young team but I give the manager and the staff the players, with injuries and some of the performances, it’s on me from that standpoint to give them a roster they can with and we didn’t have that this past year.”
On Adam Lind…
Less impressed with small sample sizes, seen improvements, need them to take, Lind has ability. “We need to see him do it start to finish rather than trying to speculate on what he may or may not do. I just don’t think we can prepare that way, we have to let him go out and do it.”
Type of SP to target?
“We just need quality. If we can go get five front of the rotation guys we’re certainly going to do it. You’re always looking at the best quality you can get and that’s all it’s going to come down to. The guys that are at the front or middle of the rotation, those are guys that are going to chew up innings with good ERAs, all that kind of stuff. We just need to improve.”
Darren Oliver status… do you need an answer whether or not he’s coming back by a certain period of time?
“I’m going to give it a few days at least and then probably reach out to Darren and then let him get back with his family. . I’m not going to rush Darren at all, I’d love to have him back. He’s an asset to any club he’s with.” Knew last off-season retirement would be possible.”
John Farrell coming back?
“John is the manager of our club. I don’t have a problem at all (with him returning on a one-year deal), I know this has been asked before, about terms of the contract and things like that. I think I’ve been pretty consistent from that standpoint, we need to focus on the roster, we need to focus on making the rotation better, those are the areas of this team that needs to be addressed, especially in light of what the results have been. Certainly health is going to be part of the solution, but not all of it. The rotation still needs to get better.”
Prepared to overpay for upgrades?
“Yes. Again, it’s not a bottomless pit, so you’re weighing your options and I think that’s ultimately what it comes down to if you have x amount of dollars to spend, what percentage of that are you going to allocate to one or two or three areas. For the right fit, or what you might deem the perfect fit, the overpay makes a lot of sense. Where you do get into trouble is when you start settling for someone who you objectively weren’t as excited about, I’d rather overpay for someone we really believe in than someone we’re not so certain of if it saves money. You end up getting what you pay for.”
Any danger in tipping your hand about having such a strong desire to acquire pitchers? Possible disappointment from fans if it doesn’t happen?
“I think if I sat here and said we were going to get these three free agents and we don’t, that would be a problem. Or we guarantee certain things, that would be a problem. But I think I’m stating the obvious. I mean people look at the numbers, every team, every GM look at it like we do. They go through the teams,where they ranked in their respective areas, blown saves, starter’s ERA, offence, on-base percentage. So, for the sake of argument, if someone is lacking in power, you know they rank last, the GM would say ‘These guys need power.’ I don’t think they’d tell me ‘We’re all set.’ I think it’s pretty obvious.
“I don’t see how with a straight face I can tell anybody we’re all set in the starting rotation. I think I’m stating the obvious, to the fans, to the guy on the corner, to every GM in the league. There might be some other areas that discreetly, quietly I have some concerns with that might not be as apparent. Those are the things I would keep quiet.
“I will give Shi credit on this one,during the year he wrote about how we should have some concerns for the bullpen going into next year because we had a lot of guys that were free agents and that was something that was very on my mind from the beginning of the season. We had guys that were making some money and weren’t under control. It was something I was going to really be aggressive about during the season and try to address. If that (fact) had been out there I think it would have been a problem, but this (starting pitching) is pretty apparent, pretty obvious. I don’t think I’m showing my cards at all.”
Emphasis on making a big move before the Winter Meetings?
“You always prefer to get things done sooner than later. I think it’s safe to say the bigger the free agent the longer they want to wait. The winter meetings, from past experiences, with any of the bigger free agent signings, it seems like it always drags a little bit. That’s the toughest part about free agency. Sooner than later sets everything up. You know how much money you have left,whether options can be in trades, but you can’t force things, especially with free agency.”
Personal adjustments as GM….
“I’m constantly adjusting. I don’t know that it’s one area. Roster, draft, development, all of it, so I don’t think I ever stop learning, ever stop getting better. It’s not to avoid the question, it’s just I think the list can go on and on. I won’t sit here and say that we’ve settled on anything. We trying to constantly adjust, constantly get better. You only stop doing that when you win the World Series. Even then I bet you’re still trying to improve.”
Impressions on Gose and Hechavarria for next year….
“They’ve both performed fairly well for young guys, obviously ups and downs. The longer they’ve been up here they’re starting to settle in a little bit more, but again over the years,especially in the AGM role you see a lot of guys come up and perform in September and not perform the following year, so ideally your young guys are in the minor leagues and you have players that are a little more established to give them a little more time. They get to force your hand. There may be a set of circumstances that one of them’s on the roster. If two of them are on the roster that means we probably made some big trades and it was a payroll thing and we needed to fit some things in. It’s hard to tell;. I wouldn’t rule it out but you just don’t know what the results will be the following year. I guess I would never rule anything out,but ideally we would have them in the minor leagues.”
Why was Romero not sent down by Lind was?
“I think with Adam the struggles were a little bit more prolonged.They started the second half of last season. Especially someone with a track record that’s done it before, you stick with them. If this was the first time Adam had not had as much success, he would have been given a little more rope like he was last year, even the year prior to that. He hit for some power, but the average was down.
“Ricky, the three years prior to that has been outstanding. He got better each year. The innings, ewverything else. I think it’s one of those things that you continue to try to work through things.”
Did you consider sending Romero to the Minors?
“No. We evaluated things start to start. He struggled and so on, I think you’re always looking for solutions first and foremost. At no time did we ever get serious about anything like that at all. The extent that we went with it was to have him skip a start.”
What type of tinkering does Romero have to do this offseason?
“I don’t know that today I’m prepared to answer that question.I have a lot of different theories and ideas and I know I’ve pointed to that start in New York (on Sept. 19), it’s so tough to pinpoint, is it mechanics. We obviously tried all kinds of things all year. It was a lot of trial and error throughout the season waiting for him to come out of it.
“We use Brandon Morrow as an example the year before. He really only clicked the last three starts of the year. He struggled for that long a period. We’re going to spend a lot of time in the off-season taking a look at more things. I don’t know that we have the answer right now. If we did we would have certainly done it sooner. All you can do is chalk it up to a down year for him. His work ethic, outstanding stuff is still the same, velocity still the same.The walks is what really spiked. Conversely the strikeout rate dropped and so on. It’s something we’re going to continue to look at in the off-season.”
Have you seen enough from Encarnacion that you’d be comfortable with him starting next year at 1B as opposed to DH?
“He played well at first. I know he’s been banged up a little bit. He’s athletic,he’s gotten himself in tremendous shape the last two years. I thought he did a very good job.”
Does that open up the possibility of going after a DH that doesn’t necessarily play a position or do you need someone that can play 1B as well?
“I think we’d be open to either. I can’t say that we’re really locked into anything.Like I said the fact that Edwin can play first it does give you some flexibility there. He can play first, he can DH. Maybe Lind can play first base and DH. Does someone come in? Is there a trade made? The only person whose guaranteed anything in his role is Encarnacion. If we had guys under contract that would be a factor but I don’t know that we’re locked into has to be a DH or has to be a position player.”
Studying the injuries…
“There’s no set date.I think it’s just the more we look at it, the more we evaluate it,over the course of a season I think we don’t want to be too quick to make change. We’ve really done things in this organization even when I was in scouting in 2004 when I got here. There’s been a lot of consistency, the medical staff, the doctors the training staff. There’s been a lot of stability there. And 2012 was absolutely, when you look at a nine-year period, 2012 is definitely the (year that stands out) with the number of injuries. I think we had more DL days than we’ve ever had in this organization.If we had made changes coming into this season with our doctors, our trainers, our strength staff, if we had made changes for routines,for throwing programs, it would be something to point to. We’ve stayed consistent. We don’t want to just chalk it up to ‘it happens, it’s bad luck.’ We want to make sure we do the work. We want to make sure before we make any drastic changes or tweaks that we’re certain about what we need to do and we’re certain about cause and effect.
What type of hitter are you looking to acquire?
“We’ve always talked about adding on-base. We knew coming in because we’d talked about it in spring training in the off-season, seven out of nine guys we git hit 20 home runs or have the ability to do it. And then we knew that was going to be a high strikeout lineup. Striekouts, power, home runs go hand in hand.We’re always looking at more on-base if we can. Contact-ability so not a bad thing either. You see it come into play. You try and move a runner over, man on third less than two outs, getting the run in. Strikeout’s going to hurt you there. Conversely we do hit a lot of home runs as a team. There were times we were ranked one, right up with New York. We always looked at more on-base and contact-ability, if we can.”
