Results tagged ‘ Adam Lind ’

Transcript of Anthopoulos’ availability with the media

Here’s the full transcript of today’s availability with Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. He attempts to explain the reasoning behind Steve Delabar’s demotion to the Minors, various injury updates, Draft news and a few questions about next month’s trade deadline:

Why send down Delabar?
“We’re trying to avoid placing anybody on the DL. We think Adam is days away, he’s really day-to-day at this point. The fact that we had the off-day, our bullpen is fresh and we needed to make a move, Delabar hasn’t performed as well as he did last year, he can use the consistent work, it’s just a combination of things. We needed to clear up a spot to get an infielder up here, and out of the relievers that were there, Chad provided us a little more length right now, and we can get Steve the work as well. That was the move for us unless we were going to go the DL route.”

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State of the franchise with Anthopoulos

Here’s the full transcript of today’s media scrum with Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos:

Any thought of moving Lawrie to 2B on a full-time basis to open a spot in the lineup for Juan Francisco?
“He’s a third baseman. We did talk, just the fact of just interleague. Francisco’s done well for us in a short period and it’s just like Gibby talked about, wanted to keep his bat in the lineup. He’s the one who brought it up to me and I said, hey, it made sense, want to keep his bat in the lineup.”

“There hasn’t been any talk of full time like that at all. No, it’s strictly for right now. We know he can do it, I know he had a two or a three -game stint last year but Brett’s athletic enough you could put him anywhere on the field, I really believe that. I do believe that if you gave him enough time at any position and you gave him enough reps he could be a gold glove defender anywhere.”

“When we first got him and I saw him take ground balls at third base for the first time at Rogers Centre, it wasn’t pretty. To see what he’s become today is incredible and I just give him all the credit in the world and obviously all the guys who’ve worked with him.”

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Anthopoulos holds court

Adding rotation depth?
“We’d like to do it but we’re not going to do it at all costs. As we sit here today I think it’s unlikely at this point, we’re getting so late into spring training. Unlikely unless a trade emerges, but again. As the offseason has progressed, we’ve felt better about the internal options, especially the young guys, whether it’s a guy like Stroman, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek. Brandon Morrow looks great. We felt good about him in November but as he’s progressed through the offseason, we feel even better about him. That being said, if something presented itself, we’d love to do it. We just haven’t been able to find anything that works for us.”

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Random thoughts from Day 3

It has been a predictably slow Winter Meetings so far for Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and the rest of his staff. Anthopoulos cautioned in the days leading up to the meetings that it appeared unlikely Toronto would make any major moves here in Central Florida. That would still appear to be the case with only one day remaining until clubs return home and continue to plot their next moves.

Even though there haven’t been any official transactions to talk about there have still be some interesting developments at the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things making headlines:

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Day 1 of the Winter Meetings: John Gibbons media availability

Full transcript of today’s media availability with Blue Jays manager John Gibbons as provided by:  FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Q.  Last year Alex made all of his moves early.  This year not so much, especially dealing with the starting rotation, what gives you confidence that the starting rotation will be able to compete?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, I know he’s working.  I mean, he’s working at it.  The problem is everybody and their brother is looking for starting pitching out there, and everybody knows that.  And there are limitations to what you can do as well.  So we’ll see how everything develops, to be honest with you.  Who knows.  If something could happen here at these meetings or it might take a little longer.  There is always the possibility that nothing happens.  But, I mean, there is no secret to get better this year.  We’ve got to pitch a little bit better.

Q.  Once you got beyond the fifth starter last year and down into the system, it hurt you guys.  Is that an area that you expect is going to be better this year?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, yeah.  You look at it, Hutchinson is back, Drabek is coming back, so those guys are healthy.  Whether we’ll be ready to start the season, the big league season, who knows.  Ideally they’d probably start Triple‑A and if you need somebody they can come up.  But health is not an issue with them right now.

Morrow is another big question mark.  We think he’s moving on.  He’s pitching in Arizona and throwing some simulated games and feels good.  We need him.  That’s a guy that we need and we’ve got to have him.

Q.  How many starters do you have without question marks?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, you’ve got Buehrle, Dickey, you can pencil those two in.  Morrow, we think he’s going to be fine, and then we’ll have to go from there.  Of course, Josh Johnson is gone now.  Redmond did a tremendous job for us; he’s also in there.  Anybody I leave out?

Q.  How about out of the pen, Santos?  I know he won’t close right off.  But is he fully capable of playing an important role this year?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, health‑wise, yeah.  He’s good to go.  He came in and had those chips removed from his elbow last year.  He came up, and he’s good to go.  I know he wants to close.  I know he likes that role.  We have Janssen, we have both of those guys.  They’re both could be very valuable for us.  The night that Janssen is not doing it, we’ve got Santos to do it.  Health‑wise, we think that’s all behind him.

Q.  One thing you did mention there, looking back, do you have a preference for the type of role you’d like him to have given what you saw?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, at this point, we’re not sure.  It just kind of depends on how everything else stacks up.  We think he’s versatile enough to do either role.  He does a pretty good job with it.  So we’ll see.  Everything’s going to fall and be determined here as far as whether we have another starter.

Q.  Behind the plate is going to look way different for you.  The two guys that you have coming back didn’t even add up to 100 starts last year.  What makes you think that with 162 they can handle it?

JOHN GIBBONS:  They’re going to be very well rested.  You know, I’ve been asked that before.  You know, Navarro has always been a good hitter.  We think he can do it.  He’s going to get the opportunity to do it.

Then we brought Kratz in, and he and Thole will battle it out to see who will be the at‑bat.  It’s an opportunity for each of those guys to play more games or two of the three anyway.

Q.  In your mind, once you brought in another catcher, was there no room for Aaron?  Was there no room for a 50‑50 type scenario?

JOHN GIBBONS:  As the season develops, and of course we’re going into the off‑season, I mean, the writing was on the wall for J.P.  I mean, that was kind of the sentiment of you guys are ready to get rid of him too.  Not that we were, but you guys were pushing that way.  That was a joke … But you know what, personally I’m going to miss the guy.  You know what, I think wherever he ends up, I think he signed with Texas.  I think that’s official now.  I think he’s going to do a good job there.  I really do.  What can you say about him?  He wanted to be in that lineup.  He got beaten up pretty good.  But I think he’s still got a bright future.  Just came to the point in time there at Toronto where it was probably best to go the other way.

Q.  The total package behind the plate in your opinion, will it affect your pitching in a positive way whether it be game calling or balls in the dirt, that sort of thing?

JOHN GIBBONS:  As far as who plays?

Q.  Yeah, as far as the pitching staff being approved because they’re throwing it to a new tandem out there?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, I don’t know how to answer that.  Navarro has always been a good hitter.  We’ve got great reports on him.  Pitchers love throwing to him.  So he’s working on some big things.  Kratz is known for his defense.  I think if he totally ends up being the guy, more playing time is going to help him improve.

But, I mean, was your question does it hurt our pitching staff?  I don’t know.  Buehrle had a pretty good year, and J.P. was catching the whole time.  I mean, that was just wherever they went last year, that was kind of the focal point.  Our defense, a lot of people thought that was affecting our pitching whether that’s right or wrong, we really don’t know.  But we brought some guys in that we think are going to help us out.

