Results tagged ‘ Blue Jays ’
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
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.”
On the main site, you’ll find today’s article on the hiring of Kevin Seitzer as the club’s new hitting coach. Below, you’ll find the full transcript of his conference call with reporters.
On his philosophy as a hitting coach…
“My philosophy in a nutshell is to stay in the middle of the field, stay gap to gap, and make tweaks along the way with mechanics. Work with the guys with what their strengths are and then try to help them with their weaknesses too. I know that there’s probably a lot of questions about Bautista, Encarnacion, Rasmus, guys like that, that are more pull-type hitters, I also have a philosophy of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. So, let guys continue to do what they’ve had success with, but at the same time be able to help them with adjustments they need to make when times are tough.”
On favouring an opposite field approach with two strikes…
“Depending on the pitcher, too, who you’re going to face and what he features. Guys like a Bruce Chen, or Jamie Moyer type of pitcher, who are more offspeed with their secondary stuff and their primary stuff, you may take a more opposite field approach with them so you can continue to bust it with the majority of what they’re going to throw you. That’s the thing of making adjustments from hitter to hitter and pitcher to pitcher that we go up against, to maintain your strength, if you’re sitting more of a fastball to the opposite field but the majority of pitches you’re going to get are going to be slow, then you’re going to have a chance to pull those pitches.
“For me, the bottom line as far as philosophy, approach, is really making consistent hard contact and that’s why the thinking, the plan, of hitting the ball to the middle of the field, gap to gap, gives you a better chance to put the barrel of the bat on the ball. The better the swing, the bigger the guy, the smaller the park, the more balls that are going to go out. As long as hitters are making solid contact, you have a chance to not only hit home runs but drive gaps and if you have an approach and a plan that you can make adjustments depending on who you’re facing where you can be more consistently with putting the fat part of the bat on the ball you’re going to have more success. That’s really the bottom line in what I teach.”
On philosophy being based on the type of hitter he was in the Major Leagues…
“It’s a conglomeration of all the coaches I had along the way and things that I did along with all the conversations I’ve had with really good hitters and guys that I really respected that I played with or against. Continued as a hitting coach, I feel like my four years in Kansas City working with those guys on a daily basis and the adjustments that we made, I feel like I was able to add a lot more tools to my toolbox to help guys make adjustments quickly.
“The bottom line is you want to keep guys going the way they’re feeling good and shorten the slumps and keep those to a minimum and try to keep the confidence up to where they feel they have a chance every time they step into the box. All of the guys that I’ve talked to, and worked with, people I respected in the game, I started really studying the swing and studying hitting back when I was in college and throughout the course of the Minor Leagues. Then my time in the big leagues, I got to have some very special conversations with very good hitters.
“The things that I did, I hit the ball the other way just because my hands weren’t quick enough to pull the ball. My recognition wasn’t as good as what a lot of hitters are, and I felt like with the limited ability I had as a player I was able to have a lot of success because of my approach and plan. I can’t tell you the countless times I went in and looked to pull something, tried to pull it, and it went to right field. So, I was happy that I had a hit.”
On the special conversations, big influences, name off a couple…
“Obviously when you get to play a long time with guys like George Brett, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, those are just a few right there. Conversations with guys like Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Rod Carew, when he was a hitting coach. I would try to have conversations with anyone that would stand still long enough to talk to me. Wade Boggs was another one and Dave Winfield. I wanted to talk to power guys, I wanted to talk to high average guys, I just wanted to talk to guys who were successful big-league hitters. Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Harold Baines, when you could get him to say some words, those were great conversations. You want to continue to build your knowledge and build your program. Things that I saw and things that I heard, I would go into the cage and try them and see if they worked. I can’t really say that I would cater what I teach and my philosophy to one certain person or a book, it really just came through trial and error through 20-some years in the game.”
On conversations with Gibbons and AA about how philosophy can be beneficial to the Jays…
“I think it’s something that is going to help them be better well rounded hitters. With all due respect, they have been very successful for a long time and even though it appears to be all or nothing, they’ve been pretty successful putting up runs. I think I can even take that to a new level just by putting more tools in guys’ tool boxes, adding to their arsenal to where you understand what you need to do to beat shifts.
“If teams are shifting around to where they have the second baseman playing up the middle on the shortstop side for a right-handed hitter, or vice versa for a lefty, to be able to shoot that ball the other way. Guys like David Ortiz, he just came off a pretty good postseason, but I feel like a few years ago was when he finally made up his mind that I’m not going to let them shift on me and get away with it, especially with men in scoring position. Then he had the Fenway wall that he would pepper the other way. He still pulls plenty of his share of balls, but having the ability to go the other way to beat a shift to drive in a run is critical. I think a lot of times it goes with spending a little bit of time and showing guys technique No. 1 and mindset No. 2, of what adjustments they need to make to be able to execute that in a game. I feel like that’s one of the strengths I can bring to my game.”
On relationship with Gibbons…
“We had a tremendous relationship, I have all the respect in the world for him. He’s a very easy going guy but yet has some fire and intensity to him at the same time. If you’re around him, he’s a very good baseball man, I have ultimate respect for him. One of the things, too, our first year, he was our bench coach, we spent some time talking about philosophy and what I teach.
“I have a lot of respect for him because I felt like I had to win him over, I had to prove to him what I was doing and what I was teaching really worked. He saw the proof in the pudding for the three years that I was there. There was some pretty drastic changes in guys careers when we were together and he got to watch it on a daily basis and I think that played a big role in him wanting to bring me in. I came in, I interviewed, I met with Alex and other people in the front office, I had to share what I teach, what I base everything on, share stories and talk about things I’ve done in the past, how I worked with guys and helped them make adjustments.
“Alex Gordon, is probably one player that I feel the best about in accomplishments just because he struggled so bad his first years in the big leagues and it was a major overhaul process to help him make some adjustments he needed to make. He said the biggest thing that helped him was being able to stay in the middle of the field from a mental standpoint, but if you go look at his spray charts from his successful seasons, the majority of his hits were to the pull side. I could care less where the ball goes as long as we’re getting hits and driving in runs and having good at-bats. Just that ability to focus on a consistent approach is a big thing that I’m really concerned with and that’s what I feel like leads to success.”
On what he was dong last year…
“I have an indoor baseball facility here in Kansas City with Mike Macfarlane, it’s called Mac-N-Seitz baseball, we’ve been doing this for 17 years. I was here full time with the business and I have a son who was in Double-A last year with the Rays and I got to go see him for the first time in pro ball so that was really cool, I got to go see him on four different trips and having the summer to do that was a real blessing. I always try to find the good and the bad and as much as I hated getting let go by the Royals, there was a silver lining there. But I also realized how bad I wanted to get back in, I missed it a lot, I love helping guys, I love being in the dugout and being in the cage. It’s a really rewarding job, so I missed it.”
Plan for offseason…
“I’m going to get video sent to me by the club and just be able to get to know these guys from a swing standpoint. Then, I’ll reach out to them and touch base. They’ve had a long grueling season and probably the last thing they want to do is talk about their swing, talk about hitting and talk about their workouts for the winter but I will reach out and touch base with them.
“Try to keep it as brief as possible, introduce myself and let them know I’m excited, looking forward to working with them and holler if you need anything. Once guys start working out, if there’s a way that we can hook up, that would be a great thing but, for me, it’s not life or death. Once I get with guys and start building that relationship, we can make some things happen pretty quick.”
On the expectations of 2013 and moving forward…
“The expectations from last year were definitely, it didn’t work out the way everybody thought and hoped. I’ll be honest, I thought that team was going to pretty much walk away with it. But due to injuries and whatnot, they had a rough year and I think the potential is there to meet people’s expectations of what they were going into this season, for next year.
“Depending on what happens as far as the offseason goes with moves they decide to make, there’s definitely an expectation to win the division and go to the postseason. If anybody is thinking short of they, they probably need to make an adjustment mentally with all due respect.”
In some ways, it’s hard to believe but it was 20 years ago today that Joe Carter hit his infamous home run off Philadelphia closer Mitch Williams in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. The latest generation of Blue Jays fans weren’t even born when Carter’s shot went just over the wall in left field at Rogers Centre but it’s a moment that will continue to live on through stories and highlight reels for decades to come.
If Bill Mazeroski’s walkoff homer in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series was the ‘Shot heard ’round the world’ then Carter’s blast was at least the ‘Shot heard ’round Canada.’ There are numerous Canadians currently in the Major Leagues who have pointed to those teams in 1992-93 as being one of the main reasons they originally became interested in the sport. Everyone growing up during that time certainly recreated the scene of Carter’s home run in his/her backyard with the hope of one day being able to achieve such glory.
At the time, I was no different. I was only 10 years old when the Jays won their back-to-back championship but I can remember watching the game in my basement with my parents and the ensuing years I would go on to collect as much memorabilia from that era as possible. There wasn’t a single inch in my bedroom that wasn’t plastered with posters of that team. The official team photos from both 92/93, the Jays of Thunder featuring Alomar and Carter, a Kelly Gruber life size poster that I would measure myself against every month. The commemorative Coca-Cola cans that went out across the country, team-signed baseballs, baseball cards, you name it and I tried to get my hands on it.
I grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick, and never even had the privilege of seeing a Major League game in person until a couple of years later. But none of that mattered. It wasn’t just Toronto’s team, it was all of Canada’s. The Expos were still around at that time, and I’m sure Quebec would be an exception to the statement, but from British Columbia to Newfoundland this was a team that became embraced by an entire nation.
