Results tagged ‘ Brett Lawrie ’

State of the franchise with Anthopoulos

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

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

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

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

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Anthopoulos holding court with the media

On Ryan Goins…
“Defensively, the more you watch him, the more you realize how good he is defensively, just his actions, the way he moves. You know, the bat, that’s something we’re going to watch in spring training. The tough part is, you realize it’s two at-bats a game, three at-bats a game, the competition level varies. I would say, again, the competition is still there. We’re going to value the defense because it’s that good. He has room to do less offensively because the defense is so elite. I don’t use that word lightly. I really think he’s elite and he’s got a chance to win a gold glove there.”

“If you actually look at Goins’ minor league track record in the International League last year and Jonny Diaz’s, their OPS’s are similar. Jonny may walk a little bit more, strike out a little bit less but won’t have any power whereas Goins, there’s a little bit of power there. They’re both good defenders. Getz has swung the bat great. Tolleson, we’ve just gotten a chance to see, to get playing and obviously Kawasaki has had a good camp too.”

“Goins is the front-runner because of the defense that he showed but he still has to earn that job.”

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Q+A with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer

On Ryan Goins…
“Love his swing, love everything about what he is doing mechanically with his approach and now it’s just a matter of him getting at-bats and timing and putting it all together in a game. For me, he’s on the right path, and now it’s about getting more at-bats and timing.”

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John Gibbons on the first workout day

On Morrow’s bullpen…
It’s just good to see him out there, it’s been awhile. The thing I’m most impressed with, you look at him, he has put on a lot of weight, muscle. He looks strong, he looks like you’re supposed to look and last year he didn’t look like that. He looks like a good strong, durable starting pitcher. The fact that he’s out there and feels good, is big for us.

On performance of SP last April/May…
Today is the last day I’m going to talk about last year, but last year we didn’t play very well in any phase of the game early on. We didn’t play very good defense, hitting was sporadic and we struggled in the rotation. That leads to how we started the season. But these guys have a lot of pride, expect most of them to bounce back. We had some real good performances on the year, at the end of it, with Dickey, Buehrle, some of those guys. Rasmus, Eddie, some really good years but as a team it was a struggle. We have to go about our business and answer some questions.

On SP depth chart…
We have a good idea. We have some good depth now. Drabek’s back, Hutch is back, we feel good about that. Stroman is on the move. Sanchez, we think will come quick. We have some options whereas last year we didn’t have that many. Hopefully you don’t need that many but the reality of the game is you might. The depth is definitely better, whoever wins that last spot, we’ll see, but it’ll be a nice little competition. McGowan’s in the mix now, we’re going to try and stretch him out and see how that works. We like the way it looks, we really do, but we still have to go out and do it.

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Day 1 of the Winter Meetings: John Gibbons media availability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN GIBBONS:  As far as who plays?

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

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

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

Q.  Is Gose ready to be a valuable contributor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN GIBBONS:  For which Jose (laughing)?

Q.  Bautista.  Just to get ready for April.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q.  (No microphone)?

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

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

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

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

JOHN GIBBONS:  You mean with Lawrie?

Q.  In general?

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

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

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

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

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

Transcript of media scrum with Alex Anthopoulos

With the Blue Jays having lost three consecutive games and 24 of their past 36, general manager Alex Anthopoulos faced the media on Sunday morning to a lengthy chat. He touched on everything from the club’s defensive woes, plans for next season, problems in the rotation, Josh Johnson, etc. He addressed pretty much everything there simply isn’t enough space to fit it all into today’s notebook so here is the full transcript:

On the lack of fundamentals being displayed on defence…
“It’s been sloppy the last little while, to say the least. We’ve talked about it at length. I know we’re going to be working with Colby a little bit more. Bautista, the first night in Oakland, threw away a ball. But with Jose, if you look at the entire year, he’s made some unbelievable throws, some very accurate throws to the plate. Colby has a tendency to yank balls aimed at home plate. It seems mores this year than in the years past. That’s something we’re going to work on a little bit more. Maybe it’s guys trying to do too much but it’s something that’s going to be addressed and it will eventually show itself on the field.”