Q.  Is Gose ready to be a valuable contributor?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, I think he is.  He went down to winter ball now, and he’s hopefully going to give him a boost as well.  But I thought he played very well in September.  I think he’s on the verge.  He struggled in Triple‑A, played better in the big leagues.  But he’s got those skills that can help you in the big leagues even if he’s not quite up to par yet with his base running and his defense and things like that.  Once he gets there, I think he’s going to get better and better.  I think he’ll be a player that plays better in the big leagues than did he in the minor leagues.  It’s rare for some guys to do.

Q.  With what you have, do you see him as maybe a platoon guy in left field to start off with?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, we have ‑‑ if Melky’s fine, he’ll be in left field.  But who knows how that’s going to shake out.  We have Sierra who is out of options as well.  Of course you have Bautista and Rasmus, so it’s a little bit of a log jam there.  But a lot of it will depend on how Melky’s doing.

Q.  When it comes to Jose Bautista, we heard there were rumors in the trade market.  What is the status about him right now?

JOHN GIBBONS:  About Jose?  I know some teams have asked about him.  He’s a big part of our team.  He’s sitting in the center of our lineup and still one of the best hitters in baseball.  You can understand why teams are asking about him.  But he’s still here right now and we’re glad to have him.

Q.  When you think about your bench and the way you construct it, could you carry three infielders on your roster and five outfielders?  Would you feel comfortable with that?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, it’s hard to say now.  You know, we kind of look at it, you beef up a starting rotation and you might be a little less focused on the bench.  Maybe we need to work on that offense a little bit and make it stronger too.  So a lot of that.  Of course, there are some guys that are out of options too.  That’s always a factor.  So everything’s going to revolve around how the pitching sets up.  If we need them to be a little more high‑powered offense or not, or we like our pitching the way it is.

Q.  (No microphone) is he definitely a platoon man or would you consider Lindy on some lefties?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Lindy?  It depends on who that other guy might be if we bring in a left‑handed hitter.  He’s always dominated left‑handed pitching.  He’ll probably platoon there.  If not, he might certainly handle it.  But there are going to be certain left‑handers that give him trouble, we’ll probably go with a right‑hander.

What I meant earlier about my comments about the pitching, stacked up how the bench and everything looks because monetarily, you know, how much money we’ve got.

Q.  What happened to Ricky Romero?  Can it be resolved in a positive way?

JOHN GIBBONS:  We hope so.  He’s still with us.  We hope he bounces back and becomes the Ricky Romero of old.

Q.  Do you have any idea what you think happened to him?

JOHN GIBBONS:  No, I mean, we all have our thoughts.  I mean, it happens in baseball sometimes.  Whether it’s confidence, mechanics, mechanical problems, things like that.  He had great success and very quickly in the Major Leagues, and you just hope he can regain it.

But he was scrambling there for a long time trying to figure it out.  Nobody knows for sure.  It’s a fragile business.  Mentally a lot of times, mechanical, who knows.  We hope he figures it out.

Q.  I know last year was the WBC messed things up in the spring.  But some people have suggested that it was too lax at spring training and you guys weren’t ready.  Are there some minor adjustments that can be made this year, like longer bus trips for Jose or something like that?

JOHN GIBBONS:  For which Jose (laughing)?

Q.  Bautista.  Just to get ready for April.

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, the WBC, no question that affected us last year because some marquis guys were gone.  Of course, Lawrie got hurt there.  But the way ‑‑ we’re going to make sure that we’re going to look at some things.  The key thing is, hey, they get X‑number of bats, and the number of bats they need in each pitch and things like that.  I think for the most part if you compare most teams in baseball, especially with veteran type players, you get the same number of at‑bats, guys like Bautista and Reyes, Reyes has had a history of leg problems.  I’m not so sure you want him riding on buses for three hours.  It prohibits that he’s ready opening day.  Bautista too, he’s had some hip issues.  So the key thing is those guys are ready opening day.  But they’ll be ready.

Q.  There were a lot of players you were not familiar with last year.  The defense coming out of spring training suffered.  Is that something you can focus more on or be more aware of that your team defense needs to upgrade like it was in September?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, we’ve got to play better defense or forget it.  It’s a big part of it.  It’s a big part of all sports.  You’ve got to defend.  We did.  We were bad early on and that affected us in a big way.  So coming out of the gates, we’ve got to play better defense.

Like you said, in September we’re much improved.  Big part of that was Ryan Goins.  But we’ve got to be ready to do the basics of the game.  You’re not always necessarily going to hit a pitch early on.  Some timing is still an issue for different guys.  But you can still play and run the bases well.  You can defend.

Q.  Barring a trade or signing, how does second base shake out at the start of spring training?  Is it an incumbent?  Is it Izturis?  Maybe Goins is your guy and he either plays his way in or out of it?

JOHN GIBBONS:  We really like Goins.  We like what he did in September.  He gave us a shot in the arm.  I thought he handled the ball well enough to be top dog going in there.

Izturis to be a utility guy, I think that’s his strength.  Today that’s the way we look at it.  Alex could go out and make a trade for somebody to bring a second baseman in.  I don’t know if that’s going to happen.  But if not, I really like what Goins did.

Q.  You worked with Seitzer in Kansas City and got to observe him there.  What is he going to bring to some of the guys that might have struggled making contact last year?

JOHN GIBBONS:  You know, he’s a ‑‑ we’re basically a free hitting home run type team, high strikeouts.  That’s kind of who we are.  But I think to beat the better pitchers in baseball.  When that’s your approach all the time, they exploit that type of hit.  He can do that, get away and beat a lot of the middle of the road, lesser pitches.  But with the top dogs, we had trouble last year beating those guys.  You have to be a more complete hitter.  Be willing to use the whole field and a little different approach.  Maybe cut down the strikeouts.

In Seitzer, I witnessed it in Kansas City.  He had a lot of young hitters there.  But the guy has battled and some of the toughest outs in baseball.  Coming out of some young guys, he preaches using the whole field.

But you take a guy like Encarnacion and Bautista, those guys are where they are now because they hit home runs, drive the ball and they’re basically centerfield, left field type hitters.  He’s not going to mess with those guys much and their success.  But there are going to be times where it will be smart for those guys to take a shot the other way especially if they throw the big shift on them.  If it means beating Jon Lester or Sabathia, the top dogs.  The guys you have to beat if you’re going to win.

Q.  Just on Halladay, the numbers are obvious and all that.  But to manage him, what was his greatest attribute to you?

JOHN GIBBONS:  First thing, Doc’s a first class guy.  You guys heard it today.  He’s a rarity in this business and in life.  He’s one of those special guys that comes along and don’t come along that often.  To be able to play just a very small part in his career is an honor for me.  Doc never said a whole lot.  The days he pitched, he never said a word.  On the days he didn’t pitch, he might say 15, 20 in passing.  But he always approached it with professionalism that most guys don’t carry.

Great competitor.  He made some comments today, he just willed himself to win.  He talked about today that 9‑8 game he won in Detroit, and that pretty much sums it up.  Never give in, never quit.

I mentioned to someone earlier today, one thing he was talking about his league games and always pitching in league games, that’s who he was.  He was the best in the business during his time.  That is the number one job of a manager and probably the most important in my opinion is what do you with the pitcher, when you make the change and what have you.  Any time he was pitching and took a step off the mound, he’d look over there at you.  You’d kind of question yourself going to the mound.  There isn’t one guy you didn’t signal right away.  You would wait.  You’d go out there.  He’d give you that quick glance like what are you doing?  But he’d always back you up good or bad, whether the move worked or backfired.