I don’t view baseball through the same lens that I did back then. It’s impossible in this type of job. That’s not to say I’m not a fan of the game, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. But instead of being a fan of a team, or a particular player, I’ve become a fan of the big moment, the big story line, the compelling angle, the minutiae and reasoning behind every transaction an organization makes. I know too much about every player to view them with the type of blinders I did back when I was a kid, when those athletes of the early ’90s could do no wrong.
But earlier this week I was able to put those blinders on for at least one more day. I stopped being the impartial reporter for approximately half an hour when I had the chance to do a phone interview with Joe Carter. We reminisced about those memories of 1993 and while he recalled everything that took place in the days leading up to Game 6, the moments before the homer, the celebration afterwards, the fallout — I was able to relive exactly what it meant to grow up as such a big fan of the person, the player and the organization.
Those early teams are one of the main reasons I have the privilege of covering baseball for a living. I realized relatively early on that I could try to replicate Pat Hentgen’s delivery on the mound all I wanted but I could never actually achieve his success against hitters who would go on to any type of success. It worked pretty well against those Little Leaguers but it would only get me so far. Those early years were a big reason why, by the time I reached high school, I was emailing Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun for tips on how to get into the industry. So I at least theoretically traded in those baseball cards and team memorabilia for a recorder and a laptop.
I still had those journalism necessities during this Carter interview but make no mistake about it, when I talked to Carter, I wasn’t talking to him as the Blue Jays reporter from MLB.com as much as I was talking to him as the 10-year-old fan boy who lost his mind when that ball disappeared over the left-field fence. For just one day I was a completely biased fan, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here’s an excerpt of the interview I did with Carter the other day. I hope you enjoy it.
Joe Carter Q+A:
On the 20-year anniversary of the infamous home run…
“It really is hard to believe that 20 years has passed. It’s something that people still always talk about. I was just thinking, as long as there has been World Series and baseball, this only happened twice in the history of the game. That’s the rarest of rare feats. For it to be 20 years, it goes to show you, when you’re young time just goes by slow but when you’re older it goes by incredibly fast.”
On whether the home run gets the respect it deserves…
“I don’t think it gets the notoriety in the States like it does in Canada. I’ve always said, if I played for the Yankees or the Dodgers, one of those big market teams, then it would have been huge. I think at times they give more honor to Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the World Series. That was a great moment, don’t get me wrong, a special moment for a special guy. But something like this I don’t think it gets the notoriety it gets in Canada because in Canada it’s unbelievable the reception that I get up there where people from the East Coast as far away as Halifax, Nova Scotia, all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia. People still talk about that home run as if it just happened yesterday and it’s at the forefront of their minds. I’m very elated that they still remember that and it’s indeed a special honor for me.”
On whether he understood at the time the significance that home run had for all of Canada…
“I didn’t have the sense of it then when it happened. It was a long grueling season. The year before when we won the World Series that was a lot of pressure off of our backs because the Blue Jays had been clamouring so close really since 1985 when they got beat by the Royals after being up three games to one. It was a big relief after the ’92 World Series and the ’93 World Series was more of an enjoyment for us. We had a chance to sit back and enjoy that moment.
“So from that standpoint, it’s a special moment and it was a time for us to really enjoy what had transpired and I look back now, I go to Canada all the time and there are a lot of people named Carter, a lot of people around 20 years old named Carter (laughs), they were born around that time and it’s a great moment not only for me but for Canada and for all of baseball. It was a rare feat.
On the difference between closing out at home vs on the road in ’92…
“Believe it or not, from a fan standpoint it was better in Toronto, but from a player standpoint, it was better in Atlanta because after the game we went back to the hotel, we had all of our families there, all the people who travel with the team, there was probably 300-400 people there and we had the entire floor of the hotel, we had a band playing, we had all the food you could eat, everybody was there celebrating.
“If you can imagine guys like Dave Winfield, John Olerud dancing down the soul train line. We had a 5 o’clock wake-up call and I don’t think we went to bed that night. So, from a player standpoint, it was great while we were in Toronto. Winning it in Canada, we couldn’t really go out and have fun with the fans. I kind of missed most of the celebrations because I was doing all of the interviews. I came back two and a half hours later back to the locker room and everyone was done celebrating and I was like wait, I just got here.
“After the game, everyone got dressed and we went upstairs, we had a little sit down quiet dinner with the players, front office, wives, but it was really subdued and quiet. Meanwhile everyone on the streets was going crazy so from the fans point of view, it was great for the fans, but we had a better time in Atlanta when clinched there.”
On what was going through his mind during the start of that rally in the ninth inning…
“I knew the rally we had before in the eighth was very important because we hit around. I think Pat Borders popped up with the bases loaded, made the last out, but the good thing about that was we knew Rickey was leading off the ninth, I think everybody knew Rickey was going to be on first base, there was no way Mitch wasn’t going to walk him. Going into that ninth, I was like, wow, I’m up fourth this inning. Something always in the game happens and that ninth inning revolves around me a lot of the time. That’s what you live for in baseball, when you’re hitting third or fourth on a championship team you’re going to be in the spotlight more often than not.
“I was more nervous sitting in the dugout because I was pacing back and forth, sitting on the top step of the dugout, itching for a chance to get up there because I was waiting for my time. Sure enough, Rickey gets the walk, Devo pops up and then Molitor gets the base hit so I knew it would eventually come down to what I did, or I was going to be very instrumental with what happened. Having those two guys on base, Rickey and Pauly on first and second, I knew at the time, if I hit a ball into the gap Molitor is going to score from first base. That made my job a little bit easier with those two guys on first base.”
On whether he thought it was gone off the bat…
“Never saw it. I didn’t. The thing is, when Mitch threw me the 2-1 pitch, a breaking ball, I was looking breaking ball because I looked so bad on it. When he shook off the first pitch, I knew Dalton had to put down breaking ball again, so if he shook it off he’s going to the fastball but I thought I still have to think he’s going to throw the breaking ball again. Because I was thinking breaking ball and I had lost the last breaking ball, the 2-1 breaking ball, I said, okay you need to slow down a little bit and I need to see the ball all the way in. I need to follow it as if it was a 3-0 pitch and I was following it back to the catcher’s glove and so I followed the ball all the way in.
“He jerked a fastball down and in, more like a cut fastball and because I was thinking breaking ball, I kind of stayed back on the ball. Normally if I’m looking fastball, I’d either swing and miss at that ball and nine times out of 10 times I hook it into the third base dugout and scatter my teammates. But in that particular moment, because was looking breaking ball, I kept my head down and when I made contact, and even when I watched the replay I can’t see the ball because the angle of the bat and the ball, it was all simultaneously in the same motion, down and in, when I looked up, I never saw the ball.
“All I saw was the bank of lights. I knew I hit it good, but I didn’t know if I hit it high enough to get over the fence. As I jumped three or four jumps down the first-base line, I saw Pete kind of slow down to a trot and when the ball went over the fence, the thoughts that go through your mind, the first thought that goes through your mind this is just unbelievable I can’t believe that happened. My second thought was make sure you touch all of the bases Joe.”
On being forever linked with Mitch Williams…
“Mitch didn’t go through a tough time, it’s the way people perceived him, all of the death threats and everything. But Mitch never let that bother him and that’s what I loved about the guy. Here’s a guy that gave it his all, I gave it my all, it just so happens that that one time I happened to come out on top. But I’ve always said, if it wasn’t for Mitch they wouldn’t have been there. He had 43 saves, he saved Game 2 of the World Series and he saved the last game in the NLCS against the Braves to get them to the World Series.
“The things that he went through, the Philadelphia fans, they can be some unruly fans as we’ve all come to know. But Mitch I think he handled it very well, he stayed in the area up there, and we are going to be forever linked but I think it’s a pretty good thing. I don’t know if he thinks it’s a good thing, at times he says come October his name will always be kind of out there because of what happened in the World Series. Unfortunately there are going to be great times and bad times because in this game someone has to win and someone has to lose and a moment like that is going to be always remembered.
“We get along great, we got along great before then, I never had a problem with anybody I played with or against. I’ve always been that type of person. I think the one thing he should be embarrassed about, in 1998, my last year, they kind of did a where are they at now and Mitch had challenged me to a bowling match. He had his own bowling alley just outside of Philadelphia and so when Baltimore came to town to Philadelphia it was a big event. They had a limosine take me down there, Mitch carries a 200 average. He gets me into a bowling alley, ESPN is there, the lights and cameras on, they were announcing it and everything and it was funny because when I walked in, one of Mitch’s good friends, he yelled at me, you cost me $1000. I said, well you bet on the wrong team.
“They made me up a bowling ball, I went down to the alley and I rolled the first ball between my legs and it was a strike. Mitch’s eyes, his mouth dropped, his eyes are huge and he goes “noooooo.” His buddy goes, I’ve got $100 on Joe. I beat Mitch three straight games and he carries a 200 average but he did now know, I grew up bowling. My father, who just passed away in September, he was 82 years old, he bowled up until he was 80 years old. So, I was a very accomplished bowler. I beat him the first game, I bowled like a 235, 240 and just blew him out of the water. He couldn’t believe it was happening. Now, that’s where he should be embarrassed, baseball that was two guys giving it their best, but bowling, on his home field, that’s where he should be embarrassed.”
On being a ringer and Mitch not seeing it coming…
“No he didn’t. I even bowled in college, Wichita State, had a very good college bowling team, in the dormitory I lived in, I bowled for three years on our dormitory bowling team so I was a very good bowler.”
