Anthopoulos explains decision to option Romero

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.”

Why Dunedin…

“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.”

Anthopoulos talks Romero/Happ and second base

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.”

Upcoming pitching schedule

March 19 vs Houston:

Mark Buehrle (five innings)
Sergio Santos (one inning)
Esmil Rogers (two innings)
Justin Germano (one inning)

Minor League Game:

Darren Oliver (three innings)
R.A. Dickey (two innings)
Josh Johnson (five innings)

Work — J.A. Happ

March 20 @ Baltimore:

Jeremy Jeffress (three innings)
Dave Bush (four innings)
Guilllermo Moscoso (two innings)

Minor League game:

Steve Delabar (one inning)
Aaron Loup (one inning)

Work — Brandon Morrow

March 21 @ Tampa:

Claudio Vargas (three innings)
Ramon Ortiz (three innings)
Brett Cecil (three innings)

Minor League game:

Ricky Romero (five innings)

Work — Darren Oliver, Justin Germano

March 22 vs Boston:

J.A. Happ (six innings)
Sergio Santos (one inning)
Esmil Rogers (one inning)
TBD Minor Leaguer (one inning)

Minor League game:

R.A. Dickey (seven innings)

Work — Josh Johnson, Darren Oliver, Steve Delabar, Dave Bush

March 23 vs Atlanta:

Brandon Morrow (six innings)
Aaron Loup (one inning)
Esmil Rogers (one inning)
Guillermo Moscoso (one inning)

Work — Ricky Romero

Q+A with Travis Snider

On what it has been like with the Pirates so far…

“It has been great. We’ve been working hard and adjusting into the new facility, new city. Been able to see a few of the guys back up in the Dunedin area early on and settling in nicely with the team, the organization and what we’re trying to do each and every day.”

On joining some the Blue Jays players at a Leafs-Lightning game a couple of weeks ago in Tampa… 

“Hockey definitely grew on me the last few years playing in Canada and it was good to see the group of guys, even got to see some of the reporters hanging out by the concession stand. It was just good to see some familiar faces and say what’s up to the boys that were in the suite or up in the box area.”

More on his new experience in Pittsburgh…

“That first time putting on a different color uniform is something you won’t forget. But spending the last couple of months of the season, the offseason, Spring Training, been able to develop some good relationships with not only the players but the coaching staff. The goal here every day is to get better as a whole unit and looking forward to seeing how things play out.”

On similarities between Pirates and Blue Jays over the past few years…

“A lot of great talented players that I had a chance to come up with in Toronto and seeing a lot of these guys who got to come up together in the Minors and now playing together in the big leagues it’s a familiar setting for me. There’s a lot of guys in a similar age bracket with a good mix of veterans, A.J. (Burnett) knowing him, Rod at the end of last year. It made the transition easier knowing some guys and being familiar with the guys’ careers that are around the same age as me and have followed similar paths.”

On going through Spring Training in a similar location in Florida but with a different team…

“Just get your bearings. Try to figure out where the good restaurants are first of all. If I could make any adjustment, it would probably be closer to Sarasota next year because I found some good places to eat down there. Just getting familiar with Pirate city, the first couple of weeks as we would with Toronto, over at the Minor League complex and now transitioning into the big league stadium. We have a great stadium, they’ve made a great addition to the batting cages and hopefully some more to come to. We’re fortunate to have a good facility to work in every single day and a good group of guys to go with it.”

On reflecting and moving past his time in Toronto…

“Really remaining with the focus in the present and learning from those experiences in the past. I’ve spoken numerous times through different articles and it’s really about taking the next step of my career in a new scene, new situation, new group of guys with the same focus and the same mindset I’ve been developing for the past five or six years.

“Really putting each and every day in front of me and making the most of each and every single day that I’m here instead of worrying about what happened four or five years ago or how I could go back and change the past.”