On Lyon and Frasor (pending free agents)…
“They both did great jobs. Jason got hurt in the middle but he’s been here a long time. He leads in career appearances for this organization and everything else he does bring. But the bullen is an area of depth. It’s going to be important that we have some relievers that have a chance to be here for a while.Both guys we’ll strongly take a look at. I don’t know where that’s going to go,but even Brandon performed incredibly well for us. Strike thrower, good curveball. They both did a great job for us so they’ll both be guys we definitely take a look at.”
Alex Anthopoulos has been forced into a lot of interviews during the past week but for once he was able to avoid having to answer questions about Yunel Escobar. Anthopoulos arrived in Tampa on Saturday morning and plans on remaining with the team through its final road trip of the season.
He took some time to speak with reporters about the 2012 season while providing some interesting comments about the offseason and what to expect for next season. On the main site, you can find my article on next year’s starting rotation but the rest of what Anthopoulos had to say can be found below.
Don’t forget to give me a follow on Twitter @gregorMLB
On all the injuries this season…
“The hardest part about it is, you lose players in season, but the guys you lose going into next year. That’s obviously the hardest part about it. It just reinforces more than ever, and I know this is a year that we’ve had more than anybody else or we’ve ever had in this organization, just reinforces the notion of continuing to add depth more so than ever and even when we have young players, prospects, if we can and even if we think they can come up here, do a good job and be solid, if they have options left let’s just stockpile that depth and they can all just wait there.
“I remember years ago, when J.P. was here, I don’t remember the exact year, the year that Marcum and McGowan year, maybe Litsch came up the same year, we had guys like Zambrano, Ohka and obviously those guys didn’t work out. Not that they were the right signings because obviously they didn’t perform well enough but knowing you had those guys waiting in the wings are your insurance, as your backups, that’s something you look back at.
“Sometimes you want to give kids the innings, want to give them the opportunities but it’s not the worst thing in the world if they’re sitting down there as depth and they’re ready to go because you know guys are going to get hurt or guys aren’t going to perform and you’re going to need a changeup.”
With the exception of those 2-4 weeks after all of the injuries, though, you have to be relatively satisfied with the starters?
“It’s changed, obviously if you would have asked me at the beginning of August, I felt our offense was outstanding and it was. We were leading all of baseball in runs scored and the bullpen really came around. But that’s another thing too, you realize six months is six months. We’ve talked about teams that are in contention through the trade deadline, we’ve seen collapses, we’ve seen all of those things, you have to play the full six months.
“I’d say when evaluating our team, we’re always best to evaluate it month-by-month or third-by-third but really have your final evaluation at the end of the year because things change. From that standpoint, the rotation, I think we got through it. We scored a lot of runs and guys like Happ did a solid job, Aaron Laffey did a solid job for us. But, again, you have to do it over six months and even Alvarez over the last three starts has been solid, Romero has been getting better, but you need it over six months.”
Did you over-estimate the Major League ready depth of the organization?
“I think we felt we had bodies, looking back, what you learn from it is just the reliance on young guys. I know you could look at Oakland, they have all these young guys in their rotation. You look at 2010, we had Morrow, Romero, Cecil, Marcum and the fifth starter was a combination of guys. They pretty much made all of their starts and even for us, the first two months of the year, Drew was up after 2-3 weeks, but Drew, Kyle, Brandon, Henderson, Romero, those five guys I think were leading in starter’s ERA.
“That’s not to say it would have gone on for six months, but relying on health is probably the biggest thing and relying on health with some of the younger guys is the biggest thing. There are a lot of teams that have done it, they rolled out a bunch of guys. A few years back there was the Twins that were doing it with Slowey, Blackburn and so on, and it looked like for us it looked like we were going to be able to do it and even in 2010 we did it. But I think more than youth it was just having bodies, having more and more bodies to protect us. You can never have enough.”
For the postseason this year, there’s 4-5 teams that finished under .500 last year. Does that an encouragement going into the offseason?
“Certainly. It definitely has to be and really the focus is on the rotation. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to look to get better offensively or in the bullpen, but you see how teams obviously that have pitched but haven’t scored as many runs and they’re still in contention, they’re still there. What we did in the middle of the summer, we masked a lot of the issues in the rotation because the offense was performing so well.
“We’ve shown at times the team that we can be and with the extra wild card, I know I’ve said this a lot of times, it’s not to say what we would have done the last third of the season, but at the trade deadline we were two out of one of the Wild Card spots, there were teams that were 10 games up in divisions and they lost those leads. So that’s not to say it would have continued but we’ve shown the ability to put it together for awhile. It would have been much easier to evaluate if everyone had stayed healthy and remained on the field.”
Do the Orioles have anything that you can look at and emulate?
“I think the one thing, the way the bullpen’s performed. I don’t know what you can emulate, guys are having great years, it doesn’t mean they’re not good, but ERAs in the ones and the low twos, but I think contending teams are always going to have to have a good bullpen. I don’t know that there’s many teams that contend that have weak bullpens.
“So, that’s the thing that jumps out about that team and people can debate the one-run games, there’s all kinds of reasons I know, people have talked about run differential with them, I think the Diamondbacks one of the years they made the postseason, they had a negative run differential as well. But the thing that jumps out for them is certainly the bullpen and the strength of the pen.”
For the fanbase, do you have to make quick moves in the offseason to move forward with your own organization?
“I don’t look at the timing of it. We need to get better and I think for the fanbase they just want to see a better team, a better product, a team in contention. If you told the fans that we’ll provide that for you on Jan. 1 rather than Nov. 1 I don’t think that they would really care. But I think it goes without saying, we’ll try to be aggressive and get things done but there’s no question the focus is going to be on getting better.”
You have to sell tickets too…
“I don’t look at it from that standpoint. It’s impossible for me to try to operate that way. But I think if we’re looking at big league players, and get better, it can only help things. But I don’t look at it in terms of sales, all that stuff takes care of itself if you win. It’s not about one offseason or a sales campaign, it’s about putting the winning product on the field and the rest will take care of itself. Try to make moves, add big league players and that should speak for itself.”
You mentioned a couple of weeks ago who had spots locked down for position players. What about the starting pitching? Who has guaranteed jobs there?
“The only guys that we promise — I don’t know how the offseason will go, I definitely want to add as much depth as we can in the rotation — we’re only locked into Brandon and Romero. They both have guaranteed contracts and that’s not to say we don’t have guys that are front runners, obviously if Alvarez continues to perform well, but he has options left. I just don’t want people coming into Spring Training assuming they have a job lined up. Or, we make a trade in the offseason or we sign someone and I have to make a phonecall and say, you know what? I changed my mind. The two guys with guaranteed contracts are them, and everybody else, there are guys that will put themselves in a good position, they’ll compete. Depending on what we do, they might get jobs by default but the goal is going to be to add as much depth as we can.”
With the bullpen seemingly pretty well locked down, does that free up a little bit more time for you in the offseason to focus all that energy on upgrading the rotation?
“I think it helps but I would still like to add depth to the bullpen. You still want to have depth. I was just reading how the Reds lost three or four relievers in Spring Training this year. You sit there in Spring Training and guys that have options left and could be on the team but get sent down, we rarely go through with a 12-man staff from start to finish.
” I’m much less concerned, if someone deserves to be on the team or doesn’t deserve to be on the team, we have to do what’s right for the organization. So, if we can depth, and someone had options, has to go down and wait their team, we’re going to do it because we’re going to be a stronger organization for it.
Does having Buffalo make that easier?
“I think in terms of Minor League free agents it does, the proximity, things like that. But in terms of our prospects, developmentally, we sent them to New Hampshire. We still had guys that worked with them, developed them. Is it nice that they’ll be in the IL? Sure, but I think the real advantage, in terms of players, is being able to sign Minor League free agents. It’s tough to recruit guys to do to Las Vegas and put up stats.
If you consider Morrow a two or a three in the rotation, you don’t know where Ricky is, does that change what you’re looking for in the offseason?
“No. Bottom line, they’re all going to make 30-plus starts. At least 30 starts out of each spot, if not more. So get as many good starters as you can. Forget about titles, forget about order. I don’t even remember who the Braves Opening Day starters were all of those years. Or even Halladay, Hamels, Cliff Lee. I don’t think anybody cares, they’re all great. So, from that standpoint, they’re in our rotation, if we can somehow pull it off that we get three guys that would slot in ahead of them, wow, we’re going to have a really good offseason. But I’m not overly concerned with where guys are slotted. We just have to get better.”