On getting back to Toronto on a regular basis for his annual charity golf tournament and various events with the Blue Jays…
“It’s very important but it’s not just for the Blue Jays, it’s for all of Canada. That, to me, is my second home. With my golf tournament, we’ve raised more than $1.2 million for the Children’s Aid Foundation in just four years of having my golf tournament there. Mitch, last year, he came down, he was so gracious to come down and play in that. We had a great time with that. Going from Vancouver all the way to Halifax, it is phenomenal the reception that I get. I know that, too much is given, much is expected. I know that my greatest times in baseball were in Canada and for me to go back there and show them the love and favor that they’ve shown me, I love it tremendously that I can go back there and make an impact. Help a lot of kids and a lot of people and that’s what I try to do. It’s good to still be associated with the Blue Jays but it’s even better that I’m associated with all of Canada, not just the East Coast but the West Coast also. “
The following is partial — but mostly complete — transcript of Alex Anthopoulos’ media scrum regarding the job safety of John Gibbons and a slew of other topics:
Have you been following the recent comments about how the Blue Jays should fire John Gibbons? Have you thought about firing him?
“No. I haven’t been reading them but I was told about it. Today I was doing an interview and I was told by the interviewee that seems to be the big talk. I’ve been staying away from reading a lot of things but there are no changes, John is our manager and we expect him to be.
“But I understand what the response is, when you’re not playing well as a team, these are things that happen. You talk about the GM, the manager, you talk about the players … people want a reason and changes usually come when players aren’t playing well and teams aren’t performing. I think that comes with the territory so I’m not surprised from that respect. I’m not saying that just in respect to Gibby, when you’re not playing well, you’re not going to have nice things to say and good stories to write.
So you don’t plan on making a managerial move…
“No, not at all. I don’t think our issues, I think we can all get better, myself included. When we are where we are in the standings and the results are what they are there’s clearly a lot of room for improvement and clearly we’re going to need some sort of change. I’m not prepared to say what those are, I think we need to play out the season, either way we’ve looked it, we’ve talked about it. We can look at so many areas because when you have the results that we have, there are plenty of areas, I do think and I believe that, if you look at this historically, second last in starters’ ERA, I’ve yet to see some teams have success doing that and ultimately we can examine why that is, and that’s not to say we can’t improve in other areas, offensively, defensively, but I think that’s where it starts … I don’t know how much the manager can influence that part of the game alone.”
So, unequivocally, Gibbons will be back next year?
“Yes, there has never been any thought on that respect at all.”
Looking back, did you whiff on some of your offseason trades?
“I think there are certain trades that haven’t worked out in terms of the performance of the players, I think that goes without saying. There were players we expected to play better, be more healthy, all of those things. I think with any thing, some trades take a little more time to develop, especially if you have a player that’s under contract …
“You have to just go back to your process. I look back all of the time, I review, and there are times things don’t work out and there are times ultimately that we can improve our process and change it. We’ve reviewed it a ton obviously, we review everything when you’re not playing the way we expected to play and everyone expected us to play. I do believe our process was sound, that doesn’t mean we can’t improve, we always look to improve but I do believe our process was sound. Certain things haven’t worked out and sometimes it’s hard to explain why some players don’t play as well then they go somewhere else and play better.”
You’re talking about reviewing the organization, does that mean the review of the manager is complete? Gibbons will be back?
“Yes, I’ve already said that. But the review, I think you review the team all of the time, top to bottom, including yourself, that goes without saying. I don’t know that there’s a team with a perfect anything. Manager, GM, players, everyone can get better in this game, I think everyone would acknowledge that. I don’t think there has been a person in this game that has said, I’ve got all the answers and it’s all there. Our focus is on how do we make this team better and it starts obviously with players.
“There are other areas that we can look to improve upon, but I do think it all starts with the players and the talent we have on the field. Some of it has been health, we need to look at some of those things as well, we had a lot of injuries again, twice in a row now. Last year it was one time, now… there are so many things and we still have four or five weeks, who knows what else comes? Good and bad. I think you take the full season to review.”
Why are you so loyal to Gibbons?
“I actually think, the in-game managing, I think he has done a great job. I think it’s so easy to pin results on one person. I think it’s
convenient. I could say that for myself, I could say that for certain players, for the manager. I just don’t think blame falls on one person. I
think when we’re playing the way we have, I just don’t think it falls on one person, it’s collectively. There’s blame to share, that’s probably
the best way to put it. I just don’t believe it’s one thing and that’s the issue. I think Gibby, in game, has done a great job. We’ve had
three-fifths of our rotation in flux, whether it’s through injury or performance.
“We’ve only had two mainstays in the rotation the entire year, that’s no an excuse, that’s just a fact. That comes to my chair, it
comes down to the players, the staff, the training staff, we’re all accountable to an extent why things have gone the way they have. But to
sit there and say it’s one person, that doesn’t make any sense. I think it’s an easy out to be honest with you.”
When you look back, what are words you use to describe this season?
“Obviously we haven’t played to expectations the way we thought we would. I know that’s about 20 words there. I haven’t sat and thought about it. You’re obviously going day to day with it and dealing with things as they come up. But there’s no question, no one’s enjoying watching the results and the play and all that type of stuff.
“Our focus has to be on how do we get better. To focus on blame and things like that, that’s part of the process and the evaluation but I
just don’t think, it’s collectively when we’ve had the results we’ve had, it’s a lot of areas.”
Do you still believe the core can win?
“I do. But again, where we are where we are with the rotation, you guys can pull it up, I’ve yet to see teams with the performance we’ve had in the rotation that you can win that way. That’s not to say that our position players are perfect by any stretch or we can’t improve the
offence in certain areas or we can’t improve defensively and all those things but ultimately I do think it starts on the mound. I think there’s
an impact to the bullpen, there’s an impact to the offence, you’re down four or five runs in the first inning or the second inning and you start to press. I think there’s just a carry over effect in so many ways. Health is part of it too.”
“We felt we were going to have a very strong starting rotation coming into the year. That obviously hasn’t been the case so that has to
strongly be reevaluated. In terms of cores, things change from year to year, player evaluations change from year to year so for the most part I think we all can see the players that have performed and have been good players for us, I think that goes without saying. Players that haven’t performed as well, haven’t had as good a season, we evaluate them, contractually as well.”
After Buehrle, Dickey, Happ, how do you envision rest of rotation shaping up next couple of weeks?
“The remaining two spots, we’ll see how things go. I think a guy like Todd, obviously, starting tomorrow, we’ll see how he does. Hopefully he gets back on track, he’s had some good starts, he had a rough one against the Astros. I think it’s important for him. It’s really start to start for some of those guys as well. We’ve talked about calling up some of the young guys but, again, we’re letting them make all their starts as well. We haven’t made any determinations. We’re really using these last few starts to finish the evaluation.”
Johnson’s future and whether club would make qualifying offer at end of the season…
“I think you wait because you see how he recovers, he responds. Dr. Andrews said two weeks of no throwing, then get up again. They want to get him up off a mound by the end of the season. That will tell us a lot as well. The fact we don’t have to make a decision today, why not take the time to get more information? Who knows, along the way maybe he does great, maybe, obviously we hope not, there’s some type of setback. We’ll take the time.”
How can their not be a culture of losing if you’re losing in the clubhouse?
“I guess it depends on what you define it as. When you’re losing, you’re losing. But I don’t define it that way. If you choose to do that, that’s
your right. But to me, it comes down to none of those players want to under perform or not do well in games. You guys are in there, I don’t
think anyone is happy about it or likes coming to the ballpark like that, everyone would prefer to win I think that goes without saying.”
Difference between wanting to win and knowing how to win?
“Certain people can say that, if our starters’ ERA is last or second last in baseball and our guys are battling back and losing 7-5, is it that? Or
is it, maybe, if we gave up four runs instead of eight. If we do comeback for that day, do we know how to win and the next day we forgot? It’s so subjective. That’s not to say you’re wrong but I think it’s so subjective it’s hard for anyone to pinpoint. There are things statistically you can pinpoint, clearly the rotation needs to be better, we can look back historically I don’t think there are teams that are last or second last (in ERA) that have had success. That’s fact, the other stuff is definitely open for debate, conversation and improvement.
“But if you’re middle of the pack, offensively we can get better we we’re not the worst in the league. The rotation, from a consistency standpoint in the offseason, that’s where we need to get better, we’ll go as far as our rotation gets us. We felt very good about the starters we had and it didn’t work out, health, performance, things like that. We’ve had really two guys be mainstays the other year, three have been up and down.”
See enough progress in young guys like Lawrie, Arencibia, Rasmus?
“In certain areas. I don’t know that you’re ever satisfied, guys can always get better. Even players that are good players, there are areas
they can get better. Everyone’s game can get better so there’s always room for improvement for every player.”
Among theories you’re kicking around, things you can measure, but are there intangibles or subjective issues that you can say you need?
“We’ve talked about that, we just don’t know how far to take it. I don’t want to get into (specifics) because one, it could be a lot of things
where people run back to players. That’s more on the brain storming side and I’ve been here in years past when players get a label of this or that and they go somewhere else and they do well. I think it’s a dangerous, slippery slope and you have to be careful. A lot of it comes down to production.
“It’s amazing how much our opinions of players change when the production changes. We had issues with certain parts of their game, and
then the production is a little better and now we kind of forget about the other issues. I don’t want to single out any of our players but you
guys can go back through it. It’s amazing how quickly our opinions change when the performance is better.”