On how the expectations are different between Toronto and now with Pirates…

“Different in the sense that when you don’t come up with this organization, I came up with the Blue Jays, and being a young player, getting to the big leagues and experiencing what I went through, there are different kinds of emotions that you go through as a young man, trying to understand and mature through that process. Coming over here, a lot of that stuff is gone. You just show up to the ballpark every single day, you lace up your spikes, you have a list of things to get done and that’s your focus.

“There were times, as I’ve spoken to before, my focus was outside of things that I can control and things that I could have done better. But as a young man maturing in the game you have to learn by experience. You can be as mature off the field, deal with the things I dealt with in my personal life, but until you go through baseball adversity that’s what molds us into young men and hopefully makes us stay around this game for a long time.”

On no longer having to worry about options remaining on his contract and the possibility of being sent down…

“The option thing is something that every player has to go through at some point of their career. Some guys are fortunate to play well enough in their first couple of years you don’t have to deal with it. As I realized, the No. 1 thing is that you play better you don’t worry about that kind of stuff. To play better you have to focus on each and every day. Not having that situation from a business standpoint but I don’t look at it as an advantage per se. Because as soon as you rest your hat on not having any options left you can be in Triple-A.

“I’ve seen a number of guys, the first one that comes to mind is Edwin Encarnacion. I remember when he got optioned three years ago and you look at what he has been doing, same with Jose. Those guys who have been through that kind of adversity in their careers and now they’re making their strides as Major Leaguers on the big-time scale. You just keep that stuff in perspective and not get caught up in, ‘oh I think I’m going to make the team because I don’t have any options.’ I still have to go out there and play, I have to validate my job in whatever my role is going to be with the team and make sure that I’m doing everything I can to prepare myself.”

On his role in Pittsburgh… 

“I think it’s something with more time will be defined. There’s an opportunity in right field to get some at-bats and play. But it’s something that I have to continue to earn and something for me not worrying so much about who has a job and who doesn’t have a job, who has options and who doesn’t have options, my focus remains on what I control, what I have to do.

“That stuff with play out how it plays out and as long as I’m handling stuff on my end I’ll just go out there and be prepared for whatever role comes my way. In the past, I didn’t deal with those changes whether it was being a platoon guy, batting low in the order, that stuff is so far behind me, whenever you put on a big league uniform you have to embrace whatever role you’re in and go out there and play the game.”

On playing right field… 

“I feel really good. That was a transition beginning last year when I was traded. I played a lot of right field growing up, in the Minor Leagues and even some in the big leagues so that transition from the corner wasn’t a big deal.”

On Gose….

“Gose has an unbelievable ceiling. I’ve seen some unbelievable flashes of his talent and what he can do. Getting at-bats on a regular basis, spending time with him and Chad Mottola and some of the veteran guys we had there last year benefitted all of us. Seeing Anthony mature last year as a young player, he could be in a tough situation going into the season this year but he is a guy that I still touch base with from time to time and share a laugh with and understand that there’s a lot of things in this business that you can’t control. As long as he can keep playing the way he has been playing, I’ve been watching him this spring and always hope for the best with him.”

On Mottola being hired as hitting coach…

“Yes. I think having Chad and Murph there is going to benefit a lot of those guys. Murph has done some great things with a handful of guys there and Chad spent a lot of time with a handful of the younger players so I think the mix between those two, and knowing Chad and Murph for so long, how well they work together I think is going to benefit not only the players but also both coaches because they are great guys, they both have quality stuff that they’re featuring for the players. I’m excited for Chad to see what he has gone through the last couple of years, how successful he has been and seeing him get this opportunity I think is fantastic.”

Question from Dirk Hayhurst…. Travis, obviously the Canadian food is vastly superior. Meat is better, dairy is better, fish, chicken, all of it. Have you felt, since coming back to the States, that you’ve had to elevate your game to overcome the adversity set forth by the FDA?

“Yeah, I don’t know if I would say the adversity has been there. Growing up there on American USDA food, I felt pretty confident in my ability to overcome any adversity in the kitchen or in the restaurant. It’s just something I look forward to keeping putting my time in one day at a time and see what I can do on a grill and in the kitchen.”