Would you be more inclined to part with top prospects this offseason compared to last year?
“We were (last year). I think it all depends on what the deal ends up being. We made a lot of really good players available. At times it was three, two, four, it’s just how many and does it make sense. I don’t know that you’re more willing, or not willing. The more time you have the better feel you have for your own players too. I think we had players that were a little further down in the Minor Leagues and now they’ve graduated to a higher level. We know them a little bit better. I think their value around the league should be stronger because there’s no question, the prospects that are closer have more value.
“Not that people don’t think guys in low-A ball are valuable but everyone realizes they might have to wait three-to-four years. There’s performance risk, there’s injury risk. As guys move up, assuming they perform, their value increases. I think we’re in a better position, I think our assets are stronger than they were a year ago.”
Yunel Escobar was supposed to make his return to the Blue Jays’ lineup on Friday night following a three-game suspension but instead he found a seat on the bench. Toronto manager John Farrell met with Escobar on Friday afternoon and following that closed-door sitdown, it was decided that the Cuban shortstop needed at least one more day away from the game.
Here is the official reasoning behind the surprise decision:
On the decision to sit Yunel…
“When we met earlier today, it became increasingly clear during that discussion that he needs another day to get back and be ready to play a Major League game.”
More Yunel’s choice to sit out then?
“It wasn’t his choice. It became very clear during our discussions about all that has taken place, all that has potentially anticipated going forward, that he needs another day.”
Is that a result of something he did or didn’t do once getting to Florida?
“No, it’s not so much staying in shape or baseball activity, it’s just about how he’s dealing with the fallout of what he did. He’s remorseful for what took place and as a result he needs another day to get things in line.”
Has Yunel spoken to you about what he anticipates from the fans in Toronto?
“No, he hasn’t because I don’t think he fully understood the ramifications at the time of doing what he did. So this is all a first for him. Regardless of intent and all of the things that he has expressed, all of these experiences and the backlash that has taken place, I can tell you, on his part, have been unanticipated.”
Another meeting with Yunel tomorrow then?
“There’s nothing scheduled tomorrow. It’s anticipated and expected that he’d be ready to play tomorrow but if the case exists that he needs another day to get through this, we’ll be open minded of that move on.”
From the tone or the language used?
“Just a number of things that he’s processing right now.”
Based on what you’re saying then, it sounds like this has been mentally draining on him and has led to this decision?
“He’s remorseful, he understands that he made a mistake and regardless of what his initial thoughts were, those are drastically different than what he’s dealing with right now. He knows he made a mistake and he’s not ready to play a Major League game tonight.”
Were you almost like a father figure during this meeting?
“You deal with people, you manage people, you manage a game and they’re inter-related. It was clear in the discussion that he needs another day.”
It’s pretty obvious this has become pretty hard to deal with for him…
“Consequences exist for every action and these are the consequences he’s dealing with. That doesn’t mean we’re turning a cold shoulder to him but at the same time he’s coming to grips with the fallout and the backlash that has taken place. If that means dealing with others in the organization that are available, if in fact that is determined to be needed we’ll provide that for him. But we would expect in short order that he’ll be back on the field.”
You said this was your decision — did he want to play today?
“Through our discussions it was clear that he felt that he needed another day as well.”
Any of this a carryover from Tuesday’s news conference? Something that wasn’t done or said?
“I wouldn’t say it’s a carryover from the press conference. I will say that it’s a continuing process for Yunel now that he’s realizing what the backlash has been. It wasn’t something that he said or the way he came across, it’s the scope in which this has offended a large number of people. With all that feedback, he’s still processing it.”
Would anything have been done differently if Bautista was still around?
“No one saw it. I can’t say that is Jose was here that would have made a difference. That’s not to point the finger at Jose and say you’re going to keep everyone in line, that’s not the case at all. The fact is, it wasn’t seen and just so we’re clear, writing on eye-black patches is no longer permissible.
“That won’t be a case in the future and while you trust certain slogans aren’t going to be on display, you give players some freedom to play as they are as people, but as we talk about routinely, when being an individual takes away from the team concept, it’s our job to pull that back and that’s what we’re doing.”
On teammates’ reaction to this situation…
“There has been, from what I’ve seen, there has been a wide range of reactions. Surprise with the suspension because in their minds this wasn’t an issue. To the other end of the spectrum, that because of the issue, there have been a lot of questions that have been answered by other people inside of the clubhouse that otherwise might not want to answer them. But he’s a teammate and we can’t turn on a teammate, it is part of our family as the Blue Jays to support him, to correct what might need to be corrected and to move on together as a group.”
What does Yunel need to do, or show, to get back into the lineup?
“In talking with him, just a sense that he has some of these distractions under control. That he can focus on the task at hand once he gets back into the lineup. We recognize too that he’ll be a focal point and we spoke of that, how he plays, how he goes about his actions on the field, what some of the response might be from people in the crowd. That might be a further distraction if he’s not accepted for whatever performance he does on the field and know that that might be forthcoming.”
MLB changed the rule on eye black or the Blue Jays did?
“It’s been included in the equipment where no writing can be displayed on any type of equipment, including the eye-black patches.”
More on MLB banning written words on eye black…
“No, it’s not case by case. When you see either a number or initials in the batting gloves or sweatband, that has been pre-approved. So when you have a hand written slogan that’s on display, that’s above and beyond.”
Yunel Escobar (through interpreter Luis Rivera:
What have the last few days been like for you?
“It has been really tough on me. I haven’t slept well the last three or four days, I’ve been receiving a lot of calls from friends and family to give me some support but it has been hard for me knowing that I made a mistake, I hurt some people, it has been really hard for me.”
On Farrell keeping him out of the lineup…
“I’m living in a tough situation that happened, I put myself into it. It’s going to take a little awhile. I spent three days and today I took groundballs, I took groundballs yesterday, I took groundballs today and I’m going to start putting my mind back in the game today so that I can play a Major League game.”
Did you expect to be in the lineup tonight?
“I always come to the game thinking I’m going to in the lineup. But after I spent some time inside the clubhouse, all of the things that were going through my mind, it was better for me not to play tonight.”
How important is it to be back around your teammates?
“My teammates are like my family. We spend seven months together, we know each other really well. Those are the people who make my life a little more comfortable.”
Anything you’d like to say to the fans?
“I’m having a hard time dealing with the situations. I’m really sorry for what happened on the field … If I hurt somebody from the bottom of my heart I feel really sorry about it. I’m looking forward to meeting the people in Toronto and go from there.”
Important for you to finish the year strong?
“Always from Day 1, I always think about finishing strong every year and this is not an exception. I always try to finish strong so I can continue with my career.”
How long until you think you’ll be back in the lineup?
“In case they need me tonight, I might be able to play tonight, if not, tomorrow. Tomorrow I will hopefully be ready to play.”
Here are the main highlight’s from yesterday’s situation involving Yunel Escobar and his three-game suspension for writing a slur onto his eye-black patches:
“It is just something that has been said around amongst the Latinos, it’s not something that is meant to be offensive.
“It’s a word used often within teams. It’s a word without a meaning.”
“I agree with the suspension, I don’t have any problem with that.”
“I am embarrassed and for the organization, the Blue Jays, as well.”
“It was just a joke, it was my idea but wasn’t directed at anyone in particular.”
“Honestly, it has been a terrible experience in my life and career. It’s something I am sorry for.”
When did he know he was in trouble?
“Yesterday afternoon when I heard there were some photos on the internet. I was surprised because I didn’t think that something like that would cause any problems. I didn’t do it to offend anybody, so it surprised me.”
Chance to speak with your teammates?
“Honestly, my teammates, my coach, I had to apologize to them. I apologized to my teammates and my coach because it was not their fault.”
Does Yunel have gay friends?
“I have friends who are gay. The person who decorates my house is gay, the person who cuts my hair is gay. I have various friends who are gay. Honestly, they haven’t felt as offended about this, there’s just a different understanding in the Latin community with this word.”
Question not translated…
“I understand now the actions that it did and that it was a great error.”
I don’t understand why you’d write something on your eyes if you didn’t want anybody to see it…
“I wrote it but I didn’t do it to make anybody feel bad, or to offend anyone. It was 10 minutes before I left to play the game. I just wrote it.”
Word seems to have different meanings. In Cuba how would it be used?