Changing rotation next year…
“We’ve got four guys contractually right now in Dickey, Morrow, Buehrle and Happ. Then we have some of the young guys internally, Hutchison, Drabek, guys that have made starts this year Redmond, Rogers and so on. We’re always looking to add. I don’t know ultimately that it will be there, I don’t think we’re going to look to force anything but we’re always going to look to add. I think there’s improvement we can get from within as well. Brandon Morrow from 2011, what looked to be a 2012, I don’t think we were shocked with the way he was performing because I think we all knew it was in there.
“If Brandon Morrow comes back next year and pitches somewhat close to what he was in 2012 I don’t think anyone would be surprised because the ability is there. R.A. I think has been significantly better the last month or two … I could see him significantly better. Mark, I think, has been the same guy he has been his entire career.
“Ideally you go outside the organization and then your Hutchisons, Drabeks, Nolins, those guys are your sixth, seventh and eighth starters rather than, with all due respect, some of the Minor League free agents we had like a Ramon Ortiz, you’re not necessarily relying on those guys to come up.”
Do you feel closer to playoffs than this time last year?
“We’re not the same, obviously we weren’t playing well both times. I think there was more distractions last year. That’s not to say we’re enjoyingthe way we’re playing but the focus seems to be baseball related more this year than last year, I don’t need to rehash all of it, we weren’t playing well compounded with so many other stories, whether it was Yunel, so many other things going on. There were more distractions. I don’t know, I guess I don’t look at it that way. I guess I’d say, I still believe we have the makings of a good team that needs work, that needs changes, that needs health and we didn’t play the way we expected to. I think almost everyone across the game expected us to be a good team, to what level, I don’t know. But I think unanimously people thought it was going to be a good competitive team and it didn’t work out.”
So you’re saying you don’t think you need to make major changes?
“Depends on what you classify that as. We need to make changes, that goes without saying. How can we sit here with our win-loss record and say we’re going to maintain the status quo, that’s just not realistic. But what do you define that as, I don’t know. We’re going to need to make changes. What that is, we’ll take until the end of the season and into the offseason to make those determinations. But things change, even the last four-five weeks, we’ll find out more about some of these players, good and bad. We’ll know more about Brandon Morrow, Josh Johnson, Melky Cabrera. We’ll know more about the guys starting in the Minors.”
Thinking about bringing Johnson back?
“I haven’t thought about what the roster is going to be with guys that are pending free agents until we have more information. There’s a lean, there’s this, there’s that, we just don’t have enough information.”
One guy you didn’t mention was Romero, has he done anything this year to make you think he could be in the mix again?
“He’s had starts where you definitely believe it’s around the corner. He has spurts where it looks like it’s coming back and then he has had
starts where he didn’t perform as well. With him, you’re evaluating every single start he has and you’re hopeful … Morrow is the example in ’11 that we were waiting, waiting, and then it was the last three or four he was good. With Romero, we just need to see the consistency. He’s still young, he still has stuff, hopefully next Spring Training he comes in but I can’t project at this point what he’s going to do moving forward. We know the ability is there, we’ve all seen it, just consistency wise we haven’t seen it.”
But that’s pretty much exactly what you said in April or May. That has to be frustrating that the outlook hasn’t changed?
“I think everyone is hopeful and we just don’t have the answer on what will it take to get him back to where he was, to be that All-Star. I
don’t have doubts that the ability is there and that he is capable but to try and handicap it, put a timeframe on it, I just have no idea. I never would have predicted this to happen to begin with, even with how he began the season last year, 8-1, ERA was in the low fours, never would have predicted what would happen to him the last few months of the season. To try and do it now, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Will he be a September call-up?
“I don’t know yet. We’ve talked about a lot of September call-ups, obviously he’s a guy we’ve talked about, but we haven’t made any
determinations. We’re going to need a third guy behind the plate, certain guys coming back from injury for sure, Delabar and McGowan will be back. But we’ll see how they recover. The other guys that are down there, start to start and we’ll see how we’re doing and what our needs are. I don’t believe we’re going to call guys up to not play, it doesn’t make sense. If we think there’s innings or at-bats, those are the guys who will get called up.
He abandoned those mechanical changes during the middle of the season. Does that add to the disappointment?
“No, not at all. Like we told him, I think any mechanical changes were made were done in conjunction with him. We weren’t going to do anything he wasn’t comfortable doing,he was part of the process but I don’t think anyone said this is the fix. We know, exactly this, will get you back on track. Take three weeks, four weeks, let’s try this. That’s a lot of what happens, it’s trial and error. We don’t know why, we have theories and beliefs but we can’t really be convinced why things have happened. If he ultimately believes he has found something that works for him, and he feels good about it, and he believes in it, that’s what you have to go with. So the fact that he had that type of belief, absolutely, we encouraged him, do what you feel is best. You know yourself better than anybody else but at the same time he was struggling, was trying to find some answers, worked with him in 2012 and tried some things, skipped a start, tried a lot of things, just couldn’t get him going.
Any sense of next year’s payroll?
“I don’t know the number, it gets talked about in the offseason. I know we’re not going backwards but what ultimately the number is I don’t know. A lot of it will depend on what players become available. Last offseason it was a certain number, certain players became available and it changed. It’s always fluid.”
Jose Reyes is expected to make his return any day now and when he eventually does, the Blue Jays will find themselves faced with a very tough decision. Someone will have to become the odd-man out and the big question surrounding the team is whether it should keep an eight-man bullpen or go back to a four-man bench.
The ballclub entered play on Saturday afternoon having won nine consecutive games and after weeks of constant shuffling the roster was able to remain in tact for a decent amount of time.
It has long been assumed that infielder Munenori Kawasaki would be optioned to Triple-A Buffalo when Reyes is back but that’s not my pick and it’s very possible that my selection will surprise a lot of you.
Here’s a look at the candidates:
Munenori Kawasaki — He’s still the odds’-on favourite for a demotion despite having become somewhat of a cult figure in the city of Toronto. His skill set doesn’t translate particularly well to a back-up role because he isn’t very fast, has relatively average defence and doesn’t offer enough with the bat to become a strong candidate for pinch hit situations. But even still, if it were up to me I’d keep him around until Brett Lawrie returns from injury. Kawasaki could be used to give Reyes an occasional day off — which might be needed after a relatively short rehab stint — while also seeing some games at second base against right-handed pitching. The only way this could happen is if the Blue Jays go back to carrying just seven relievers. For the record, there’s no doubt in my mind that Kawasaki would have to go when Lawrie’s healthy but for now I think his spot on the team should be safe.
Emilio Bonifacio — Hard to envision a scenario where this ends up happening. Bonifacio has clearly struggled with the bat this season as evidenced by his .204 batting average but he has the ideal type of skill set to be a super utility player that every team likes to have. He has the ability to play the outfield and infield, which gives Gibbons some much-needed versatility off the bench. Perhaps just as important, Bonifacio would combine with Rajai Davis to give the Blue Jays a pair of stolen base threats off the bench that can be used in close games.
Maicer Izturis and Mark DeRosa — Neither player is going anywhere so there’s not much sense talking about this. Izturis has a three-year deal and picked up his level of play during the past month while DeRosa has proven to be valuable against left-handed pitching.
Neil Wagner — Wagner does have an option remaining on his contract so he could become a candidate to be sent down but it would make very little sense to do so. The sample size is still incredibly small but so far Wagner has proven to be a valuable arm that can be used in middle relief. He has allowed just one run in 11 innings this season and comes with an overpowering arm — even if his fastball is a little bit too straight at times. Wagner also has eight strikeouts compared to just three walks over that span and has pitched well enough to deserve a spot on the team.
Juan Perez — Perez is out of options on his contract and the only way he can be sent down is by being exposed to waivers. There doesn’t appear to be any doubt that another team would take a flyer on Perez if that ended up being the case. Just like Wagner, the sample size is still very small, but Perez has yet to allow an earned run in his 10 innings of work this season. He has struck out 10 while allowing just three walks and five hits over that span. Perhaps most important, though, is his ability to throw multiple innings at a time. In order to be the final reliever in a bullpen, it’s important that pitcher can be stretched out when that type of need arises. All five of Perez’s appearances this season have been for more than one inning.
And finally my pick for who the odd-man out should be…
Dustin McGowan — This wouldn’t be a popular choice for many Blue Jays fans but there are a lot of factors at play here. McGowan has appeared in just three games this season and as yet to earn a defined role in the bullpen — he’s arguably the only reliever that falls into that category if Perez can be considered the long guy. The club has no choice but to monitor his overall workload after shoulder surgeries limited him to just 21 innings from 2009-12. It’s true that McGowan has appeared in back-to-back games this season but it was in an emergency situation and it’s something the club would like to avoid more often than not.
The problem here is that McGowan is out of options on his contract and would have to clear waivers before being assigned to a Minor League team. Personally, that’s a risk I’d be willing to take. McGowan is earning $1.5 million this season and has an additional $1.5 million coming his way in 2014 with a $500,000 buyout on his 2015 $4-million option. It’s certainly possible another team would take a gamble and pick up that remaining salary but even if that were to happen I don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world. It would cut a little bit of salary and more importantly open up a valuable roster spot. There’s also at least a decent chance McGowan goes unclaimed.
If the Blue Jays were in a rebuilding mode I’d have no problem at all with keeping McGowan around. It appears his days as a starting pitcher have come to an end but in theory he could still become a valuable reliever. The problem is, in order to find his previous form, McGowan needs more consistent work than he’s getting right now in Toronto. Another assignment to Buffalo would be the perfect scenario to be put on a regular throwing schedule and the organization can take an extended look at his current abilities. It’s just simply not possible to experiment like that at the big-league level when every game is important to getting back into the race. If another team steps in and takes McGowan first, then so be it. McGowan could still be good, but this isn’t Chris Carpenter all over again.