But he’s an intimidating sight.  He’s not out there sitting at 5’11″ either.  But he’s a special guy.  I’m glad he retired a Blue Jay.  I thought for a minute when I heard he was signing a contract, I thought he was coming back.

Q.  Speaking of special guys, John Farrell was asked a few minutes ago about Tanaka, whether he had seen much of him.  Your team has been rumored as interested in him.  Have you seen much of him, Tanaka?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, I’ve seen a little video.  I think every team is exploring whether they can afford him or get an opportunity to get him.  Our guys have talked about him.  Whether that happens, who knows.  But if they turn him loose and he comes over, there is going to be a pretty good bidding war for him.

Q.  Remember once after a game you took Halladay out before we got into your office, he was in your office.  He left and did not look very happy.  Were there times where he’d say things to you after you took him out, just kind of airing his side of things?

JOHN GIBBONS:  No, you know, I don’t remember that.  I must have called him in.  I think I probably did call him in to explain what I was doing because Doc would very rarely come to the office.  Maybe if he was on his way to the weight room or something.  But one thing about Doc is he would always back you up whether he agreed with you or not, he understood what you were thinking.  But he’s one of those guys that I think you owed it to him to explain the reason I took you out was this or that.  But you don’t necessarily to do.

Q.  Last week, Goins was going to go work with (inaudible) for spring training.  What are some of the things he can do?

JOHN GIBBONS:  I liked everything I saw in September.  He got some hits early.  It’s always a big confidence booster.  As he got more at‑bats, he started pulling guys out.  He pulled the home run, and you could see maybe he’s a home run hitter and he started airing it out a little bit.  But then I remember talking to him, and especially if he hit some left‑handers, he had to start hitting some balls up the middle and getting that breaking ball down and away, and cutting that fastball to the outside part of the plate.  You either roll it over or you swing and miss it and punch a few to left field, left centerfield, and that will get their attention anyway.  He was able to do it.  I mean, he executed it right away.  So we knew he had the ability and the hand‑eye coordination.  I thought he finished very, very strong.  For a guy who is known strictly ‑‑ not strictly, but his game has always been defense.  He’s had some solid years too, but he’s never been that great big‑number type hitter down there.  I thought he handled himself very well and, like I said, put himself on the map.  I think early on the talk you hear is they saw him as a utility guy.  I could see some of that.  But he’s got a chance to be our second baseman, an everyday guy.  If he produces, he can work himself a nice career.  But he’s intense.  He plays to win and he’s confident.  He’s very confident which is half the battle.

Q.  Will he be another one of those guys that has a big career in the minor leagues?

JOHN GIBBONS:  He could be.  As far as offense goes, you never know.  It doesn’t happen too often, but he’ll see it every now and then.  Don’t ask me to give you an example, but I’ve seen it.

Q.  What would some of the attributes be that you would look for in a bench player when it comes up to the middle and filling out the middle infield?

JOHN GIBBONS:  We know Izturis is going to be there.  Izturis can play.  He can play anywhere.  You want in a bench guy, you want a guy that can come in and catch the ball.  That’s what his primary job is.  It depends if we’re going to go with a platoon and say Lindy, and if he’s a right‑handed guy, this guy has to pound left‑handed pitching.  Or maybe that extra outfielder means a guy that can run or plus defender type thing.  It all depends.

Lot of times you want certain guys, but there are limitations of what you can do with your salary structure too, you know.  But the number one focus right now is seeing what we can do in the rotation.  If nothing happens there, we’ll address some other areas.

Q.  If nothing happens there, do you think Sierra could be that guy to maybe platoon a little bit against lefties?

JOHN GIBBONS:  It could.  He could get some at‑bats that way.  We’ll have to wait and see.  You know, Sierra hasn’t been one of those guys that’s necessarily dominated lefties his whole career, but he could.  We’re looking for a spot for him if he has it because he’s got options.

Q.  Have you heard about anything about how he’s looked at first base in winter league?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, I heard he’s doing okay.  But I have a hard time seeing him out there to be honest with you, if you want to know the truth.  Maybe in that blowout.

Q.  Your pitching staff, you prefer 12 to 13 bench guys.  Will that depend on the strength of your starting pitching coming out of the gate?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah.  That’s normally the teams with the strong starting rotations, they need less down there.  Hopefully that’s the case with us.  We have some guys that are out of options too, you know?  That could factor into our bullpen.  Luis Perez, Jeffress, you know, so we’ll see.  From an area that was kind of a question mark going into last year, it’s really a bit strange for us.

Q.  Has Alex asked your opinion on guys or free agents that he might be looking at to see what you think of adding them to that mix?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, we’ve talked about all the different guys out there.  Like I said, if something’s going to happen, it’s probably going to happen via the trade route more so than free agency.  I don’t know that for sure, but that is my gut feeling.

Q.  You just mentioned a little bit about Tanaka.  Can you describe a little bit what was your impression when you saw him pitch on the video?

JOHN GIBBONS:  I mean, he’s dominant.  They don’t touch him.  He’s got a great split finger pitch.  It’s like all the Japanese pitchers that come over here, they’re all pretty good.

 Yeah, I got a chance to see Darvish firsthand now, and I’ve heard some comparisons this guy could be better than Darvish, which if that’s the case, that’s pretty darn good.  So we’ll see.  I know there are a lot of teams that would love to have him, us being one of them.  But whether that happens or not, I don’t know.

 Q.  It will be more competition because now the posting season has changed?

 JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, he’s a very young guy, too.

Q.  Can you talk about Kawasaki and bringing him back?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, I know they talked to him.  There is a chance that he wants to go back and play at home and make some good money over there.  So that’s still up in the air.  But we’d definitely love to have him back.

Q.  If you guys do some different things to your bench and you don’t have a guy on speed dial, would it be a big issue for you?  Would you miss that element?  Is that something you really want to have?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, you’d always like to have that in your back pocket.  We’ve got some pretty solid team speed.  There is a time where you need a guy that’s got a chance to steal a base.

Just from the first time I was around, I had seen Raj as an opponent, but to have him on your team and gets in the game and it changes because at the don’t stop him.  That’s a huge element.  It’s a luxury a lot of teams don’t have.  But Raj is also a different category than most, you know.  But you’re down a run, two outs, guy on first base.  Then you want somebody to score from first.

Q.  (No microphone)?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, except he hasn’t been around long enough to prove he’s that type of runner.  But, yeah, Goins can run.  His big thing is learning pitching and that kind of thing, which you gain over time.

Q.  Is there any hangover effects from last season from guys dealing with that disappointment and dealing with it in spring training to make sure nothing carries over or anything like that, a psychological effect?

JOHN GIBBONS:  No, I don’t think there is anything that needs to be addressed on the season.  We want to turn the page and move on.  We’ve got to make sure our focus is, hey, you know, we didn’t answer the bell last year, but now it’s time to do it.  Are we going to be ready coming out of spring training?  We need a good start.  Coming off the year we had, you know, in our division, we buried ourselves early last year, and we can’t afford that.  We can’t afford to do that.  So, yeah, we’ve got to be ready and step it up a little in spring training.

Q.  Do you anticipate any impact from Desrosier’s movement?  Is that something you want to have someone else to fill that vacuum that he provided?

JOHN GIBBONS:  You mean with Lawrie?