“It depends on how you say it and who you say it to.”
When did you start writing stuff on your eyes?
“At the beginning of my career, if you look at my photos when I wear stickers I write something on them.”
What did you mean with the word you meant?
“I didn’t mean to say anything with it. It wasn’t meant for anyone and it wasn’t meant to offend.
Question not translated…
“Honestly, the ‘you’ is not referencing to anyone specifically, it’s not directed at anyone. It’s just a word.”
“I think what came out through all of this is the lack of education. It’s not just an issue in sports, it’s an issue in life.
“It’s clear that the problem isn’t going away, this is just an example of it.”
“Something we are not proud of, we are not happy and Yunel is going to, I think now, become and advocate and work with those groups.”
“I don’t know if there is a right way to deal with these things. I don’t think you are ever going to satisfy everybody. It’s ultimately, how do we move forward?”
“From a Latin perspective, the word is used a certain way — it doesn’t make it right but that’s not to say it is just specific to one culture, one race, one dialect. …
“At the end of the day, the Blue Jays become a vehicle, Yunel becomes a vehicle to improve things, to make things better. As unfortunate as all this is, some good will hopefully come from it.”
MLB hasn’t done anything?
“No, the formal suspension is from the club. Obviously this was done with a lot of parties involved. We spent the day at the commissioner’s office today, the PA was there as well, spoke with the commissioner, spoke with Paul. Had everybody really involved but ultimately the way the suspension comes out, it’s from the club.”
“There are a number of occasions where Yunel has written a message on the eye-black patches that he does wear and because it is frequently done on his part, really, no one paid attention to it.”
On his reaction…
“My reaction initially was one of surprise because knowing Yunel in many different situations, this is completely out of character as I know him as a person and as a player. And, it speaks to clearly that those who wear this uniform have an inherent responsibility that goes along with a Major League uniform and there’s very much a social component to that.
“We’re in the spotlight, we’re a spectacle to young people, to people of all walks, our fanbase is a diverse one and this is no different. We did address the club before coming in here today, we made them aware of the penalties and the suspension is there but more importantly knowing that all are going to be exposed to this in our clubhouse. We tried to make this, and will continue to try to make this, in a positive way to continue to educate as Alex has outlined. Initially, it’s a surprise as I know Yunel as a person, from what he did on Saturday.”
Often has words on eye black… every questioned what those words were?
“No, I haven’t because the ones that we were aware of were always about something uplifting and motivational to his teammates: ‘Let’s go today” or something that’s of encouragement. So there was really no reason to think there was anything derogatory and anything pointed to one individual or any group. So honestly, and personally, I didn’t think anything of it.”
But someone on the bench would have noticed…
“If someone had seen it, I would suspect that someone would have said something. Or, at least seen it up close enough to see what was actually written. I know that when you look at the video and when you zoom in on it, and you expand the size of that photo, yes it becomes legible. But, because it had been written, and other messages had been written that were nowhere near this inflammatory, there was no reason to suspect anything different.”
Is homophobia a problem in MLB clubhouses?
“I don’t believe so and I say that because I don’t see any examples of that. I know we’re here discussing what was interpreted by someone as a homophobic action, but you don’t see that.”
“You have to respect the way things work here. But sometimes it has to happen in the first person point of view for us to change the way we view things. I know he’s extremely embarrassed, we’re extremely embarrassed for him, we know it’s not an easy thing. I know he doesn’t want to deal with it, but he has to, he has to step up, especially how things are nowadays, you just have to watch what you say, or what you express out there.
“Sometimes it takes an incident, hopefully it doesn’t happen for anybody else like this, but it goes through experience.
“Hopefully guys who are here and guys that are on other teams can learn from this and understand that it can become a huge distraction and it can become something detrimental to the team and to the city.
“If he’s in the box and he calls time and he yells it at me, maybe. … Some guys can take it as an insult, I don’t think in our sport, and the way clubhouse banter works, I don’t think it would offend that many people in the clubhouse. But it only takes one person to be offended and that’s why we have to stop it from happening again.
“It might be used among the Latin guys and we joke around, and in our countries it’s very macho, but it’s not right, using it as a joke or not. It doesn’t make it any better and it won’t go away just like that. He said, it’s just a simple thing I did, well, you know what, no it’s not, it’s something you have to know, it shouldn’t have to take all this for it to happen to become a big deal. He’s gone through other stuff before, too, but I think this will put him over the fact he know it might only cost him three days, or a fine, but it might coast him, nobody wants a guy that’s going to come on a team and cause controversy, and he understands that. He’s remorseful and we have to work with him, he’s our teammate, we can’t just turn our back on him now.
“Knowing Yunel, he’s gotten a bad rap before, either when he was in Atlanta or here. I don’t know him as a bad person or a guy with bad character. I think the most important thing is that he understands he messed up. He seemed very remorseful when he addressed us.”
“He could be suspended for 20 games, and if he doesn’t really care, it doesn’t matter. The next step is for him to learn what he did is wrong and why it’s wrong, and to go from there.”
“It doesn’t matter where you come from. I don’t think we can use the fact that ‘Oh, we come from Latin America’ as an excuse. Sometimes it just takes for an incident [to learn]. Hopefully it doesn’t happen to anybody else like this. It goes through experience, and nobody wants to experience it. I know, right now, he doesn’t want to be in front of the cameras, he doesn’t want to do any of that stuff, but you have to face the music.”
“I feel real sad, knowing Yunel is a great guy, I know what kind of heart he has and he would never use that word to offend anybody. “(Latin players) always play around with that word but we don’t use it to offend anyone. Just use the word not the meaning of the word.”
When asked if he noticed Yunel on Saturday and why didn’t he say anything, Encarnacion said “No, I wasn’t looking at him. During the day games he always writes something on his eyes … but I didn’t notice those words Saturday.”
Encarnacion said Escobar has used other words including “Chilling” which is the same as in English, and “Gamboa,” which means, loosely, someone who is bow-legged.
“I am surprised knowing that we were just playing around with each other, how big it is now and how sensitive it is. But no one told him anything Saturday, he always writes something on his eyes.”
“Obviously it’s no laughing matter. It’s something you don’t mess around with as an athlete. I’m sure he’s learned his lesson. I know guys in this clubhouse and that the organization don’t tolerate that at all. All you can do now is educate him.”
“Am I surprised at how big it is? No, not really. Like I said it’s no laughing matter. You never want to put yourself in a situation like that.”
On why no one said anything to Yunel: “He writes stuff on his eyes all the time. You just get so caught up in a game you’re not really trying to look at someone’s face all the time. For me, I was getting treatment (Saturday) so I was in and out a lot, I didn’t see it.”
“We say that word very often, and to us, it doesn’t really mean that we are decreasing anybody or talking down to people or anything like that. It’s just a word we use on an everyday basis. I don’t know why people are taking this so hard and so out of place or out of proportion. Obviously he has to explain why he wrote it, but it is a word that is normal to us and we use it all the time. I don’t think he was meaning something out of the ordinary, really.”
“I’m surprised that I’m walking in here and everybody’s asking me about this. It’s like, ‘What happened? Who died?’ It’s just a word that we use. I don’t know why he said he put it on [his eye black]. He was probably joking around with some guys on the team or somebody who was watching him. I realize the problem now, the magnitude of the problem, but I don’t think people should be that alarmed or that surprised.”
“I guess every man has to be responsible to what they do and what they say. He’s not a kid anymore. He’s a man, and he has to admit his problem and his mistake. I’m glad he stepped up and said that, but I don’t think people in Toronto or people wherever that saw the sign need to be that worried or that panicked about this. It’s a regular word for us that we use all the time.”
General manager Alex Anthopoulos spoke with the media on Wednesday about a number of topics. Below is a partial transcript. The remainder of the transcript will be posted Thursday.
“I was so encouraged with the start against New York. I told him this, I thought his stuff was outstanding, his command was outstanding and that was only a few starts ago and that’s why I was so curious about the follow-up start. He didn’t pitch well but I don’t think necessarily the defense helped out. That’s not to make excuses but it’s a combination of things.
“The only thing I can point to is Brandon, last year. He struggled for a good part of the year and I think the last three starts were outstanding. I remember that last start in Chicago was really good, he ended the season on a strong note. So, I think you’re looking for the same thing, you’re looking for him to end the season on a strong note. Stuff is still there, the arm strength is still there, I wish I had a reason as to why it hasn’t gone as well as it has but that’s why I think it’s important to finish out his starts and see how he ends up.”