Upcoming pitching schedule

March 10 vs NYY:

J.A. Happ (four innings)
Brett Cecil (two innings)
Ramon Ortiz (two innings)
Alex Hinshaw (one inning)

Extras — Mickey Storey, Tyson Brummett, Evan Crawford, Juan Perez
Work — Josh Johnson, Darren Oliver, Steve Delabar, Esmil Rogers

March 11 — Offday

March 12 @ BOS:

Justin Germano (three innings)
Claudio Vargas (two innings)
Chad Beck (two innings)
Mickey Storey (one inning)
Juan Perez (one inning)

Extras — Tommy Hottovy, Evan Crawford, Tyson Brummett, three Minor Leaguers
Minor League game: Brandon Morrow (four innings)
Work — Ricky Romero, Esmil Rogers, Brett Cecil, Dave Bush

Upcoming pitching schedule

March 5 vs BAL:

J.A. Happ (three innings)
Darren Oliver (one inning)
Brad Lincoln (one inning)
Esmil Rogers (one inning)
Jeremy Jeffress (one inning)
Neil Wagner (one inning)

Extras — Tommy Hottovy, Evan Crawford, Chad Beck, Tyson Brummett, Mickey Storey
Work — Josh Johnson, Claudio Vargas, Justin Germano

March 6 @ DET:

Brandon Morrow (three innings)
Aaron Loup (one inning)
Brett Cecil (one inning)
Ramon Ortiz (one inning)
Dave Bush (one inning)
Tommy Hottovy (one inning)
Michael Schwimer (one inning)

Extras — Evan Crawford, Tyson Brummett, Mickey Storey, Juan Perez
Work — Ricky Romero

March 7 @ BAL:

Mark Buehrle (three innings)
Justin Germano (two innings)
Evan Crawford (one inning)
Claudio Vargas (one inning)
Alex Hinshaw (one inning)
Juan Perez (one inning)
Mickey Storey (one inning)

Extras — Neil Wagner, Tyson Brummett, Chad Beck
Work — J.A. Happ, Brad Lincoln, Darren Oliver, Sergio Santos

March 8 @ ATL:

Josh Johnson (three innings)
Steve Delabar (one inning)
Esmil Rogers (one inning)
Jeremy Jeffress (one inning)
Tyson Brummett (one inning)
Chad Beck (one inning)

Extras — Juan Perez, Neil Wagner, Tommy Hottovy, two Minor Leaguers
Work — Dave Bush, Brett Cecil, Ramon Ortiz

March 9 @ DET:

Ricky Romero (three innings)
Darren Oliver (one inning)
Sergio Santos (one inning)
Aaron Loup (one inning)
Brad Lincoln (one inning)
Michael Schwimer (one inning)
Neil Wagner (one inning)

Extras — Alex Hinshaw, Mickey Storey, Tommy Hottovy, Evan Crawford
Work — Brandon Morrow, Claudio Vargas, Justin Germano

Dickey on his outing versus Philadelphia

On his outing…

“I felt good today and I feel like where I need to be. My strike percentage again was pretty high and I was ahead of just about every hitter. So mechanically I felt pretty good and these first two or three outings that’s what it’s about for me.

“It’s about getting my body prepared to be able to grow from here. I still have to settle in to about three or four miles an hour in velocity and that should come over the next two weeks.”

On whether he’s where he needs to be…

“Yeah a little bit at a time. It’s hard to make sure that you don’t get ahead of yourself. Being a little bit older I have to be smart and make sure that my body is where it needs to be. So far it has been very cooperative and I feel like I’m going to be able to take the next step. They were just aggressive early in the count and got some balls up in the air. “

More on outing versus Philly…

“Today, if you got the ball up in the air it was probably going to go somewhere. That was the case early on but I was throwing a lot of strikes, getting ahead of a lot of hitters. When you see a lot of groundballs like I did today that means the ball is moving late around the plate and that’s even a step from last time. I feel like I’m going forward the way I need to. It can be. It usually plays with the ball a little bit.