Q.  In general?

JOHN GIBBONS:  We’re going to miss him.  I just enjoy having the guy around.  You know, watching it on TV a while ago.  He’s one of those guys, he’s a rare guy too.  He can do anything.  He could be a GM or manager.  He could take his pick of whatever he wants to do in this business.  But I’d bounce things off him.  I’d talk about strategies and how different managers that he played for, especially the successful ones, what they would do and things like that.  He was a sounding board on me as well.  He did a tremendous job hanging around with Lawrie.  Lawrie loved him.  I’m sure he’ll miss him and his friendship.  Yeah, you can see why he’s on TV.  You see why he’s on TV and Howard’s on the radio (laughing).

Q.  Jose Reyes last year was in his first season with the club, went to the WBC, got injured.  Can you expect more of a leadership role from him inside the clubhouse this year?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, one thing about Jose, he comes every day to play.  He brings enthusiasm and he’s one of those guys.  That’s the way he is.  They all have their different personalities.  The more you think about it, everybody looks for this guy’s got lead players, that always helps.  But in reality, the manager has got to lead.  The manager has to be your guy when it comes down to it.  But those guys all help out.  The manager has still got to be your leader.

Q.  Are you saying a manager needs to lead?  Are you going to be more active or is there something different you plan to do this year as opposed to last year?

JOHN GIBBONS:  I’m not going to do anything differently from who I am.  I do my things my own way.  But everybody’s always looking for leaders.  But in reality, the manager is the leader or needs to be.  He is.  It helps.  You’ve got to have players doing some of that.  But you say this guy has to lead the team, but the manager is still calling the shots.

Anthopoulos explains decision to sign Navarro/non-tender Arencibia

Here’s the full transcript from Tuesday morning’s conference call with Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. There are also a series of articles on this topic currently available on bluejays.com

Alex Anthopoulos:

On the difficult decision to non-tender Arencibia…
“I can’t speak more highly about J.P. in terms of how long he has been in the organization, the type of character and human being he is and everything he has done. You build relationships with these players the longer they are in the organization. I obviously got to know him in the Minor Leagues, saw him come up, and be our starter for a few years. It was not an easy decision at all. I called him on Sunday night to let him know what was going on and definitely not an enjoyable call to make but he handled it as well as he could. He has always been a pro, he has always handled himself the right way and he’s definitely going to look forward to the next phase of his career.

At what point in 2013 did you realize a change was needed…
“I don’t know that there was a point. There was a few things, you step back, guys have good seasons, bad seasons, you try to sit back at the end of the season once the results are in and so on, step away from it a little bit and look at your alternatives and your options. That’s a lot of what it came down to but I don’t know that there was any point in the season where we were making plans for Dioner Navarro to be here in the offseason. That was all talked about and decided in the last few weeks or so.”

But at some point must have decided you couldn’t go any further with J.P…
“As we’ve done the entire offseason, we looked at the trade market, looked at the free agent market, looked to see if there were any fits for us. Navarro was someone, he wasn’t in an everyday last year, has been in an everyday role in the past, but someone that has pretty good contact rate, low strikeouts, pretty good on-base skills, been able to talk a walk and work the count. From a game calling standpoint, the work we did on him, I think everyone really raved about his game calling and how guys loved throwing to him. When we looked at the lineup we had and ways to improve the team, we just felt like he was a better fit for us right now.”

Navarro somewhat like Izturis where you set a bar early and if you can go above it later in the winter you will…
“No, I think with Izturis, we looked at him as a guy that would be in that utility role but had shown enough to get 300-400 at-bats in the past and that he had played all of those positions for so many years but I wouldn’t say it’s similar at all. We think with Navarro it’s similar to what we did years ago whether it was Rod Barajas, Gregg Zaun, John Buck, guys that didn’t necessarily have a chance to be full-time starters and came here and kind of revived themselves, got their careers back on track. What made us attractive was that we offered playing time and a starting role.

“The fact that Dioner has played over 100 games three times in his career, has been an All-Star, and is only 29, that certainly factored into the decision and even guys like Jose Molina that were here, his last year with us at 36 years old, started 44 games for us and then we see him go to Tampa and as a 38 year old start (a lot) of games for those guys. Dioner is very motivated and very hungry to get back to being that everyday guy, he just hasn’t had the opportunity to be the everyday guy since he left the Rays. We do think there’s some upside here, obviously from an offensive standpoint, he hasn’t had the type of year he had last year in his career, especially from a power standpoint, but there’s a lot of work that we did that we feel he may have turned the corner even swinging the bat as well, not to say we’re expecting a mid-.800 OPS but there’s a lot of pretty good indicators whether it’s approach, line drive rate, things like that, we think he may have really started coming into his own especially considering his age.”

On whether there was any thought on tendering J.P. a contract and seeing how the market developed later…
“At some point, when you really don’t think it’s possible to make a trade, you try and do what’s best for the player and for his career. If we really felt there wasn’t going to be a trade out there for him, to sit there and carry him into Spring Training, on a non-guaranteed deal, potentially having to release him or option him, it just wouldn’t make sense for him or for us. We were pretty motivated, if we could get something done by last night we were going to do it, and if not, probably the best way for all parties involved was to make the decision.”

On whether there was any thought in using Arencibia as a back-up catcher…
“I don’t think that was going to work. Especially with Josh (Thole) having caught R.A. Dickey and from J.P.’s standpoint with where the money was going to end up in salary arbitration and things like that, it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense for us to go down that path.”

Any theories on why Arencibia regressed so much in the past year…
“I wish I did. I’ve said this before, I do think he’s going to bounce back. He was a little banged up and the one thing about J.P. is that he’s a very durable guy, very tough, plays through a lot of injuries. There was a time when we almost put him on the DL and he wanted to keep playing. He battled through it, grinded through it, we’ve seen him play with a broken hand and things like that. But I really don’t know. Certainly we didn’t expect it, we didn’t expect him to have that type of year. Maybe it was injury related, maybe things aren’t going your way and the more you press, the more you grind, obviously he’s very proud and has extreme pride in his job
and I think it may have just worn on him. I really don’t have anything specific to point to.”

Concerned about player development? Example of Romero and Arencibia going in the other direction…
“No, because I think you could take the opposite of that and see how guys have developed. You have a guy like Encarnacion, it may have stalled in some other places and emerged here, Bautista, a guy like Adam Lind who went back to the Minor Leagues and came back, or Lawrie who started off slowly and played better, or guys like Janssen who developed into a closer, or Loup who was basically a relief candidate and developed. Cecil was the same way, Brandon Morrow, there are a lot of examples. I just think that’s just the way the game works, very rarely do players careers go in a linear fashion where they just continue to improve each year and we’re certainly not the first team to go through it.”

Navarro deal cash neutral to what J.P. would have cost over next two years. Did the financial element come into play and how it will impact offseason…
I think it’s always some type of factor. You’re always looking to get value. I’ve always said, we like a lot of players but we like a lot of
players at the right price. If every player cost the exact same amount it would have been totally different but you do have to weigh contract term, length, some guys might get five-year deals and say you you’d love to have them at two or three but you don’t want those last two or three years of that deal so that player wouldn’t make sense. I think it’s all part of the equation, all part of the evaluation. Navarro didn’t necessarily have to cost what J.P. may have made in arbitration, it worked out that way, but if Navarro needed a three or four year deal I don’t think we would have made this deal.”