How important is a W for Romero…
“I know people talked about the record and all that kind of stuff. I don’t really look into that, it doesn’t really change what we’re doing as an organization, doesn’t really change what we’re doing as an organization, doesn’t change where we’re trying to go. If you tell me that he has to lose tonight to win the Cy Young a year from now, I don’t think anyone has a problem with that. I just don’t get caught up in that kind of stuff. He lost that game in New York 2-1 and he pitched great. I don’t know that the stat means a whole lot.”
Does it mean something to him though…
“I don’t know, I’ve never talked to him about it. I’m not trying to be cliche but team game, team wins. The guy has been an All-Star, he’s young, he has great ability. I just don’t think it impacts his career, get him back on track, get back to being the great starter that we know he can be.”
Have any clue on what went wrong…
“Command is probably the biggest thing. You look at the walk totals, that’s definitely been an issue. That’s the only thing you can point to statistically. But he’s flashed it. I don’t want to labor the point but the start in New York it was all there and it wasn’t too long ago. From the scouting standpoint, he was so good, the changeup, the curveball, the fastball, the sinker.
“I don’t care what lineup he would have faced, he was electric. So, it’s there. If I was talking about something he did a year ago it would be different but it’s there, the arm strength is there, it’s just about commanding the ball. I don’t know the exact answer. I know he just showed it to us.”
Extra rest seemed to help in New York. What do you read into that…
“I don’t know and that’s what I’m curious to see. There’s no question, the extra rest he had that going into New York. John’s talked a lot about the back-to-back 225-innings, 210 innings, Ricky works so hard in between starts, offseason. You wonder if it’s a matter of maybe learning to pace himself a little bit more. I don’t know.
“I don’t know that I’m ready to draw any conclusions but maybe there’s something to it. Maybe he has to adjust his routines. It’s not the same guy but I remember Roy Halladay I think he realized he had to scale back a little bit with his offseason. He did so much work during the offseason it started to impact things during the year. He would adjust his bullpens, scale back a little bit, it’s just learning to work a little smarter.
“Maybe that’s one of the solutions, I’m not sure. I’d still like to see how these next few starts play out to really have a more definitive answer. You guys will certainly ask me again at the end of the season and I’ll probably have a little more to say on it because I’ll have more information.”
Reasons for backing him off…
“It was just trying things. We didn’t know if this would work but I think all we could point to was the New York start. John and I talked about it, pointed to the New York start, he had an extra day of rest. Maybe he’s just worn out, we don’t know. We don’t know, he’s fine, his health is fine, his arm strength is fine, but we don’t have anything to lose to try. It’s not like we’re doing this in May.
“We’re sitting here in late August, early September, we’ve tried all kinds of things. That New York start was as good of a start as we’ve seen in months and it came on the heels of more rest, so why not. If we had the answer sooner, we would have done something sooner, but this is something I don’t see the downside in trying.
“It might just be this season where he needs a bit of rest, maybe he needs some rest in the offseason, maybe he tweaks his program. I think everyone adjusts. I’m using Brandon because he’s a starter, you look at the first two springs we had Brandon, he had small issues. Broke down first Spring, we scratched him before the Astros start last spring. For Brandon, not everyone’s the same, maybe we built him up too fast, too soon. He was throwing 98 March 15 and maybe we needed to gradually build him up.
“This past spring, I think it was fastball, changeup, and then he only incorporated his slider later and it was just, let’s try this. Maybe he had ramped up too soon. People you hear about going through a fatigue period in the spring.
“There’s no manual on this stuff, I think a lot of it is trial and error and you take in as much information as you can. If you’re getting clues or hints, maybe that extra day of rest led to that outing in New York. So maybe he is and doesn’t realize it. I’m not sitting here saying that’s the reason. Maybe it is, we’re trying some things to see if it might work.”
“He has done a very good job, I’m stating the obvious. But there’s no question, to watch him last year I think he made 13 starts for us. For eight he was outstanding, for the last four or five, but I know he had an arm injury so there’s definitely a reason for the dropoff in performance. So again, it’s hard to ever pinpoint when you’re looking at a starter, you’re looking at 30 starts or 32 starts, 200 innings, if you make all of your starts. Durability, things like that, that’s part of the equation.
“There’s no question when he takes the ball he has done a great job. Obviously, part of the criteria, and that’s not to take anything away from him, but that’s the unknown with Carlos. He has never had 200 innings, he’s never had 32 or 34 starts. I think we’d all say we love what we see with what he has done for us. He’s a great teammate and all of those things but we’ve only had bits and pieces of him starting. Last year, when he had an extended look, very good for eight and then the other four there were some durability issues there. But I think the conditioning, I think he learned from that, he prepared himself better in the spring and so far he has done a very good job, he’s maintaining his stuff.”
Do you have comparables — salary wise — for him?
“You certainly do, but I don’t know that there’s a lot. Ultimately I guess there are a lot of guys on teams that are swing guys, spot starts, guys that make 10-11 starts, and put a lot of innings out of the bullpen but it’s very hard. I can’t tell you, probably Carlos couldn’t tell you, what would he do, would he pitch 200 innings? Would he make 34 starts? How would he perform over that period of time. We don’t have anything to base that off of.
“I just said we don’t have enough information but that’s not to say we don’t like him or don’t want him back.”
Are you skeptical of him?
“I guess I don’t want to use a term that’s derogatory to the player. I don’t want to doubt him. But I also have to be objective and realistic too. It’s more how do you value a player. And again, Brandon Morrow for example, we extended him last year, the year before he had 149 innings I think and we got him up to 180. We felt like, okay, he has shown us that he can get to that level. 180 is not 200 but he can get to that level and we felt comfortable at that point.
“We felt like we had a good handle at that point on what he can do as a starter. It took time to build him up, there’s always the unknown there when you build someone up with innings how they’re going to react. We’ve seen a lot of starters do well for two or three months and then the second half of the season the workload and all of that ends up having an impact. That’s the unknown and there’s not enough time left in the season to have Carlos be a starter from Day 1 to see the body of work. But off the sample we have now, it has been great.”
Are you given a set payroll?
“It’s discussed, it’s discussed collectively. Where the team is at … it’s not set in stone.”
“Depending on the circumstances, players, it can vary. I think it’s a combination of things.
“What are the salaries of our arbitration eligible players, what holes do we have to fill, what do we need to do. I think we go into every offseason trying to be in a certain area. Then again if there is a player that comes up, a trade that comes up, it’s not, ‘No we discussed it’ … we can have dialogue about anybody at any given time.”
“Our payroll is going to go up, that I know. No doubt about it.
“It has climbed each year and it will continue to climb. To what level does it end up climbing? That remains to be seen.
“I think our payroll will continue to climb into a pretty good area.”
Was d’Arnaud close to forcing his way here?
“He has missed time the past few years. He was having a great season, so I don’t want to take anything away there. He was on his way to doing that but he got hurt and he missed some playing time there. Even in Dunedin, the first year we got him, he missed a lot of time. In New Hampshire last year, he missed a little bit of time but still put up a great year, an MVP year.
“I think with Travis the injury slowed him down a little bit. I don’t have any doubts he was on his way to doing it, he just didn’t get the chance.”
Has his knee injury impacted any schools of thought?
“Rather than trying to get him ready quickly to rush out to the Arizona Fall League, let’s let the knee completely heal. I don’t want to rule out anybody competing for this team at this time unless people are clearly entrenched at positions, which there are obvious guys that are entrenched at positions that have produced and done a very good job.
“Again, that might change in the offseason if we make a trade or we sign a free agent.”
Adam Lind on being back with the Blue Jays a little earlier than previously anticipated:
On how his rehab stint went…
“It’s nice when you don’t have scouting reports and things like that and people play where they’re supposed to play (no shift). It really gives you more opportunities to get hits but that’s how it is in the big leagues. Beyond that, I felt good all three days when I was down there.”
Homering in final game provide a little boost of confidence before return?
“I felt comfortable and I think that’s what rehab stints are about. I accomplished that and hopefully these guys don’t disrupt that comfort.”
Did you expect coming back this quickly?
“They had discussed four or five different plans I was going to do, none of which were three games. But they showed me some schedules of six games with days off mixed in. I’m happy to be back and help this team out, it really doesn’t do much down there to just play. At least come up here and help us turn things around.”
How do you feel after playing first base last night?