There’s been a lot of talk about how the premise for your program came from tennis and in particular how those type of athletes don’t experience the same type of injuries do. Can you explain the connection between the two sports and how it helped inspire the program?
“Yeah, basically when you look at a tennis serve and a pitcher throwing a baseball, biomechanically the shoulder and body are doing about the same thing and tennis players do a lot more serves than baseball players throw and their injury rate isn’t even close to what baseball players are. From there, looking at it, and basically because the tennis player doesn’t let go of the racket there’s a smooth transition for the arm because the weight remains the same.
“Also, the strength is built on the back side and the front side because it’s the same amount of weight on the acceleration and the deceleration that takes place. As opposed to throwing a baseball, the decelerator muscles don’t get worked because they let go of the ball so in a baseball situation it’s missing five ounces where the acceleration has five ounces.”
When did this program start?
“It started four years ago and obviously in the beginning it was everybody doing the same thing like you would do with any testing procedures. Once we saw a group of people improve and then another group of people not improve, for me, that doesn’t make sense as an instructor and wanting to help people improve.
“So we started looking at the group of kids that improved and then the group that didn’t improve as much when all of them were working just as hard — because I was monitoring it – and there were some trends that started showing up in the testing phase. I started tweaking the program off of the original trend and from there it became very individualized in the testing process so we can get to the specific needs the player has so everybody can see improvements when they’re doing the velocity phase of the program.”
I know you can’t disclose what goes into the exact testing process but generally speaking how is the program individualized for each athlete after that initial work is complete?
“What happens is from the test, the program is designed on which balls they need, how many reps they need to do and how much recovery time they need in the program. All of that goes into the equation, obviously for the youth, age, height, weight all of those things are constituted in there as well because they haven’t matured yet.
“For the pro athlete, some of the ones that are just getting in, they still have some maturation, but the guys at the big-league level there’s not a whole lot of maturation that’s going to take place physically. So we then go into age, how long they’ve been playing professional baseball and taking a look at the amount of workload they’ve had throughout their life and career.”
On his relationship with Steve Delabar…
“Well first, I had never met Steve until after he had been in the big leagues with Seattle, we had never really laid eyes on eachother. The only thing I knew about him was what his bubblegum picture looked like which was kind of cool (editors note — They did all of their initial correspondence over the phone). For me and him, it was one of those, when I was talking with him in the beginning his dream wasn’t to be a Major League pitcher anymore it was to help kids out.
“But when he started going through it, his arm started feeling good and when he got back to his original level I think his head started clicking, ‘Alright my arm is back, I’m okay, the elbow’s not going to break, everything’s good, let’s see if this is actually a velocity program now’ and I think he took it to another gear.
“That’s the one thing about the program, it works, but it takes some effort into it. It’s not like you can take a magic pill and be done with it. There’s some work that has to be put into it this and he got to that point, he said, ‘alright let’s see what happens’ and went at it in a completely different gear and then the numbers started getting to the point where I was blown away, he was blown away.
“There were times that we were talking on the phone as he’s going through the program and even when he was getting on the mound he had me on speaker, we were talking and going through everything. It was invaluable for me because I was able to learn from — at that time — a former professional athlete to get much better feedback than you’d get from a
15- or 16-year-old kid.
“Obviously the program is today where it is with the Blue Jays and the amateurs and the rest because of his story. I couldn’t ask for a better ambassador for the program both on and off the field. Whether Stevie likes it or not, me and him are linked. I like it, I hope he does.”
Delabar has said that if it wasn’t for this program there’s no chance he’d be pitching in the Major Leagues right now. I’m assuming there’s an opposite kind of sentiment that you share, that the program wouldn’t be where it is because if not for Delabar and his ability to bring a lot of awareness to the program?
“Correct, there’s no doubt about it. It’s kind of like a marriage. What the program did for him and then what he’s done for me, it’s a give and take. Obviously I definitely wouldn’t be at the level of awareness with what people are doing and talking about the program without him because let’s be honest his story is miraculous. A lot of that can attributed to Stevie himself and the type of person he is but for me to play a role in it and how he got there is phenomenal.”
Are you surprised at how fast this program has grown? I’m sure there must have been a wow factor over the past year and obviously to the point where you were hired by the Blue Jays as a consultant…
“Wow, probably doesn’t even put it into perspective. For me, this is a godsend. It’s one of those things where I don’t think I could have ever imagined how this has taken off. I saw some success at the youth level, college level, with Stevie but then the way it’s taken off and the people that have supported the program, the only way I can explain that is thank god.”
In talking with Delabar, he’s mentioned about not being surprised that Brett Cecil’s velocity has increased after using the program. Is that the same type of reaction you have to these types of stories as well?
“For me, now, that’s the expectation. At the beginning, it was, ‘wow, that’s awesome.’ That’s what we were looking for but now I go into it with the expectation of the player getting that. When I met Brett and realized the work ethic he had, I knew it was going to happen.
“I think the big thing is, whenever you’re doing something new, do you really believe it’s going to work? When you take medicine do you really believe it’s going to work? When guys really buy in, go after it and believe it’s going to help, it works. How hard they work with the program really makes a difference.
“So they get in there and really go at it and you get a good return on time and investment. If you go in and just go through the motions, yeah you’re going to get a little better but you’re not going to get a ton.
“From my perspective I’ve flipped it around, the people who go into the program you have to put in the work and they’ve put in the work so they’re able to perform. It goes back to the situation where there’s a marriage there. The work ethic plus the program equals results. If the work ethic falls short then the program’s going to fall short.”
A lot of the talk regarding this process is about the potential for increased velocity. But it seems to me that the potential for maintenance and improving one’s ability to bounceback after an outing is just as important, if not more.
“To be honest with you, it’s called a velocity program because people will read it because it says velocity. Velocity occurs, it’s a marketing situation, we know velocity’s going to happen but the first thing that the program was founded on was creating strength or equilateral bilateral strength between the front side and the back side so that the shoulder works better and more efficiently.
“When the shoulder’s stronger and healthier and works more efficiently, the recovery rate goes way down because there’s not going to be as much damage done to one side or the other. For a Major League pitcher out of the bullpen it’s huge because they’re able to go out and feel the best every time out. For a professional athlete that’s what you want to feel
so that you can go out at your highest level every time your name’s called.
“I think there’s a psychological element to it as well because if you don’t feel great you sometimes won’t go out and perform great. The bounceback is also huge for starters, I think it gives them an opportunity to feel better between their starts so they can throw a
little better side, they want to work on their breaking ball or something like that during their side session, they’re able to do that, feel better and get more out of it because they don’t have to recover the way they would have prior to doing the program.”
You were brought in to talk to the Blue Jays players last offseason and obviously there’s a lot of players currently in the organization that are taking part in this program. Would you be able to talk about the relationship you now have with the team with everything advancing to the point where you’ve been hired?
“First thing is, the Blue Jays are a first-class organization. I’ve spent time dealing with other clubs as well. Obviously the Blue Jays were the ones who put the gas pedal down on it, but I’ve talked to a number of other clubs and organizations.
“The thing I’ve noticed about the Blue Jays is how passionate they are about the players, which I thought from a business standpoint wouldn’t be the case in pro ball. But they want the players to succeed all the way through. The other thing I noticed was their willingness to ask questions and ultimately embrace the program. They didn’t go into this blindly like ‘we saw this work with Delabar so let’s go out and do it.’
“There were a lot of conversations with the brass from top to bottom. When they decided to go with it I was super excited and they’ve been nothing but great, opened their arms up and
have asked me to help in any way that I can. I’m pretty excited and on top of that, the medical and training staff they have and the pitching coaches, they’re top notch, their information is phenomenal and what they’re doing with the guys is phenomenal.
“The one thing I want to make sure that people understand in all of this, the program is just going to be in addition to all of the great stuff they’re doing, and they’re doing wonderful things. This is just a small little pepperoni, it’s not even a piece, just a small little pepperoni, that’s put on the pizza and they’ve got a great pizza already it’s just one more topping that’s
being put on.”
What type of role will you have as a consultant for the organization?
“Basically I’m here for them to use me however they want to use me. They’ve hired me so I’m working for them in any capacity that they see I can bring value, I’d certainly go in and help in that situation.”
This is probably an understatement, but you must be excited to become associated with a Major League ballclub in an official capacity?
“Absolutely. I was one of those kids at five years old that wanted to put on a Major League Baseball uniform. As I was going through it, the dream stayed alive until I hurt my shoulder and when that happened the dream kind of died. As the program started going, started dealing with some professional athletes, good things started happening and the dream was revived again. I’m truly blessed that I’m able to fulfill a dream, to be a part of a Major League organization.
“The dream’s still fulfilled, in a different capacity, but in this capacity I love it to death. Being able to help guys, that’s been my dream for the 20-plus years to help players and now I’m able to help some of the elite, the best the world has to offer and it’s a dream come true.”
Considering your past injury, was finding a way to help pitchers limit injuries always your mission in regards to creating a program like this?
“Absolutely. Shoulder injuries, arm injuries, in baseball it happens across every organization across baseball, it happens across every level. If there’s anything that I can do in this whole quest to make shoulders healthier, that’s why we were trying out the things we were trying out.
“Is the program going to prevent injuries? Yeah, I’d like to think it’s going to prevent some. Is it going to abolish injuries? No, it’s not. The sport and the way it’s played, I don’t care what sport it is, injuries happen. I guess my quest is to limit the amount and severity and if the injuries do occur trying to get the players back to where they were before or perhaps even a bit better.”