Did the off-field issues factor into the decision at all…
“No, I don’t think there were any issues. I think he was one of our best guys in the community, he was always available, always a great supporter of the ballclub. Any time we had a need in the offseason, Jays Winter Tour, hospitals, there were a lot of things he did behind the scenes that no one saw. To me, he was outstanding and I think that’s a big part of where he’s going to be missed because he was proud to be part of the only club in Canada and went above and beyond, it’s certainly going to be a loss for us.”

Pressure getting to him and as struggles went on and wore him down…
I never said the pressure got to him. I just said I know he wants to do well like any player would. Sometimes the harder you try when things aren’t going your way, you get into a little bit of a funk. But there are tons of players across the league that have gone through it before. When you look at J.P.’s body of work here, the way he carried himself, from Day 1, no one is perfect by any stretch but when you take his time here I think he carried himself exceptionally well and sure there may have been times when you wish he would have changed some things but I can’t speak more highly of how he carried himself here.

Importance of acquiring catcher as first move of offseason…
“I don’t look at it as significant on whether it was the first, the third or the fifth, it’s just something we felt we had a chance to improve the ballclub and we did it. It’s nice to have a switch hitter, nice to have more of a contact bat, some on-base skills. Dioner had a wonderful year in 240 at-bats and we think there’s some upside there especially considering his age. We think it’s a nice fit and obviously we’ll find out, there’s certainly an element of risk like there is in any deal because he’s not coming off a season in which he had played 110-120 games but if he was, with the numbers he put up, I think the market would have been significantly stronger for him. The dollars would have been significantly more and the years would have been significantly more.”

Was there a point where it was decided J.P. wouldn’t be able to change the issues..
I just think he had a down year, he knows he’s certainly capable of more, I believe he’s capable of more. He ran into some bad luck as well. He’s 27 years old, he has a lot more ability than he showed this year but, again, guys have bad years, it happens. It happens to so many players. It was about the alternatives and what was out there. If we felt there was a chance to improve the club we were going to do it but we didn’t go into the offseason with the decision of we were certainly going to make change. If something presented itself that was going to make the team better we were going to go down that path but it certainly wasn’t set in stone.”

When the frustration manifested itself with outburst on Twitter did you talk to him or leave it to Gibbons…
He’s definitely not the first person with Twitter, there are tons of professional athletes that have done the same thing. We always talk to all of our players about Twitter. I understand the importance about connecting with fans, the union feels strongly about it, the league does, and the certainly the ballclub as well. From a general manager’s standpoint, you always prefer your players aren’t on Twitter because then you don’t even have a chance that something is put out there that becomes a story or a distraction. I think we always try to educate our players, our media relations staff does as well, but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”

Plenty of free agent catchers on the market with more recent 100-game seasons, was the Rays making the postseason with Molina/Lobaton a model for what you’ve done?
“No, we didn’t look at it that way at all. One of the questions we had was in terms of playing time, durability, that was one of the questions that we had, it was part of the unknown. The fact that the player had played in over 100 games three times, the last time he had a chance to do it, obviously he did it, but he had been in a back-up role since then. Because of his age and everything else, and having a guy like Molina here, he was older and hadn’t necessarily been given the opportunity in a long time to catch close to 100 games, the fact that he was able to do it, certainly was part of the analysis.

“But I think Dioner with his age and the fact that he had already done it and we had some success with Gregg Zaun, John Buck, Rod Barajas, those type of guys that have come in here and been given an opportunity to play every day and really took the ball and ran with it, that certainly factored in as well. He hadn’t done it and that’s part of the risk but with all of the work that we did we certainly think he’s capable of doing that. We think that the contract built in some protection, it was priced right, even if he doesn’t perform the way he did last year, which we don’t expect that because the numbers were unbelievable but we still think he’s going to provide pretty good value behind the plate.”

How far away from being a Major League player is A.J. Jimenez…
“We think he’s very close, defensively we think he can come up here right now but his health is the most important thing. We’ll have him in Spring Training, hopefully he’s behind the issues he’s had from a health standpoint but we believe he’s very close. I think he can certainly make his way onto the team at some point this year but we’d still like to develop the bat as well and get him more at-bats.

Before you come to terms with a starting catcher do you reach out to current pitchers…
“We didn’t do that with our current players. J.P. was on the team and I don’t know if we necessarily want to mess things up. But we did do a lot of work with Dioner, talked to coaches, guys he played with, guys he has thrown to, former teammates, front office, we probably made at least 20 calls to various people that have played with him, been around him, just to try and put it all together. When you start to get a common theme and the common theme was everybody likes throwing to him, very good game caller, very bright. He certainly can improve on blocking balls in the dirt and his throwing is probably average … but everyone raves about his bat it made sense for us. We definitely did a lot of work on him and his background.”

Trying to manage risk a bit more, going for Navarro, was that an area where you could have managed more risk by paying more for a different catcher…
“You’re looking at the best value. Every contract has risk. When you look at free agents a lot of times, the medical files of various free agents and all of a sudden who you thought might be a great fit, maybe there’s a medical concern that wasn’t disclosed and the media and the fans don’t know it and that can impact how long you think a player is going to hold up. I think it goes back to, everyone likes players but you like them at a certain price. The price for one team isn’t the same price for another team, especially when you’re looking at free agency.

“Players have kids in schools, wives who want to be close to certain areas, travel and things like that. I remember two years ago, we were trying to sign a free agent closer and we were prepared to offer significantly more money per year but we couldn’t compete with a short flight from his home to the club he ended up signing with. That was very important for him and his family, that’s always part of the equation as well so it’s not as cut and dry as you just pick the free agent, offer him more years and money and they always come. It doesn’t always work out that way.”

Were there a lot of other options besides Navarro…
“I don’t know what you define as pursued. I think we looked into every position because we don’t know what’s going to come up in trade, we want to know the market and have the ability to react. I can say for this position, I think we looked into everybody on the free agent market that we thought could start and this was definitely the best fit for us.”

Does replacing JP with Navarro increase chances of signing any free agents?
“It might. We talked to some guys that were free agents when we were doing our work on Navarro, guys that have thrown to him, his former teammates, some free agents have thrown to him. We tried to get information from them as well. I guess it might be a factor but I don’t know that I would expect it to be. For the most part, some of it is geography, some of it is family, a lot of time it is dollars.”

Thole as essential to catch Dickey?
“Right now, I think R.A. did a nice job with him, especially in the second half of the season R.A. seemed to really get in a groove. I know Josh didn’t swing the bat like he has done in the past and part of it may have been having to adjust to not playing as much and trying to do too much and things like that, we think Josh is a lot better than he has played from an offensive standpoint but I don’t know what I would use that word. I think Josh is a nice fit with R.A., did a nice job with him in the second half, I don’t know that we’re looking to break that up but I wouldn’t rule out if something was to present itself, we wouldn’t ignore it, but I think for now we’re fine with Josh being that guy.”

Q+A with new Blue Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola

To the surprise of pretty much nobody, Chad Mottola was hired to become the Blue Jays’ new hitting coach when John Gibbons was brought on board in November. It was a natural promotion considering Mottola spent the past four years as a Minor League hitting coach and review rave reviews from some of the club’s top prospects and struggling veterans.

Last year’s hitting coach, Dwayne Murphy, is still on the staff but will spend the majority of his time in charge of baserunning and outfield defense. In some ways it’s a perfect mix because Murphy has already established strong working relationships with the likes of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. So some of the veterans will be able to continue their work with Murphy while Mottola seems better suited to deal with the younger players on the team.