“I feel good right now. I’m a little sore. I think that’s to be expected having not played really since I was in Las Vegas, I haven’t played too much in the field. But I felt good to be out there sweating all game and to be out there with the boys.”
Are you going to have to monitor the back injury for the rest of the season?
“Yeah. It will probably be there the rest of my life. So, I just have to maintain it, do all the exercises I’m supposed to do and I think it will be tolerable.
“When I did it last year, they said those things never actually heal. You can only strengthen the muscles around it to protect it. So that’s what I’ve been doing the last year and a half and sometimes things like this happen.”
Different spot than last year?
“This was in a different spot. The doctor wasn’t even in town when I went on the DL so I had to wait a week to get an appointment. He just gave me some prescriptions and gave me the exercises and said hopefully I don’t see you.”
On being back…
“It’s great to be back here. We have a lot of good guys in the system but it’s nice to be back the people you really know, the guys you’ve been with for years. It’s nice to have purpose and be back here in the big leagues trying to win as many games as we can and keep as many teams out of the playoffs as we can right now.”
When you first went down… did you think it would take this long to get back?
“I was kind of all over the map. There were times, the day it happened I thought I was going to be done for awhile and then the progress I had from Day 1 to Day 2 was quite a large difference. By the time I got to Florida and started swinging, I was like man, I don’t know if I’ll even be back. It got better, did everything I was supposed to do and we’re good enough now to play in the big leagues.”
Another day, another injury for the Blue Jays. Saturday night was supposed to be all about the return of No. 1 starter Brandon Morrow but instead the focus is on a potential season-ending injury to Jose Bautista, who can’t seem to shake the discomfort in his left wrist. On the main site, you’ll find an article with full details on the resurfacing of Bautista’s sore wrist, plus an item on David Cooper going on the DL because of lingering discomfort in his lower back.
In addition, check below for a transcript of Bautista’s post-game comments to the media plus reaction from manager John Farrell. Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB
Feel like you just have to put your hands up in the air and wonder what else can go wrong?
“I wouldn’t put it in those words, yet. I just felt a little discomfort and a little soreness. I think it’s better to just let it calm down for a couple of days and see how it goes. Obviously no sense in pushing it when you’re coming back from an injury and you feel like it might go the other way, you have to put a stop to it and see what happens after you hear from the doctors and their recommendations.”
Is this mystifying to you that the pain has come back so quickly?
“I’ve been playing and I’ve been fine that’s why it’s a little bit bizarre to me. Maybe just one of those swings I took today, might have put the hand in the same position that I got hurt before, or something, I don’t know. It’s hard to replicate two swings. I don’t think it’s possible for me to play five or six games like I did and felt fine and then just have one swing that replicated the other one. I felt some discomfort, I hope it’s that, and I hope it will be calmed down in a couple of days and I can get back into it.”
When did it happen?
“One of those swings in the first at-bat, I started feeling something. I don’t think it was worth going up there the next at-bat and trying to have another full swing and not know how I felt afterwards. I think I did the proper thing in letting them know I wasn’t feeling perfectly fine like I was earlier. I guess some people with this injury have been reported to have some regression before they feel better. Doctors said it’s nothing to panic about, so I just have to see him and move on.”
Are you getting it checked out in Baltimore or elsewhere?
“I’m going to Cleveland tomorrow.”
But you’ll be out for at least 15 days because you’re going on the DL…
“I was not aware of that … I was not aware that I was on the DL yet but maybe the doctor also made some recommendations to (trainer) George (Poulis) as to how long it would take me to rest again and given that how many days I need to get back into swinging and all of that. Maybe that’s being taken under consideration too.”
Pain not as bad as it was in New York though?
“It was nowhere near what I felt the first day.”
“He felt some irritation in the same area that he’s been out with for a number of games after that first at-bat today. Precautionary, we took him out. He’ll get re-evaluated and checked by the hand specialist tomorrow but in the meantime we’ve obviously had to put him on the disabled list to make a move.”
Did he come back too soon?
“We wouldn’t have activated him if he hadn’t gone through the progression to date. Unfortunately in that at-bat, he felt some irritation, I don’t want to say it was instability, but the inflammation arose and given what he means to us, and not just for the current time but long-term, it’s precautionary we got him out of there.”
Did it happen on the long foul ball down the left field line?
“He didn’t indicate that it was any one particular swing. It’s more of an overall feeling that after the at-bat, somewhat fatigue and some irritation in the area, any time you’re coming back from an injury there’s going to be some strength, ebbs and flows that he’ll go through and he’s in that situation right now. So, we didn’t feel like it was worth any risk to continue on.”
Same area as before though?
“It’s still in the same area that he first felt it in New York. But through the progression of hitting, through the at-bats he took in simulated situations in Dunedin, the games he played with Florida and New Hampshire, he never felt it to the extent, or at all, but certainly not to where he had to come out of tonight’s game.”
The Blue Jays finally received some positive news on the injury front for the first time in arguably more than two months. No. 1 starter Brandon Morrow re-joined the team for the first time since early June following a prolonged absence with a strained left oblique while Jose Bautista also found his way back after missing a significant amount of time with an injured left wrist.
On the main site, you’ll find my article on the return of both players plus the demotion of left-hander Aaron Laffey to the bullpen to accommodate Morrow. Below, you’ll also find the transcripts of today’s media scrums with Bautista/Morrow plus a portion of today’s conversation with manager John Farrell.
Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB where I’m posting daily updates on the team.
On being back…
“Great. I mean, it has been a lot longer than I would have hoped but it was one of those injuries that you had to play it by ear until you’re feeling good and strong. I’m feeling good and strong now, got all my work in during my rehab assignment and I’m ready to go.”
On length of time…
“We knew that from Day 1 that it wasn’t going to be something that I would be able to come back from fairly quickly. Guys have gone through it before and it’s one of those things where it’s best kind of slow played because you can feel okay and do it again, it’s one of those things you have to make sure it’s completely out.”
On all the club’s injuries…
“It has been tough. The injuries where on you on the field and in the clubhouse mentally. It’s tough when your big bats are going down, guys in the rotation are going down and you start to scuffle a little bit. It must have been tough.”
When did you start feeling like yourself…
“I felt good from my first one out. I really didn’t miss a beat, I think mechancially or with my arm. That’s the good thing with not being an arm injury I was able to at least keep the feel of the baseball even that sort of things even if I was throwing gingerly, at least having the ball in my hand and doing that. Getting the feel back didn’t really take long at all it was just getting to that point where I felt like I could really push myself.”
Maintained your stuff as innings increased?
“I was happy with my stuff throughout the whole process. I threw all of my pitches in all of my outings with success in all of them pretty much.”
How close to old form?
“I hope to be close to it. I felt good command wise with all of my pitches and I’ve stayed in the zone, I haven’t been walking guys, getting quick outs and staying economical with my pitches. That actually hurt me a little bit through the process going too quick through my innings. But I’ve been feeling really good.”
On being away…
“It was pretty tough. Not being around that’s what wears on you the most, watching the team struggling and more guys going down. It was tough being out. I probably didn’t watch as much as most people would think, it’s hard to sit and watch the games when you’re not there and do all of that but I was pulling for the guys.”
Tough for you to watch?
“On and off. I watched on and off. Probably more at the beginning. Then of course when I went on my rehab I was with a team and trying to be a team guy and watching their games, sitting in the dugout and stuff. But, yeah, just knowing what they’re going through with guys going down and some of the guys struggling and watching them, wishing I could be here to help out on the field and then also playing catch or whatever, just talking and stuff.”
Consolation that it wasn’t an arm injury?
“You can’t really think about it like that. I don’t want to say a fluke injury, but something that you don’t really plan for. Arm injuries, not always, but you feel it kind of creeping up on you, at least in my experience it has gotten progressively worse over a week and then you have to shut it down for a few days but this is obviously different on one pitch, pulling it or whatever.”
Ever seen injury woes like this team?
“Not in that timespan, within four or five days I guess. It’s crazy how that happened and then Jose not too long after that, Colby being hurt. J.P. Lawrie too. I’m forgetting because I wasn’t even here. I was already gone from Florida when those guys got down there.”
On being out…
“I missed it every single day and it makes you appreciate what you have.”
“All I can do is (try) to help the team win games. I don’t look at myself as ‘that guy’ who’s going to make the team better or worse. We have a capable group and I just hope I can bring something to the table to contribute.