“I was getting a lot of late movement, especially around the last 20 inches before the catcher’s mitt and that’s always a good sign when they’re hitting the ball into the ground. But the last two or three outings before the spring is over, are the outings I’m going to be concentrating more on results than the process. That’s for me right now, where I am.”

On whether he’s ready for WBC and the added intensity that will bring…

“I think for me, because I felt good today, I know I can step on the gas a little bit more and it be okay. It’s good timing because I’m going into a very competitive situation. I’m probably going to be starting on March 8th so it’ll be nice to be able to go to those three extra miles per hour and feel like it will be alright.

“Today was a big stepping stone towards that. I went down and threw another inning in the bullpen. I’m going nights in Toronto when I give up two or three in the first or second inning and I still have to fight through six or seven innings. It’s a good exercise even mentally for me. “

On working with Arencibia…

“He knows that as the spring goes along, it’s going to get better and better, but he has been great. I’ve been really pleased with the way he has been receiving the ball, he’s not mishandling very many.

“A good one is a hard one for anybody to catch so you have to have some grace when it comes to that but he has done a heck of a job. It doesn’t matter because all of the guys we have in camp can do it. That’s the beauty of my situation. The only guy that doesn’t have any experience catching me is one of the guys that probably won’t be on the team. So it’s a non-issue really. “

On whether he needs to stick with one catcher…

“No. Because they’re all learning my nuances, they know what to look for. I’m comfortable with all of them so it gives Gibby a lot of latitude to be able to put in there who he thinks would be the best fit for that day.”

Input on who the catcher might be?

“I think one of the beauties about being on a team like this is the manager wants you to be involved. He’s talked to me about it, we’ve had conversations and dialogue about that. It’s nice to live in a culture where a manager respects what you say, wants you to be comfortable but I told him the same thing I told y’all. It doesn’t matter to me, it’s just about throwing good knuckleballs and everybody  on that side can catch them just fine.”

Will Arencibia catch you at the WBC?

“I anticipate him catching me and I’m pretty sure that’s what Joe Torre is thinking. I don’t want to speak for him but he knows we’ve been working hard together and that first game I’m sure he’s going to want me to feel comfortable and throwing Mauer or Lucroy having not had any experience with me doesn’t seem like the smartest decision but that’s up to him. “

On whether he needs a personal catcher picked after WBC…

“The last couple of outings before the spring concludes, it’s important to work with the guy I’m going to work with on Opening Day. That’s logical. Whoever that is, that’s a hint to you guys it’s probably going to be the guy that catches me during the year, at least to begin with. It’s a real organic thing, a season. It changes and we’re really fortunate to have a lot of guys that can handle it well.”

Blue Jays upcoming pitching schedule

March 1 vs Tampa:

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

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

March 2 vs Philadelphia:

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

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

March 3 @ Philadelphia:

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

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

State of affairs with Jose Bautista

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

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

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

Reyes as leadoff hitter…

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

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

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

Versatility of lineup…

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

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

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

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

Bonifacio even more valuable during Interleague Play…

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

Chemistry tough with so many new guys?

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

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

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

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

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

It’s from the culture…

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

Expectations do they bring added pressure…

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

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

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

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

Fastest workers in Buehrle and Dickey does that help…

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

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

Did you mention that to Ricky?

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

Surprised he was hurting physically?

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

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

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

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

Doubted that the time would come this team would spend?

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

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

Alex bounce ideas off you?

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

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

Melky different player now?

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

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

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

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

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

Q+A with pitching coach Pete Walker

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

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

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

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

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

How is the workload determined for other pitchers?

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

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

On Casey Janssen’s progress from a shoulder injury…

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

Janssen’s plan for the next couple of weeks?

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

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

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

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

Lots of time remaining to work out the kinks…

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Esmil Rogers…

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

Who are the untapped power guys?

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

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