Here’s what Mottola had to say about his overall coaching philosophy and working with Murphy…

Process taking over as new coach, what are things you look to establish…

“What’s nice is that I’ve had a lot of the younger guys early on in their careers so kind of getting them back to where they were and letting Murph continue with the guys he had success with.”

Is it tough, though, having your predecessor still on the coaching staff?

“Not a shared position but having Murph makes it different than most… I wouldn’t say it’s shared but I’m going to let the guys lean on Murph when they need him. Murph’s going to be here for outfield and base running which is a priority and I think was needed at times last year. Going into camp, he’s going to have those guys more often than being in the cage and being around the cage. When he’s needed, he’s going to be used, if not when the younger guys, I already have a pretty good relationship with we’re going to go with what we had in the past.

“Murph’s nickname is pro and it’s for a reason. We have a pretty good relationship where there’s no ego with either of us. Going into it, having that established relationship makes it easier.”

Inherit team that has last two NL batting champions..

“Yeah, for sure. I’m getting to know those guys the first couple of weeks, find out what their philosophies are and build off what they’ve done in the past.”

Approach or philosophy how is it different from Murph…

“There’s not going to be much change with the guys who have had success. There are plenty of guys that had success under Murph and then I’m going to kind of work with the younger guys and see what they need to change to be what they can be.”

Getting guys in proper head space (ex Lind)…

“One thing about baseball is everyone has hit, everyone has their own opinion and everyone feels like they can fix everybody. One thing is that everybody has good intentions but one thing we’re going to concentrate on this year is having one message. So there is no mixed message, there’s not anybody trying to sneak in and be like hey I know you’ve done this.

“With Adam, I played with him, I coached him, we’ve done everything so we kind of know his personality and how to get him in the right position mentally to hit and I think that’s where he was at in the past, it was kind of mental.”

Being up with the big league club the past two Septembers must help…

“It makes really simple. Murph and I know eachother, I’ve sat in the cage hours upon hours and watched him work. He allowed me to work with guys which you don’t see in baseball of a big league coach allowing someone to come up in September and say go ahead have at it. So going into it, we have the same thing going, if a guy hops into our cage, my cage, or his cage, there’s nothing personal. There’s no worries about what he’s saying, we know how to work together.”

Past years coaches have tried to impart their own philosophy on hitting…

“I work individually. I think that’s what’s important about this game is that everybody has their own personality and their own style. They’re going to strike fear into their own team yet they’re going to let different guys have different approaches.”

Approach with Lawrie, priorities…

“We have a relationship in the past just getting him to slow down. He gets himself in trouble, the same thing that makes him great is the same thing that gets him in trouble. So just slowing down and quit trying to get the ball at 40 feet, let it travel a little bit.”

Rasmus…

“The talent in him is unbelivable. The things he does, the way he gets to the front of the box and we’re just going to get his quick hands to work in his favor rather than going through swing changes all year. I think we have a pretty good base going into the year and we’re going to try and keep it there.”

Rasmus made transition to front of the box last year… sticking with that?

“We modified it a little bit but it’s one of those things where as time goes on we hope we’re not going to see five different stances after an 0-for-4. We’re trying to get a consistent base and then we’re going to stay there.”

What are you trying to modify?

“We’re still doing some things, getting his hands a little bit lower and getting him in a better position to hit.”

Newcomers does it take time to get familiar with them…

“I think more getting to know their personalities. I think their track records speak for themselves. More than getting them comfortable here, the sooner that happens the better off we are. Guys that have the track records, kind of stay out of their way.”

Been with Gibby before…

“Yeah, I actually was in camp for a couple of years, had about a month and a half up in the big leagues with him. As far as our personalities, they’re great. Let the guys play and when they need us we’ll get involved. But with the talent we have now, it’s a good mix.”

Hitters facing live pitching Sunday…

“That’s all for the pitchers. Spring Training in the first week is for the pitchers. It’s one of those things that hey guys, get what you can get out of it, let the pitchers get their work in.”

Looking for specific things who are coming back from injuries…

“Just make sure they’re healthy. Early on, it’s a longer spring this year with the Classic going on, not necessarily numbers for sure, just make sure we’re healthy and then worry about the last week getting ready for the season. “

Meet the manager with John Gibbons

John Gibbons sat down with reporters for his Meet the Manager session on Monday afternoon here at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. All managers  across Major League Baseball will sit through a similar media session this week with Boston skipper John Farrell scheduled to talk on Tuesday afternoon.

A nice bonus of this session is that the full transcript is provided to reporters by ASAP Sports. You can find my article about this scrum on the main media site but here’s with the full transcript from the event:

Q.  Your role this week is what?  We know what Alex does when it comes to trade signings, but when you’re in the room with him, what contributions does a manager make?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, what we do in there, you might throw out a name or two you’re thinking about trying to acquire or those kind of things, and he might go around and room and ask our opinions on different guys, if we know them, what do we think, what does that do to the team.  But one thing about Alex, he wants everybody’s opinion and he’s got to make the decision.  Kind of slow today and not much happening, but that’s kind of what happens at these meetings, and then the managers do these things and you turn around and go home.

Q.  What were your thoughts coming into today?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, I did that the first go‑around here, but it’s been a while.  But yeah, it’s always a ‑‑ it’s an exciting time because I’ve been out of it a while.  One thing, it’s always good to see some familiar faces that we have here.

Q.  It’s a little different coming into these meetings, for the last couple years it’s been about what are they going to give up.  Now you guys are coming in from a position of strength looking to maybe add some depth as opposed to what are we going to do.

JOHN GIBBONS:  We’re feeling good right now, there’s no question about it.  It was a big trade for us and signing Cabrera.  So they’ve really done a nice job of bringing in some players.  I said earlier when I got hired, now it’s a job that the manager and the coaching staff to pull it all together and get the most out of these guys.  But it’s a good position to be in.  This job came out of nowhere for me, and to be sitting there looking at some of the players that they acquired in doing that, makes it that much nicer.  I would have taken the job if he hadn’t made that deal, but it makes it much nicer to take it now.

Q.  Is there enormous pressure on you?

JOHN GIBBONS:  There’s always pressure, no doubt about it, because a lot is expected in the baseball world and the country of Canada and Toronto specifically there.  But yeah, that’s a good thing.  That means you’ve got a good team.  But there’s always pressure in this business to perform.

Q.  Alex was saying he was blown away by how many free agents are interested now in being a Blue Jay.  Do you get that sense in baseball, since the move how much of a popular distinction is now for players?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, everybody is excited about it.  When you turn on the TV, you hear about the Toronto Blue Jays a lot because of what they did and what the potential is here.  So it’s an exciting time.  You’ve got to go out and do it.  You can talk all the want, this time of year that’s what the game is.  But come April you’ve got to perform.

Q.  Have you gotten a chance in the last two weeks to talk to most of the guys you want to talk to?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, I’ve talked to most of the guys.  I’ve had trouble getting ahold of some of those guys down in Latin America, but yeah, I’ve talked to just about all of them.

Q.  What have you heard from the new guys especially?

JOHN GIBBONS:  They’re all excited, too.  A group of them came over, all played together last year so they all know each other, but there’s a lot of new faces.  And the guys that have been here, they look at if the trade is good for them, too.  You know what, our team got that much better and they’re excited about it.  Everybody wants to win.  And normally guys want to get to the Big Leagues and become everyday players and establish themselves, and once you do that, it’s time to win.