On his reaction to Evans being hired by the Blue Jays as a consultant…
“It’s great, he’s been a big part of the throwing program and it’s good to see that it’s paying off for him.”
What’s your reaction when you hear Evans and other people saying that the program wouldn’t be where it is today if not for your ability to help promote it at the professional level?
“To hear that kind of stuff is just what you hear. We’re here today doing what we do, doing what we love and to see him benefit from it’s really good to hear.”
Where would you be if it wasn’t for this program?
“I wouldn’t be here. I definitely wouldn’t be here. I was 27-years-old at the time when I started the program and guys like that don’t get a shot if the velocity number’s not there. That radar gun is everything that got me here.”
On the number of athletes participating in the program having increased so much over the past year…
“There are more guys getting involved with it because they see other guys doing it and they see okay it’s not just one guy that benefits from it, it actually helps other guys too. So you start to see the program actually start to work with other guys and other guys get the benefits as well.”
On the program being as much about maintenance/bounceback ability compared to just a velocity increase…
“Well the velocity side is the selling point. If you throw that out there people are going to buy into it but it’s a shoulder strengthening program and there’s also arm speed included with it. But the main thing is to balance out the shoulder and get it strong.”
You obviously saw an increase in velocity when you began the program? Where did you hit on the radar gun prior to your injury and going on the program?
“Absolutely. I was probably 89-92, maybe at best. I think one time I hit a 94 and then after the program I’ve been 93-98. I attribute the whole thing to the program.
“For me it was more, I want to do this because I was coaching high school and I wanted to teach the program to the kids. I wanted us to have the best arms in the area and I had heard these crazy numbers so I had to find out for myself to find out how the program works.
“If I’m going to teach a product I want to know how the program works because if I’m teaching a product I want to know how the product works. I started doing it, sure enough the velocity started going up and I gave it another shot.”
Do you feel like the Blue Jays are getting ahead of the curve by having so many players embrace the program?
“With the knowledge that we have coming in with my side and the outlets that I have to go to get the information quickly our organization has definitely taken a step ahead as far as taking another way to get healthier arms and changing things up from the norm. Everybody that goes through it definitely benefits from it somehow based on how the program is tailored to them.”
Have you been surprised at all by Cecil’s increased velocity this season?
“What he’s doing now is not a surprise to me. Some people are going ‘wow’ but to me I expected that and anybody that contributes the time and effort into the program is going to get those results too.”
Do you know enough about the program now that you do everything on your own or is there still a lot of dialogue with Evans?
“I definitely have to refer to him on a lot of things because I don’t know the program through and through. There are some things that I can answer quickly because I’ve been through it. I wanted to teach it, I wanted to learn it. But I have to refer to him on some stuff and some stuff he wouldn’t tell me because it’s his program so I have to definitely go back to him and do the best I can, answer the questions that I need to but at the same time I have to go and then maybe come back to it later.”
What’s your reaction to Evans being hired as a consultant by the Blue Jays?
“It’s great. Obviously I did the program. All of the things that I’ve done, tube work, cuff weights, whatever, nothing has made me feel as good as doing the program. We could start getting more and more guys to do it and getting healthy results from it I think it’s going to be great and I absolutely think that’s going to happen.”
There’s been a stereotype about this program in the past and how it might not actually work. Do you feel like that’s being disproven as more and more pitchers embrace it?
“For sure. I think, like all people growing up around baseball, I was told you don’t ever throw a weighted ball. You just flick the wrist and that’s it. You don’t do anything with the shoulder, elbow or anything like that. Obviously that’s all been disproven and weighted balls aren’t
dangerous as long as you’re doing it right. That’s what Jamie is for, he gives everybody an individualized program based on what their velocities are, he has ways to figure out what kind of workload they can handle.”
Have you been surprised by just how much your velocity increased after doing the program?
“No, that’s kind of where I was expecting to be, right where I am. I think there’s still more in there. Delabar he came to us and he was 93- 95 and I’ve seen him some games he’ll be sitting 95, most games he sits 95, punches 96 and as high as 97. Who knows in the offseason, my program will change, Delabar’s said he has never done anything the same in an offseason that he did the offseason before so hopefully I can get a new program and search for more.”
Velocity aside, it seems like a big benefit to this program is the potential to have an increased ability to bounceback strong after outings?
“It gets my attention everyday on how my arm feels. There hasn’t been a time in whole season when my arm has felt 100%. It might be a little tight but there hasn’t been anything out of the normal and it exceeds everything I’ve felt in all my years of playing baseball. It’s unbelievable how it feels the next day after I pitch.”
How often did you consult with Evans during the offseason while doing the program?
“We met eachother once when I did my testing and that was it. I think at the beginning, it was almost like an every day thing for the first week but once I got the hang of it, it was like once a week, then every two weeks. I think there was one time in the offseason when I told him I was feeling, he told us he wanted us to tell him where we felt the discomfort after doing the full workload, and then that way he could tell us where the weak links are in our arm, I think it was either my tricep or bicep, he said okay, take this down, increase this, take that, take this, whatever, and I never had another problem since.”
Do you feel like the Blue Jays are getting ahead of the curve by having Evans as a consultant for the organization?
“I think it’s a great move by the Blue Jays to do that. You see Dustin, unfortunately he has been scuffling with injuries for so long, and then they put these weighted balls in his hand, does the workout with Jamie personally and he goes to Triple-A, arm feels great. He comes up here and throws back-to-back days, if that’s not a testament to how effective it is I don’t know what is.”
On his relationship with Evans…
“He talked to the team back in Baltimore last season and then I actually had lunch with him in Baltimore this year and kind of talked about the program. Sometimes I use Steve a little bit just with him being the voice of Jamie and then I actually called him in Chicago to keep it
fresh and maybe give me some new ideas as to the way help the shoulder.”
You’re obviously in a different situation than Delabar and Cecil because you started the program once the season began. So, how has the program worked for you so far?
“I think Jamie’s still a little conservative with me because I started it in the season and I think you make your gains in the offseason. I don’t want to misspeak on the program but I think it’s an aggressive offseason program and I think for me being new to it, I think it’s more on the conservative side because I have the potential to pitch every day and that I’m still not necessarily 100%. (Evans) being away, he doesn’t want to re-invent the wheel with me and then have something turn for the worse.”
Have you noticed a difference yet?
“It’s a little hard to tell. I notice it more in my catch, you get a little more backspin, obviously that’s a result of the arm speed. I haven’t necessarily seen a radar reading spike but hopefully that’s on its way. What I’m doing, I don’t know how the full program is, but I
think it’s more of an arm maintenance as opposed to the four miles per hour gain that maybe others are on.”
So you’re planning to stick with the program this offseason I take it?
“Yeah, I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to the offseason with the program. I want to see what it’s all about, it’s kind of one of those nothing to lose. I don’t think I’m going to lose any velocity, if you get a couple more and you get a shoulder feeling like I assume Delabar’s
and Cecil’s arms are feeling, how could you not want to test it out and try it and hopefully the gains are similar to theirs and the shoulder feels as good as it looks like theirs feels.”
ARLINGTON — Jamie Evans has helped a countless number of pitchers over the years with his Velocity Program and it has now resulted in a job with the Blue Jays.
Toronto officially hired Evans this week as a consultant to the organization. He is one of the originators of the weighted-ball program which has been used by the likes of Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil, Casey Janssen and most recently Dustin McGowan.
Evans has worked with a lot of athletes from other organizations as well but the Blue Jays appear to be getting ahead of the curve by securing a position for him within the organization.
“I’m excited to join the Blue Jays, they have an unbelievably knowledgeable staff who care about their players and I’m hoping to help in any way that I can,” Evans told MLB.com
The program involves the use of weighted balls to strengthen muscles around the shoulder. As part of the process, pitchers use various holds and also go through their throwing motion without actually releasing the ball.
The workout routine seems to have the ability to increase a pitcher’s velocity while it is believed to help avoid injuries as well. Cecil began using the program during the offseason and went from throwing in the mid-to-high 80s to now consistently reaching 93 mph.
Delabar brought a lot of attention to the program when he credited it with helping him return from a fractured right elbow. Toronto’s right-handed reliever was out of the game and working as a substitute teacher in Kentucky when he began using the program with student athletes he was helping coach.
The strength and velocity returned and the next thing Delabar knew he was being asked to workout for the Mariners. He eventually signed a contract and is now one of the more reliable relievers in the American League as evidenced by his 1.85 ERA in 34 innings this season.
“As far as my professional baseball career, it was basically over,” Delabar said earlier this year. “There wasn’t much I could do at 26, 27 years old. ‘Hey, guys, I’ve never been above high [Class] A. Do you want to give me a Major League job?’ It doesn’t work like that.”
“I did the program because I was going to teach the program. With a broken elbow, I didn’t know if I was going to play again. I just wanted to teach this program and help these kids at our academy, and sure enough, it helped me.”
Evans has tailored his program over the years to each athlete’s individual needs. There is an offseason workout program and a different one that can be used during the season which serves as more of a method for maintenance and recovery.
For a while there was a stigma associated with the program that it might be some sort of fad but that has been begun to change in a hurry. With more success stories continuing to pour in from around the league it opened the eyes of a lot of pitchers, including Janssen.
“The toll of a Major League pitcher compared to high school teenagers is different, but after I saw some results from some friends, I thought, ‘What the heck?” Janssen recently said.
“I wasn’t going to do it initially, and then obviously with the shoulder injury, you’re looking for ways to feel better. From watching some of these guys play catch and how good they feel day in and day out, you’d be crazy if it didn’t interest you.”