On being a leader while club struggles…
“We’re a bunch of grownups here and nobody is going to feel sorry for us. As a group, everybody is dealing with it in their own way. When you have years like this with so many guys hurt, it kind of makes the team more unified. We’re dealing with and trying to put forward the best effort.”
Two home runs in final rehab game…
“Anytime you do something good at the plate and you help score some runs, you feel great. I do realize that it’s a different level of baseball, but it’s not to say I was facing Little Leaguers, either. For the most part I went down there just to see some pitches before I showed up here and to try to test out my wrist.
On toughest thing about prolonged absence…
“Just being away from the game and getting back in the mix and you can’t really mimic it until you’re playing at this level. Physically I’m capable and I know I am healthy. But being successful, it’s a flip of a coin. Hopefully I can get right back into the mix and start contributing from day one, but I don’t know. I might need a couple of days.”
How difficult to sit back?
“It’s hard because you can’t contribute and you want to be out there. But there’s nothing you can control. You know you’re hurt and you can’t push it and try to play when you’re hurt. All you can do is wait.”
Something you’ll need to monitor the rest of the year?
“Of course. Anytime, even if you pull a hamstring, you have to monitor it when you come back. We have a little bit over a month left. I’ll be listening to my body. If it tells me I need a day off, I need to calm down for a couple of days and I’ll do that.”
Peace of mind after hitting the two homers?
“No, because I did it at a different level, which has nothing to do with big-league pitching. All it tells me is that if I’m ready to hit, when I go up to the plate with a good game plan and see my pitch that I’ll be good.”
Back everyday or will you need some days off…
“I don’t see a reason why I should take mandatory days off but, like said, if my body tells me I need a day off, I’m going to take a day off.”
Frustrating to sit out while the club was struggling so much offensively?
“It’s equally frustrating as if I was on the field. I know that everybody is trying and we’re all trying to help the team wins games and score runs. Some things you just can’t control in baseball. That’s the beauty and the hardest thing about the game at the same time. I don’t want to seem as if I’m sitting on the outside critiquing the guys that are playing because I know they’re trying their hardest and they’re all capable guys.”
On Bautista being back…
“It’s a good day for us, for the organization, the fact that Jose’s back. Even after a brief rehab assignment, obviously what he did last night. Obviously the timing was there last night. We’re certainly looking forward to his presence in the lineup today.”
What does his presence mean to the team?
“A lot. To be put numerically, I don’t know that you can do that. It’s one of those things; when teams lose one of their main guys it creates a void not only of what their offensive production is or what they can do on defence, but the effect on people around them, whether it’s in the lineup or in the clubhouse or in the dugout. Like I said, it’s a good day for us. Glad he’s back with us.”
On Bautista’s impact…
“Well, there’s four at-bats tonight where we didn’t have him. So hopefully that’s enough of a change in and of itself. Clearly when you are able to add a middle-of-the-order bat back into the lineup, it gives us a chance to make it a little deeper. We’re still missing a couple guys and it’s been evident. We’ve had our struggles offensively over the last three to four weeks. So to add his back bat – that’s not to say we’re expecting him to come back and hit two home runs tonight or anything like that. Just his mere presence will have a positive impact.”
Does his presence take pressure off younger guys?
“Time will tell that, how he’s pitched to. The in-game things will probably have as much of a tell-tale of that as anything else. I know that preparing for him and the lineup he was in before … when you have Bautista in the lineup when you get it across the field it means a hell of a lot more than when it’s not in the lineup. We’ll see, and like I said: I think we have to be realistic. He’s missed five weeks, he’s had 12, 14 at-bats before coming back. He feels good … so he’s going to be in the lineup, so we’ll see how things unfold.”
On Morrow being back too…
“We’ve got him on an 85-95 pitch limit. That’s what he’s up to in the rehab starts he’s made. Jose, losing him created a hole in our lineup. Losing Brandon in our rotation created another one. He was really pitching very well, efficiently, he had thrown three shutouts for the time being he was here, and really started to come into his own. We thought that was going to be the case at spring training and that was playing out this year. Having missed him for the last two-and-a-half months has been a huge hole in our rotation.”
On Laffey going to the bullpen…
“We’ll continue to reevaluate things for the next time through the rotation, if his insertion back into the rotation is needed … Aaron knows this. At the same time we’re probably leaning towards a six-man rotation, so his presence in the bullpen is for a defined period of time and we look to go to that six-man rotation in September.”
On discovery of Aaron Loup…
“In all situations, whether it’s been game on the line, final inning of a game, meat of the order, middle of the order-type of power bats. I thought the at-bat to Boesch was probably a snapshot of what he’s been capable of doing – the need to make a key pitch – 3-2 count, first and second and he spots up a 91-mile-an-hour fastball down and away from a very difficult angle for a left-hander to battle against. He’s done an outstanding job. We’ve talked about his mound presence, his calmness, all those things are evident. And he hasn’t had that huge swing of, ‘Well, you know it’s first-year nerves…’ He’s been, in a very short period, he’s been very reliable.”
Coming from far off the map…
“It just shows you that bullpens can be built and relievers can come from really anywhere. In this case, yeah, he was never really in the main discussion for planning this past offseason, but he’s thrust himself right in the middle of it.”
Bautista’s immediate results in rehab stint, provide peace of mind to him?
“I’d have to say, ‘Yes,’ because if the reverse was there – they’d come without that recent performance, particularly driving the ball like he did – there might be more the feeling that we’ve got to work back into it. Hopefully he hits two balls out of the ballpark tonight, but I think he left there knowing, ‘You know what, my wrist feels good – or my forearm.’ He drove some balls. He swung-and-missed too, which is another tell-tale sign, if that has any indication of being discomfort, it might show up more in a pitch where they swing and miss. So I think some of that has been erased from his mind. But as far as the timing goes, yeah, he comes here with a couple of real positive days behind him.”
The Blue Jays announced a two-year contract extension for veteran Jeff Mathis on Tuesday afternoon. That would appear to force Toronto’s hand this offseason to pick either J.P. Arencibia or top prospect Travis d’Arnaud but that wasn’t the way general manager Alex Anthopoulos explained things during a scrum with reporters.
Anthopoulos believes there’s room for all three catchers on the roster at one time because d’Arnaud could see some time at designated hitter depending on what happens with Adam Lind during the offseason. That might work for a little while but at some point the club will need to make a final decision because both Arencibia and d’Arnaud possess the type of skill set that should enable them to be everyday catchers and if either one is forced to switch positions it would impact their overall value.
Of course Anthopoulos isn’t going to say a lot of that publicly. He would never go into an offseason while stating one of the two catchers has to be traded because it would have a negative impact on what the Blue Jays could net in return. So, for now Toronto will move forward with three potential Major League catchers in the fold plus a temporary replacement in Yorvit Torrealba.
Here’s what Anthopoulos had to say about the entire situation:
On signing Mathis…
“If we didn’t have him, we were going to look for someone like him either way. Obviously J.P.’s the starter and prior to this year, he’s a guy that can handle the load and catch a lot of games. Jeff’s a great complement to him. We know he’s a great defender, he’s a tremendous athlete, he’s a great teammate and I think he accepts the role and he understands the role and he’s still a competitor. If we don’t have him we’re looking for that guy.
“Even last offseason, you look at the free agent market, and for a guy that’s going to be in the back-up role, you’re looking for a combination of things. Teammate, clubhouse presence, athleticism, defense at that position, all of those things and someone that accepts the role, all of those things are important.”
On signing Torrealba…
“It’s an established big league player that has had some success. Jeff’s been handling the bulk of the role right now, him and Torrealba will split the job. He’ll go down to New Hampshire for four games and he’ll join the team in Detroit. So, he’ll be activated on Tuesday assuming no health issues or things like that. Him and Jeff with share the role to start and from there we’ll see how things go but Jeff knows about it and I even called J.P. about it as well so no one’s confused. This is a chance to get a quality big league player and at this stage it was a no-brainer for us.”
On appearing to have too many catchers now with d’Arnaud and Arencibia…
“I don’t think you ever have too many but I understand the question. Obviously with Travis having a great year in Las Vegas and unfortunately he got hurt and was banged up. I think we’ve brought this up before, obviously Travis is a tremendous prospect and he’s that right now, J.P.’s the starter, Jeff is the backup. There has been a lot of flux with respect to not necessarily first base because obviously Edwin’s really taken to that position but there could be potential at-bats at DH depending on how things go with Adam.