So they’re all ready to go.  But I’m going to have to familiarize myself a little bit more when we get to Spring Training because these guys don’t know me and I’ve got to get to know them, and we’ve got to come together as a team.  You just can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t play as a team or focus on the same thing, you don’t get anywhere.

Q.  Do you like the idea of having a guy like Buehrle as a veteran of this team?  Even when Doc was here, he was still growing with the team a little bit before he became that veteran guy.

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, Mark has been around a long time, been very, very successful.  Naturally he’s going to be a leader.  And you don’t need to be a local guy.  He’s the kind of guy that can lead by example.  Those guys, when things get tough, you can always fall back on them.  They have a tendency of pulling you through it and making a big pitching outing and getting a big hit to get a win.  Veterans have been around a while and they’ve got that knock.

Q.  Have you started looking at your roster and picture how you’d like the rotation to go or a batting order to do and utilizing what you have?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, I’ve tinkered with it from Day 1 when I got the job.  It’s a pretty good lineup now.  You’re not scrambling to jam guys in up at the top, but getting somebody who can hit at the top of the order.  Now we’ve got so many guys that can do that, we’ll sometimes have to move some guys back.  But it’s too early to say who’s going to hit where.  I can probably tell you the top four right now, definitely Reyes, probably going to be Cabrera and then Bautista and Encarnacion, I can guarantee that.

Q.  Alex was saying you talked about giving the opportunity to hit lefties.  What gives you the belief that he can hit lefties?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, Adam broke in when I was there, I think there was a couple September call‑ups.  After I got fired the first time, he got called up for good and really took off.  From Day 1 in the Minor Leagues he could always hit.  I mean, he was drafted as a hitter and he was always successful.  Last couple years he’s fallen on some tough times, but he’s hit before, so I expect he’s going to get every opportunity to do the same because he’s got a chance to be a key part of this.  And he hit before, he should be able to hit again.

Q.  What other things are going to be your priorities?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, you know, I just sit back and kind of look at the team, just kind of dream, if you will.  But right now with the new coaching staff, the new bench coach, we just kind organizing Spring Training because that’s the main thing in front of us right now, that’s basically it, and then finding a bullpen coach.  Hopefully we’ll have something next week where we’re going to do with that.  Other than that it’s been quiet and just enjoying the moment.

Q.  Have you had a chance to talk to Brett?  And what have people told you about him?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, you know, I had ‑‑ he’s a very aggressive kid with a ton of talent, got a chance to be one of the best players in the game.  That’s what I’ve heard about him.  I’ve heard, too, that he’s learned at this level on the basis he made some mistakes, that kind of thing.  I read that, I’ve heard that.  But he’s a kid ‑‑ from everything I’ve heard he’s the kind of guy you want on your team, he’ll run through the wall for you, and he’s got a ton of talent.  That’s the bottom line.  And with more experience, actually he’ll become a smarter player.

Q.  Have you had a chance to chat with him?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, I talked to him a couple times on the phone, yeah, and he’s excited.  He’s a gung-ho kid you can just tell by talking to him.  Also a friend of mine was one of his hitting coaches when he was down in Double‑A with the Brewers, and he said, “You’ll love this kid.  He’ll go through a wall for you.”  I’ve heard nothing but good things to be honest with you.

Q.  The common thread in describing you as a manager here is knowing how to handle a bullpen.  In your mind what is it you do with a bullpen that makes it effective?

JOHN GIBBONS:  You know, that would be tough to answer.  First of all, you’ve got to have good guys pitching down there.  You’ve got to have some talent, some fire power, then you just piece it together.  With a good starting rotation that always makes a bullpen better because those guys are working less, and then you’ve just got to identify the roles and run with it, know who can do what.  And you’ve still got to protect those guys.  You don’t want to kill them down there.  You piece it together like a puzzle in a lot of ways.

Q.  Do you go into Spring Training in that regard with an open mind in terms of roles?

JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, because they threw some things at me.  I know Janssen, he had a great year and he took over as a closing role.  We’ll find out about Sergio, see where he’s at, find out whether coming out of the gates he’s healthy enough.  It make take him a while to get going.  But guys like Delabar and Lincoln, good arms, see how they fit.  Luke, the lefty, it’s always valuable to have a good lefty that can get lefties out.  A lot of guys can’t.  We’ll piece it together.  But I’ve got to learn these guys.  And you can’t judge everything off Spring Training because you know how that is sometimes, so I’ll rely on these other guys to tell me some of that.

Q. Is part of it letting them know when they’re going to be used and not getting them up too often?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, that’s where it takes its toll on the bullpen is you get them up and you don’t use them.  If you get them up and you get them in the game, everything is fine.  There’s ups and downs that really take their toll on these guys.  You can’t always do that, but if you’re conscious of it and say ‑‑ especially with your late‑inning guys, you’ve really got to guard those guys because if things are going well they’re going to be in a lot of games, so you’ve got to be conscious of that.

Q.  Is Mike the second baseman as far as you’re concerned or could Emilio Bonifacio win that job?

JOHN GIBBONS:  As of Thursday he’s signed to do that, but he’s very versatile.  He can play several positions.  Bonifacio can also play the outfield.  We do have to figure that out, but it’s a good problem to have because they’re both very talented kids, men.  So we’ll see.

Q.  Update on Sergio Santos?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, we don’t know anything about Sergio really.  Well, we know ‑‑ we don’t know how far along he is.  You’ve got to be conscious of that.

Q.  Regardless of that, what Janssen did last year, would you give him the chance to keep the job because it’s his to lose?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, that’s tough to answer right now, but I’m a big fan of Casey’s because I had him before, I know what he’s capable of doing.  Any time you come off a surgery, you’ve got to be ‑‑ you don’t know what’s going to happen.  I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  But it’s nice to have both those guys and maybe can do that.  Casey had a little minor procedure himself, so you’ve got to be conscious of that, of both those guys.

Q.  Can you compare how you’re looking for a place in this division?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, I still think it’s the toughest division in baseball.  That first go‑around, it was tough.  You were looking up at Boston and New York all the time.  Tampa was on the verge of really coming into their own.  You could see some young players ‑‑ in Baltimore at that time they scored runs; on the nights they pitched they were very tough.  I followed them over the years, and New Yorks and Bostons, they’re always going to be ‑‑ Boston had a down year last year, but that’s not going to last.  And Baltimore gets into the postseason.  Tampa is right there.  So it’s a tough grind, tough division to play in, but that’s why we feel with the trades we made and signing of Cabrera gives us a shot.  But you’ve got to go out and do it, but it gives us a lot of excitement.

Q.  How do you feel about the starting rotation?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Very good.  Very good.  You know, I think every team in baseball is looking for five guys they can count on, and through this trade we added two pretty good ones.  So that was a question mark coming in before they made that trade.  Yeah, we feel pretty good.

You’re going to have your ups and downs throughout a year, guys are going to get banged up, there will be some injuries.  That’s just part of it.  Now the thing is you’ve got to focus on depth.  So one of these guys or two of those guys go down for any length of time, can we cover it.  That’s where teams get in trouble.  Same thing with the bullpen.  Hopefully you have a guy sitting down in Triple‑A that can come up and maybe has a little experience and he’s not just a BP arm out there.