The Blue Jays’ personal connection to Evans began in earnest last season when he was brought into the clubhouse to explain his program. That was what originally piqued the interest of Cecil while former Toronto manager John Farrell had his sons begin the work this offseason as well.
Other players who currently use the program include Rangers right-hander Jason Frasor, top college prospect Tyler Beede and countless others.
(Article will be updated early Sunday afternoon with today’s reaction of Blue Jays pitchers on the news)
Melky Cabrera will make his highly anticipated return to San Francisco when the Blue Jays open a two-game series at AT&T Park on Tuesday night. The reaction from Giants fans should be interesting to say the least considering Cabrera was San Francisco’s best player until he was suspended shortly after the All-Star Break because of a positive drug test.
The ensuing months became somewhat of a soap opera as Cabrera refused to talk about the suspension with San Francisco reporters and never spoke directly to the fanbase about what happened. He essentially vanished overnight and many of the Giants players have gone on record over the past several months about how they used to be close but he no longer returns their messages.
Perhaps in part because of the way things ended, or because the Giants didn’t want the distraction, San Francisco opted not to reinstate Cabrera after his suspension ended during the postseason. He’s only spoke about the Giants on a handful of occasions since then but he held a brief scrum with reporters on Sunday afternoon in San Diego in advance of the upcoming series.
Here’s the Q+A from that scrum with the help of interpreter Luis Rivera:
On going back to San Francisco…
“They treated me really well when I played there and they gave me an opportunity to play every day and I had a great time playing for them.”
“I don’t worry about that, it’s up to the fans, it’s nothing I have control of. I’m just going to play the game. If they decide to boo that’s fine, if they decide to cheer that’s fine with me too. But I’m not going to worry about that, I’m just going to focus on the game and try to help my team win.”
Surprised you weren’t added to postseason roster…
“That was their decision. I was ready after I was suspended, I went down and got ready just in case they needed me. They didn’t need me at the time, they won the championship and I was very happy and glad that they did it with or without me.”
“No, I was fine. I was ready to go but it was their decision. They decided not to use me, nothing I can do about that. I was ready but that was their decision.”
Looking forward to going back to the city…
“I’m going to be in the hotel to just get ready for the two games.”
Slow start in SF and how that compares to current Blue Jays team…
“I hope that’s the case. We have a lot of good players here, as good as the guys in San Francisco and I feel like these guys are going to start getting on and we’re going to finish strong before the year’s over.”
Legs causing issues…
“Everyday I’m feeling a little bit better.”
Biggest difference in play between April and May…
“It’s going to be a long season, every day I continue to play I’ve felt better and better. Games and at-bats are making a difference for me right now.”
“Anywhere in the lineup they use me, I’m fine with me. John is the manager and whatever he needs I’m fine with it.”
On his early struggles with the knuckleball that included three passed balls…
“I think especially early we were both kind of jacked up. It was just a little different at the beginning but then settled down and felt comfortable again. He was throwing his pitches and we were working well but I think early, with the adrenaline going on, it was dancing in, out, up, down, so that makes it tough.”
More on difficulties of catching a knuckeball…
“If you talk to any knuckleball catcher, guys that caught a knuckleball, it’s going to happen. I think early, too, I was a little bit straight up with him and once I made a turn in my stance I kind of adjusted to him a little bit better. It was more consistent in the zone. But that kind of pitch you just have to brush it off and go to the next one. After that, like I said, we were able to settle down, we felt a lot better and I felt real comfortable behind the plate.”
On Dickey’s knuckleball compared to the spring…
“Early it was dancing a ton and I think maybe in and out of the zone more than it has been. There was a lot more balls than he usually throws, usually he throws a lot more strikes. I think it could be the adrenaline on both sides but it was really darting every way possible and made it tough.”
On whether it’s a frustrating pitch to catch….
“Frustrating wouldn’t be the word for it. I think it’s a challenge. First thing that they told me was, listen, you’re going to miss balls, you’re going to miss balls with guys on third base and they’re going to score, and you have to put it behind you. Because there are going to be pitches that he throws that no one could have caught unless you have a fish net that’s for large fish, it’s not going to be an easy ball to catch. That’s the fun of catching it, I think it’s a challenge and once you’re able to settle in and stuff like that, it was a lot easier. Definitely early the ball was pretty tough.”
On difference between catching Dickey and other pitchers on the staff…
“It’s a night and day difference. He’s a guy that you have to wait until the last second. You can’t anticipate where the ball is going to go because you don’t know where the ball is going to go. Guys that have caught Dickey before a long time, the guys who caught Wakefield for a long time, they say the same thing. You never know where it’s going to go and you really just have to try and be as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately early on it was tough but then we were able to settle in.”
On catching relievers after handling Dickey…
“It looks a lot harder. You change your glove, you change your stance back to your normal stance and you definitely have to make an adjustment. But it’s part of it and I don’t think it’s really tough, it’s just making the adjustment. I’m sure for (the hitters) it throws off their timing and the good thing is tomorrow you back that up with a guy who is low-to-mid 90s and it’s going to tough to hit.”
More adjustments while catching Dickey or just the one about opening your stance behind the plate?
“Just that one. Henry was like, ‘hey man I see you more square than usual and try to open up a little bit more.’ Right away, that inning, I opened up and I was a lot more free. That could be part of it for me, just whatever the excitement, you don’t think about things like that, you’re really trying to concentrate. You creep, creep, creep to where you feel normal and then you notice, okay I understand, and once I turned it opened it up and made it free again. Those are just in-game adjustments you’re going to have to do and everyone is going to do them, especially as you get more experience, you learn to make those adjustments.”
When did that conversation take place? Between the second and third inning?
“It was after the third inning actually. The next three innings I felt great with him and I think that made a big difference. As soon as you open up your right leg, you open up, so you’re more free with the ball instead of if you’re straight on it’s a little tougher to adjust. He settled in, too, and really started throwing strikes consistently which is what he usually is.”
On the early crowd reaction which included some boos…
“I’m not worried about that. It’s definitely easy to play from the stands. That’s being a fan, that’s part of being a fan. There’s no hard feelings in that. Hey, I want to catch it too. They’re screaming, ‘catch the ball’ I want to catch it too. I’ve been trying, you know what I mean? I’m not trying to miss it, it’s a tough pitch. It is what it is, you shake it off and you try to do your best. No one is out there trying to muffle any balls or any of that stuff. It doesn’t really bother you, you just know that’s part of it.”
On the difficulty of losing Opening Day in front of a sold-out crowd…
“What’s tough is that we’re not going to go undefeated this year. Going into it, I thought we had a chance to be the first 162-game winner. But, you know, sometimes you have to look at yourself in the mirror and realize, hey maybe we can go 161-1. So, that’s the plan now. Listen, there’s a lot of games in this season and you definitely can’t be up and down in this game. You have to be as even keeled and consistent as possible. We know what we have in this clubhouse, just go out there, have fun and play. If we do that, at the end of the year, then we can talk about what’s going on. Unfortunately my dream of 162-0 is not going to happen.”
On Masterson’s outing….
“I think the real big pitch was the bases loaded. Lindy hits that ball square on the screws and it turned into a double play and I think he settled in after that. You have to tip your hat to him, he threw some turbo sinkers. He has a really good sinker, he was able to throw the four-seamer for strikes, flip in the slider to try and get people off the fastball. But he’s a good pitcher for a reason and he did a good job.”
Anthopoulos media scrum:
On the decision to option Romero…
“After today’s game we sat down and talked for quite a bit. Myself, Tony LaCava, Pete Walker and obviously John. Ricky was better today, there’s no doubt about it and he’s making strides. You can see it, his changeup was so much better, everything was better but he was not there yet. The more we thought about it, could we have started with him? Sure. Ultimately it may have come in Toronto because he has made strides here but if he’s not ready and he’s not as sharp as he needs to be, we need more time.”
“We thought about where we would send him, we ultimately decided, the other affiliates it’s cold, rain outs, we want to make sure he gets his work in. We’re going to continue to work with him down here where it’s warm, where can get his work in, and really just continue to get the direction of the plate because he’s making strides. Like we told him, we just ran out of time in getting him to where he needs to be.”
On how Romero took the news…
“Ricky, if you ask him, the bar is set so high for him because he has that type of ability. If you ask him, Ricky are you at your best right now? He knows he isn’t. Even if he’s not at his best, he’s still really good but he’s also working on things too. We did this a few springs ago with him, we were able to get it going in time for him to make the team right at the end and that was the hope again that he was going to get it right back at the end and we weren’t going to have to look back.
“Ultimately, the more we talked about it, we saw a lot of good things and he was fine but it’s not the Ricky we know he can be. We can try to just keep going, and when you’re at the big-league level it’s hard to continue working on things, or take a little more time, get him back to where he can be and from his standpoint, he understood, he’s a pro. That goes without saying. It’s always a tough conversation but he knows, he’s not exactly as sharp as he needs to be and he knows it’s going to take a little bit more time.”
Did Happ’s performance this spring impact the decision…
“No. That’s not to take anything away from J.A., this was about Ricky. Obviously we’ve seen what he has done, take away last year, three years in a row he was a horse for us, 225 innings, 2.90 ERA and everything he has done. He has been outstanding. It’s about getting him right and getting him straight. If we didn’t know what his ceiling was and what he can be, it’d be totally different. It’s about getting him right and obviously the sooner the better for us.”
Romero’s outing on Tuesday the final straw?