“Travis could find some ABs there. Who knows what the offseason is going to bring, it’s amazing how quickly things can change. I’d rather have too many players than too few. There’s always a way to work those things out.”
d’Arnaud would be a candidate for DH and 1B?
“I don’t know about first, we had him take some balls at first base in Las Vegas but right now I think Edwin has pretty much established himself as the guy getting the bulk of the reps at first. I think Travis, at the end of the day, can certainly force his way up here. We’ll find at-bats for him if that was to end up being the case.”
On how d’Arnaud’s injury impacted his timeline…
“He would have been up now, the way he was playing in Las Vegas. When J.P. got hurt, Travis certainly would have gotten the opportunity to come up and play the same way when John Buck was hurt a few years ago, J.P. was having a great year down there and got the opportunity. There’s no question he was definitely performing well enough and worthy of a call-up like some of the other guys have gotten but unfortunately he got hurt.
“Long-term he’s going to be fine, we still think he’s going to be a tremendous player and a tremendous prospect. This really doesn’t change anything. When players are good you find room for them.”
d’Arnaud going to the Arizona Fall League?
“Right now, there’s thought of doing that but it’s going to depend on how he recovers, what the doctors says and so on. If we can get him more at-bats because he has lost some at-bats we’ll definitely look to do that.”
d’Arnaud to start next year in Triple-A?
“I don’t want to say that. I want to see how the offseason plays out. I don’t want to sit here and rule out that he couldn’t come into Spring Training and compete for a spot on this team. That’s my hope, without promising or anything, I would hope there would be a scenario where he could come in and compete for a spot on this team.”
If d’Arnaud’s a candidate to DH is Arencibia a candidate as well?
“Yeah, but J.P.’s been the everyday guy here for two years, knows the staff, works well with them, has made tremendous strides. It’s just like anything else, when we ask about some of these other prospects, I don’t necessarily believe in displacing guys that are established and have proven themselves up here. J.P. apart from the injury was having a better year than he was last year, he’s gotten better. He’s our everyday guy behind the plate.”
Would there be enough catching opportunities for d’Arnaud if both Arencibia and Mathis were on the roster?
“I think there is always ways to find, you can always give guys a blow and a rest. I haven’t spent a whole lot of time on it and it’s just because things happen quickly, guys get hurt, I think it’s more about getting guys bats in the lineup. I don’t want to speak for what could be in Spring Training but there was really no downside to doing this one way or the other because I wouldn’t want a scenario where Travis is here playing twice a week like Jeff is. That’s not good for his development, the same way when Buck was here we didn’t want J.P. playing twice a week.
“Both of their bats are good enough and big enough that they’re everyday players. If Travis doesn’t get as many reps behind the plate, that’s fine, his bat is just a unique bat, it has a chance to be a middle of the order impact bat and J.P. as well. From that standpoint, I wouldn’t be overly concerned but things always seem to work themselves out.”
Wouldn’t that devalue d’Arnaud’s defense if he’s not getting regular time behind the plate?
“It doesn’t devalue it. He’s still a good defender but he’s also a great hitter as well. This is a guy that has won the MVP Award down in New Hampshire and was probably on his way to winning another MVP in Las Vegas. At the end of the day, you can never have too many good players, you can never have too much flexibility and there is just no downside to having good players. I think the important thing would be getting their bats in the lineup.”
I spoke with Las Vegas 51s hitting coach Chad Mottola about Travis Snider, Moises Sierra and Adeiny Hechavarria.
– When I asked Mottola if he was surprised Snider was traded, he said “nothing surprises me in this game.” He spoke about a close relationship with Snider and admitted that the Pirates have an exciting crop of outfielders with rookie Starling Marte — who was considered Pittsburgh’s No. 3 prospect heading into this season by MLB.com — Andrew McCutchen and, now, Snider.
Below is the transcript:
“I wish nothing but the best for Travis and continued success and hopefully we got something in return that will help us going forward.”
Have you talked to him since the trade?
“Briefly. It’s always tough the first time you get traded. You develop so many relationships and bonds with players and coaches. He’s a special man off the field. The first time it happens you feel a little confused and nervous walking into a new clubhouse. Unfortunately, I can attest with as many clubhouses I’ve walked in – you get used to it. You realize there are no hard feelings and you just have to do your job. That’s the brief talk we had.”
What are some of the things you guys worked on this year and in what areas was he able to improve?
“He improved on the mental side much more this year. We worked on a lot of fundamentals last year and he got consistent with that. Now, when things break down, it doesn’t mean something is wrong. You can hit .300 but you still fail seven out of 10 times. So don’t be so anxious to change. Throughout the years, he went through so many changes. It was like ‘Hey, we are sticking to this plan and just because we fail a little doesn’t mean we are going to change all over again.’ And that’s what we worked on this year — more the mental side. That’s where he is at now and in life. At the time of the trade, he knew he couldn’t control it and he is going to keep doing what he’s doing.”
It had to be tough on him constantly going up and down over these past years, no?
“Without a doubt. He came in from Spring Training this year and you could just see the way he handled everything this year, that he never let it bother him. Day-in, day-out, he came and did his job. Other players in this game, the human side gets to you, and this year he didn’t let it affect him. It’s a test to him that he’s going to be in the middle of the pennant race now, and he can have a little fun with that.
“It’s one of those things. The Blue Jays move on and we will see what happens from there.”
Do you think Travis benefits from a change of scenery?
“I think it’s one of those things that only time will tell. He has been through the ups and downs in Toronto. This year, I think he came in with the mindset that he wanted to be with the Blue Jays and now he’s not. We’ll see, in time, how it shakes out. All the stuff he worked on is going to help him in life and in baseball.”
What do you see him becoming in a couple years?
“It’s one of those things where I don’t want to get caught up, as much as I love the guy, I don’t want to get caught up in the guy that is gone from here now. I have no idea what he is going to be. I know we worked so hard and did so many things and I wish him nothing but the best. But it’s one of those things. I hope he goes on to have a great career and I will continue to be in touch with him. But I don’t want to dwell on … it has already happened. It does no good for us, or the Blue Jays.”
What was the relationship you two were able to build on a personal level?
“You can’t help but get close to guys you’re around. You go through the grind yourself personally and then you see the guy doing the same thing. There is a lot of stuff that happens in life besides baseball. I just opened the door up, whether it is in the batting cage or in my office, for the guys to go ahead and speak and get those feelings out. The next thing you know, you are talking about things other than baseball. You develop friendships, become a mentor, if you want to call it that. And those are probably going to be carried on throughout life. Guys know you went through the experiences that they are going through, so they trust you in life and in baseball. And that is where it is at with him.”
What was Sierra doing in Vegas that helped him earn the promotion?
“He has shown great flashes of being that guy that they compared to — the Raul Mondesi, Nelson Cruz-type player. I think they wanted to see for themselves. It was an opportunity with all the moves made to look at the guy. I think he has to be a little more consistent in his approach but you know he will go down fighting. So you can live with the mistakes he will make at the big league level because they’re going to be aggressive mistakes. It was a good time for them to see what they have in him moving forward.”
Where does his arm and raw power stack up in the organization?
“His arm and Gose’s arm are the best in the organization. And his raw power is up there. Obviously there is Encarnacion and Bautista, but he’s close behind them as far as raw power. It’s just a matter of bringing it out more often and consistently.”
As someone who has worked closely with them, how happy are you to see these guys, one after another, get their first taste of the big leagues?
“It’s real satisfying. It makes your job exciting. With the time change in Vegas, you get to watch four or five innings of Blue Jays games of the guys you had, and then you sit there with all the other players that were just playing side-by-side with them — it kind of gets their attention knowing they are that close. We all kind of gather around the TV right after batting practice and watch all the guys. It makes it real easier to get their attention when they know they could go up any day.”
Do you think Hechavarria is ready?
“I think he’s ready. I think he’s ready to help them win day-in, day-out, whether it’s defensively or offensively. He comes ready to go every day. Sometimes, when we talk about the human side, when a guy is having success, they can slack off their work a little bit, but he hasn’t shown that at all. It’s August, and he is still grinding away and hasn’t skipped a beat.”
Where is he at with the bat?
“He has become more consistent. Sometimes he stays too far inside of the ball and gets under it. But he has taken a much more solid approach in using the whole field in driving the ball. Where, in years past, he has kind of wanted to serve the ball to right field, just to kind of survive. Now, he is starting to trust himself that he can drive the ball from gap to gap. He’s learning he can do this. He is getting a little bit more self-confident each day he steps to the plate.”
– Chris Toman