Q.  How much do you know about Happ?  He pitched in the National League.  And what do you expect out of the fifth starter in terms of performance?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, you want a guy that’s good and competitive that can keep you in a ballgame, give you a chance to win.  The thing I remember most about Happ was a Spring Training game the last time I was here and we played the Phillies over there, and he just blew us away for five innings or whatever his stint was.  I can remember talking to J. P. about that afterward.  Who’s this guy right here?  I kind of lost track, but he’s got a good arm.  He strikes out ‑‑ he’s a big strikeout guy, and he’s be a perfect fit.  Here’s his opportunity over here to do it, and lefties are always valuable.  Some of the best hitters in the game are lefties.

Q.  It seems like there’s a special window for the Blue Jays who have been shut out for a long time.  Is this your time?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, we hope so.  But I mean, it’s still early in the offseason.  The Yankees are going to be good.  They won it again last year.  You know, the Red Sox, there’s too much pressure on them not to do something to strengthen their team after what they went through last year.  That’s a given.  And Tampa, they come at you and they’re one of the better teams in baseball every year the last few years.  And Baltimore.

I don’t know if this is our window.  We think we’re very competitive and we can compete in this division now, but we’re hoping this is our time.

Q.  Is it going to be strange at all playing in your division after managing another team?

JOHN GIBBONS:  No, because I don’t really know them.  If I knew them, it might be a little bit different, but I know he’s a fixture there in Boston.  They really wanted him back.  After all those years of being the pitching coach there.  I did get a chance ‑‑ I was in town with Kansas City a couple years ago and got a chance to meet John, but I really don’t know him, but I’m sure he’ll do a great job over there.

Q.  He knows your players fairly well.

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, but you know, to get him out or hit him, you’ve still got to execute, and we like our guys.

Q.  What else do you think this team needs to finalize the roster?

JOHN GIBBONS:  To be honest with you, I like the way it sits now, but you’re always looking to strengthen it in whatever way.  I think the big thing now is depth, to overcome some injuries, what have you.  But you know, they put together a pretty good group of guys.  You can’t have everything.  Nobody has a perfect team.  You’re never going to ‑‑ we sure like the way it’s shaping up right now.

Q.  Have you had conversations about what went wrong last year, what things have you heard?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, just from what I’ve heard and what I’ve read and things like that, baserunning was an issue, running into needless outs.  I can’t comment on a lot of that because I wasn’t here.  That’s not fair to anybody that was.  I guess this would be my chance because I don’t know most of these guys.  To get to know them, make my own judgments.  You know, throw my philosophies at them, that kind of thing, my style of play.

So I can’t worry about that.  It’s a new start for them.  It’s a new start for me.  But this team has got very good team speed.  We’ve got power.  We’ve got the pitching.  So we need to play smart baseball is basically all I can tell you right now.

Q.  On the running game….

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, you know, you’ve got guys and that’s their game and they’ve been very successful about it and they do it, you don’t want to shut that down.  That’s why we got them, because they can do those things.  So go for it, but be smart, too.  Because we have some hitters sitting in the middle of that lineup that are ready to drive you in and hit home runs and those kind of things.  So be smart about it.  We don’t want to run unnecessary outs or ‑‑ still, you’ve got to be successful at a high rate, you know, when you’re stealing.  But hey, that’s your game, go for it.  That way you come up against tough pitching on a given night, low run scoring game, those guys can generate the runs for you and that’s how you can win those games.  But they’re getting paid a lot of money to do those things and we’re not going to get in the way of that.

Q.  Which coach will handle the running game?          

JOHN GIBBONS:  Luis will handle that, and Murph, and then me.

Q.  When you were interviewing with Alex on the weekend in Toronto, since then when you’re talking with players on the phone, has anyone mentioned the clubhouse situation late in the season, especially the players?  Have you talked to them about it?

JOHN GIBBONS:  No.  I had heard some things and read it, but I didn’t want to approach that.  You’re going to get guys, different views on what’s going on in there, and you’ve got ‑‑ I’m sure you run into guys that weren’t fond of somebody that might have been here, that kind of thing, so you’re going to get different stories and that kind of thing, so I didn’t want to approach that.

I’m taking over, so this is my chance to kind of shape the clubhouse the way I think it is.  I think they’ve got some good guys on the team, but there’s going to be a bunch of new faces, so you’ve still got to come together.

Q.  You mentioned your approach and philosophy.  How would you describe it?

 JOHN GIBBONS:  My personality or ‑‑

 Q.  Both.

 JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, I think any smart manager, you’ve got to take a look and see what you’ve got.  Like I said a minute ago, we’ve got really good team speed, we’ve got guys that can hit the ball in the seats.  And you’ve got to remember, too, in our division, it’s a good division for hitting home runs, too.  We’ve got guys that can do that, some guys that are just good hitters.

We’ll turn them loose when we need to and then it’s just pretty much just running the pitching staff is where everything comes into play.  Getting the most out of your players.  You’ve got to get the most out of who they are.  That’s what I think successful managers do.  I’ve said before, and I don’t want to minimize things, but baseball is different from other sports where it’s not all Xs and Os because most teams bunt at the same times, whatever the situation might be.  They’ll hit and run, steal and all that, depending on who’s on the mound.  You know what I’m talking about.  Fastball, play calling, Xs and Os is everything, so baseball is getting the most out of what you’ve got, and the guys that are successful in this business do that.  Your top managers, that’s what they do.  And then they’re smart enough, I believe, to get out of the way and let those guys ‑‑ you can’t control everything in this business.  That’s why you see talented teams win and less talented lose.  Turn them loose and let them use their skills.

Q.  A lot of times when you bring good players together, they don’t always match.

JOHN GIBBONS:  No doubt, yeah.

Q.  So that’s part of the job, too.

JOHN GIBBONS:  That’s a big part of it, yeah.  A lot of new faces.  Everybody has got to be looking for the same goal, and that’s to win.  You’d like that to always be the case, but different teams that’s not always the case.

So we’ve got to make sure we get that out of them, and I think we will.  But it should be fun.  But there’s no substitute for talent in this business, and so going in we’ve got a lot of talent.  That’s why we feel really good.

Q.  Is it going to be tough on you not having at least Lawrie and Reyes all Spring Training because of the World Baseball Classic and maybe some other guys?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, you’d rather have it the other way, but it’s been very successful.  It gives them a chance to represent their countries.  But you’d rather have it the other way because you want them doing their normal routine instead of going off and just playing games.  But nothing you can do about it.

Q.  Would you have anything to say about Bautista, whether he plays or not?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, I know the team’s, the ballclub’s, talked to him about it might be smart not to.  But if you get a chance to represent your country, that’s kind of tough to get in the way of that.  But you’re still ‑‑ your player is still your number one responsibility.  So whatever that means.

Q.  There’s been a lot of talk about expanding instant replay after some of the things that have happened.  What’s your view on that?

JOHN GIBBONS:  You know, I wouldn’t get carried away with it because I think that’s one of the beauties of the game is the human element.  The umpires, they don’t miss a lot.  Maybe fair or foul balls down the lines would be something I would look at to go along with the home runs.  But as far as trapped balls and things like ‑‑ I don’t know, now you’re getting ‑‑ expanding it any more than that, I think it would mess up the game too much.

Like I said, these guys are pretty good at what they do.  When you slow those things down and actually see it.  But we all make mistakes out there.  That’s one of the beauties of baseball.  The human element can get in the way sometimes. 

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