“No matter what, the entire time, things change in Spring Training so fast. Each year, I’m to the point where I’m almost not even going to watch the first few weeks of spring. You almost just have the watch the last 10 days or so. We sat down, we still have some other moves to make, you’re talking about the roster all of the time but today was one of those things, spring is done for all of the starters, these guys have pretty much all pitched and what’s the best thing to do. We weren’t going to make any evaluations until everyone was done.”
More on Romero’s results…
“It’s not results as much as we see some things he needed to change. You talk about direction and lines to the plate, it’s basically your balance going to home plate and where your front foot lands. It sounds easy but it just takes time when you start repeating it. He has done this before, he just has a tendency to do it. It’s one thing if it’s results, you’re just not getting results and you just have to continue to pitch and get out of it, we have a plan for him.
“We know what we need to address it’s ust not coming as fast as we wanted it to come. It takes time. It could be the next start, all of a sudden it comes, it’s outstanding, he’s sharp, or it’s two starts from now, or three starts from now. He definitely took a step in the right direction today, it’s getting better, he just needs more time.”
Timeline for when Romero will be back….
“We have to get him back to where he was. We haven’t even gotten (to that point). This isn’t one of those things, we need to get him right mechanically. How long that takes, I don’t know. It could be very fast, it could take a little longer, we’re not putting a timeframe on it. Once we get him right mechanically, I think the results are going to follow.
“We’re all going to know and we’re all going to see it. You can go out and throw shutout innings but you can watch certain things, it can be line drives, it can be deep counts, you know someone’s not right mechanically. The performance might have been better than the line or the performance is not as good as the line. For him, it comes down to how does the stuff look, how does the command of the stuff look and how is his balance going towards the plate.”
Romero’s role? Is he now the sixth starter? Is there a place for him on this team?
“I have no idea where we’re going to be at. Obviously we have to move forward but I have no idea what the roster’s going to look like, what’s going to happen. Obviously if he gets back to where he can be, he’s one of the best starters in the game and I think he ends up being on anybody’s team at that point, certainly ours.
“But without trying to forecast what happens a week from now, three weeks from now, a month from now, it’s impossible to say. But I can’t wait for that day to come, when he’s ready and he’s back to what he was.”
Facing low level A-ballers and what can be gained…
“It’s not the results, it’s is he balanced. I know I brought up the example last year against the Yankees he was really good, I remember the second inning against Philadelphia earlier this spring he was really good. He was right where he needs to be, when he’s doing that, he’s on, he’s there. The problem is we’re getting it in spurts, we need to get it over six innings, seven innings, eight innings and then to do it over again each time. It’s there because he is showing it in flashes. We just need to get him back to the point where he’s doing it night in and night out, start to start, and then he’ll be back.”
Progression through the minors, will he go through every level?
“I don’t know. We haven’t gotten to that point. We’re open to anything. We’ll just see how things go but we haven’t gotten that far. Right now, if this was June or July, I don’t think he’d be in Florida. The problem is, is that it is cold, we miss a lot of games and also it’s a good time to continue working on some things especially with the Florida State League, that’s our affiliate.
” If he needs time to work on things, he can throw more bullpens, more sides, doesn’t matter if you’re playing short. For whatever reason if he needs to throw more sides you can work on things. That’s a big part of it, but we may change course a week from now.”
But eventually he’ll need to face better competition…
“Absolutely. But there have been times where we’ve had guys that have some success and you can call them up at any time, from anywhere. It certainly can be from here.”
On whether outing versus Pirates could have changed the club’s mind…
“Obviously if he was right back to where he was, Ricky and his delivery was right, sure, he’s outstanding. We were hopeful that at any time he was going to be right and we were going to continue until we ran out of time, continue to work with him and believe in him. We certainly do, we just need a little more time. If spring had gone on a week or two more maybe things change.”
Who will work with him in Dunedin…
“Dane Johnson is going to be the point man and obviously Rick Langford has worked with him in the past. They’ll be the guys to work with him day in and day out.”
Were Romero’s knees a factor…
“Obviously we’ve talked about that as well and we don’t see any correlation. It’s as much balance as anything else so it’s not drive, it’s not power, it’s none of that. Way back in 2008 or 2009, he was doing a lot of drills because he would spin off and fall off at times and throw a little more across his body and cut himself off. That’s your direction to the plate. When you’ve been doing something for so long, it just takes time to get back into a routine and do it inning by inning.”
All physical or is it mental as well…
“You can see when he’s right. I even find there are times when he’s going through his delivery and you can say okay, even before the ball crosses home plate you can tell that was good. It just takes time. We have to get him right.”
Comparable to Halladay?
“I don’t think so at all. I wasn’t here but that was a total overhaul, arm slot, delivery, this is more lower half and getting his body direction on line. It’s something we have done with him in the past and he just reverted back a little bit.”
Spent all winter and spring saying he’s in rotation. Does this affect your credibility in clubhouse?
“No, because Ricky knows. I can easily ask Ricky, and I did, are you exactly where you need to be? And he said no. In a lot of ways you’re doing this together. We can continue and you can get by, and do what you’re doing, he made it through six months last year, he made every start, he battled, but we knew he wasn’t at his best. We can sit idly by and just let him continue to just grind through it or we can get him right. I think that’s ultimately what it came down to.
“This isn’t about results as much as, obviously, the delivery impacts the results. He knows he has something he needs to address and fix and he’ll continue to work on it. It’d be different if he didn’t agree he had to make the changes. He completely agrees, he said I know I have to make these changes and I know I have to get them down. He’s working on something that he hasn’t completed yet. We just didn’t have enough time to get him to complete it. He’s certainly on his way, he’s making progress and he’s starting to get close.”
Expectations on team speed up this decision to send him down?
“No, because ultimately, we’ve said this many times, it’s hard to work on things at the big-league level. If there are no changes to be made and you just need to get through some things, fight through slumps, but when you need to make mechanical changes whether you’re a pitcher or position player, it’s hard to do that in an environment that’s results oriented.
“If we need him to throw five changeups in a row down here, it’s hard to do that against the New York Yankees because he needs to feel that extension on his front side just to make sure he gets it. It’s hard to do that when the games matter so ultimately what has to happen, we need to get these three outs, do whatever you can do to get those three outs.
Last week’s Minor League start, was that when this move was really considered strongly?
“You can save a lot of breath and a lot of conversations when you give yourself more time because your opinions can change. The one thing we knew was that he was working on things. How did he look? ‘Great, it’s coming.’ And that’s it. It’s now a matter of carrying over his bullpens into games and that takes time. It’d be one thing if Pete Walker and Pat Hentgen were coming back and saying it’s not coming back in the bullpen. But at times they’d come back and say, he looked great today … Is this the day it’s going to finally come? But we’ve been down this path in 2009. We just needed to stick with it, be patient, and we were finally rewarded with it. This time, it’s going to take a little more time.”
“We did it together. Ultimately, it falls on me to make the decision but Gibby and I ultimately make the decision together but Pete is very involved and obviously Tony LaCava’s in there too. We talk about it and say, where do we think he’s at. We talk about things that we saw and you’re starting to take the entire body of work. But really it comes down to delivery wise, is this the right thing. We debated it. Is he better off being in Toronto and is it going to come there? So, that’s part of the discussion.
Was it unanimous?
“Yes. Ultimately you come to that but it takes time. We were talking about some other spots on the roster, you start talking and you go one way. Then after five minutes of talking it out, we went a completely opposite way. Guys we thought were going to be on it, all of a sudden we’re going to change it. We’re going to sleep on things but that’s how quickly things change and that’s why you have to give yourself as much time as you can and you can’t make snap moves.”
Happ’s performance make this easier?
“I don’t look at it that way. This is about Romero. We have to get him right. It’s a matter of, the right thing for him is to get him back on track and we need more time to do that. If we didn’t have anybody, I’m sure we would have done something.”
But it’s a nice luxury to have…
“That was by design because you always want to have depth. We’re going to continue to try to add depth no matter what. We still need people to stay healthy and perform. Depth, we’re still going to continue to look for that the entire year.”
Described as minor tweaks. Expectation this will resolve itself sooner rather than later?
“I don’t know. It’s not a major mechanical change but it takes time. If I asked you to write with your left hand rather than your right hand, it doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal. We’re not changing the way your arm moves but it would take time to end up doing that. Just changing the way you land on the mound is not a big thing but it takes time and it takes repetition to do it, to do it with every pitch and to do it over and over again. We’ve been down this path before, it took some time then. Maybe if we had started a little bit earlier, a week earlier, would he be 100% right now. Those are all things you can look back on.”
Confident if and when this gets solved it’s a permanent solution?
“You have to be. I haven’t really thought that far ahead. He has been great, he has been great for a long time. He was a horse for us for three straight years when we got him ironed out. He was an All-Star and we’re very confident we’ll get him back to that.”
In Minors as long as it takes?
“Until we can get him right, sure.”
Talked to Happ yet?
“I called him after we told Romero, I told him ‘We optioned out Romero, wanted to call you directly. You’re going to be the fifth starter. I wanted you to hear it from me first before we announce this tonight.’ “
How much was yours and Gibby’s public backing in recent weeks was for Romero’s benefit?
“It’s what we ultimately believed because if we hadn’t been through this before it’d be very different. I remember in 2009, I think he walked four in an inning. We were getting ready to send him out. Same thing your coaches are telling you in the bullpens, don’t worry about what you’re seeing in games, it’s coming, it’s getting there, we’re working on it. The exact same thing happened. Since we’ve been through this before and it was a success and it worked out, there was no reason to change or deviate from that at all. Especially when you saw flashes of that too.”