Update on Delabar…
“He was sore before, just after the break and we gave him two or three days off. He felt fine. The way (the latest discomfort) was related to me was that if this was the playoffs, he could pitch but it’s one of those things that it’s better to get on top of it right now because it’s taking him a little bit longer to get loose and there is inflammation in the shoulder. He was examined by the Angels team doctor here and they don’t think it’s anything significant . He’s heading to Florida and will be re-examined by our doctors. It looks like he just needs to rest, more than anything else. “

How does it get better, without chasing old money with new money?
“We talk about how to address the rotation going forward and we have some young guys who are coming back. We’re hopeful that guys like Drew (Hutchison) and Kyle (Drabek) will get back here in September, though we’re not guaranteeing that. Drew is throwing today and they’re both throwing the ball well and their velocity is good. They are two players that, again before they went down, they were throwing well. We even look back at Kyle and see that towards the end, his command went downhill and you wonder how much of that the injury played in that. His command now is much better and maybe that’s because he’s finally healthy.

“Two guys like that could factor, and obviously a guy like Brandon Morrow who, last year was really emerging into a front of the rotation starter. Then, as well, we’ll be looking outside the organization to see if we can do some things.”

Internal Options?
“I think Brandon has already proven he can do it here. Two years ago he threw 180 innings and last year he threw the ball really well. The other two guys had a short look and we’ll have another look once they get back here.”

Reconcile Payroll Issues with club improvement?
“When we made the trades, it’s something we talked about. Going forward, ownership was aware, and ownership understood where the commitments would be going forward and they green-lighted everything. So, from a financial standpoint, the resources will be available for us. It won’t mean we won’t change some things and reallocate money as you do any time.

“It’s not like those contracts are sneaking up on us. We really have two years of commitments after the current year and, other than Reyes, who has been a great player for us, there’s really no long-term (five-six years out) commitments out. Reyes is going to have four years left on his deal and everyone else either has two years with an option, or just two years straight. At the same time, we were well aware of where we were going to be. We did arbitration projections. There will always be decisions to be made but we’re prepared for that.”

How much money will you have next year?
“I don’t have a number right now and I wouldn’t divulge the number but what I would say is that we won’t be going backwards. That’s not in the plan at all. What the number is, is developed at the end of the season. That’s our conversations with Paul. But the understanding is that we will be able to financially handle those contracts so that was why we were able to do the deals. That was a big part of our discussions. 2013 was going to be fine, it was 14 and beyond. Everyone was aware of that. Ownership was aware and that’s not going to be an issue.”

Moving forward, who don’t you have questions about on the roster…
“There’s still two months left, things change so fast. To sit here today, if you ask me at the end of the season I’ll have a lot more of a firm handle on it. If you look at what we’re currently running out there, the guys that have been able to take the ball the entire time and be consistent, R.A. and Buehrle are two guys that have been able to take the ball the entire time. J.A. Happ we expected coming out of Spring Training, we’ll see how he does when he comes back, he’ll make the start on Wednesday. Brandon Morrow, too, we’ll see how he does with his recovery. Guys like Rogers, we’ll continue to watch and continue to evaluate those guys but it could change. We still have a third of the year left and evaluations can change fast.”

Look at Stroman/Nolin this year?
“We could. We’ve talked about it and that’s definitely something that could happen. We could take a look at one of those guys or both of those guys. Same with Kyle and Drew, we’re not committed that they’re going to be up but they are guys that could be up as well and have a look at them.”

Keeping Josh Johnson out there or is a change needed?
“Right now he’s scheduled to make his next start but there’s no question it’s been about six starts where he has been getting hit. I know he’s working hard and he’s not making any excuses at all, he continues to battle. But it’s something we continue to talk about. We have to look at alternatives at some point if this continues, it’s really start to start at this point, it’s really the only way to characterize it. Right now, he’s going to make one more start and we’ll see how he does but we’ll continue to evaluate it each time.

Melky what can be done defensively when you have him for another year and it looks like you’re better on the field without him there…
“I would say defensively, Melky looked good early in Spring Training, we noticed later in Spring Training, maybe the last 10 days or so, that’s when his hamstring started to tighten up and he continued to battle through it. Especially now, it looks like there are obviously some issues with his knees. He’s 28-years-old we definitely expect him to come back and be a much better defensive player. We don’t know for certain but I think a lot of the issues he had with his mobility were directly related to being banged up. It happened in the spring, in hindsight, if we had given him a month or two to just rest and get healthy, he wanted to battle through it, he wanted to play through it, we wanted to keep his bat in the lineup and it didn’t work out.”

Are you okay with the performance you’ve been getting from the catcher position?
“I think J.P. would be the first guy to tell you he can improve in a lot of areas. I don’t want to single anybody out but I can point to so many areas on the club that we could stand to get better in so many spots. We can always make evaluations at the All-Star Break or four months in, two months from now things will change fast. I’ve used this example before, you look at Lind and Colby two years ago they had great numbers at the All-Star Break and then fell off towards the end so the evaluation changed.

“So, whereas, some guys really emerged at the end of the year where you got really excited about them. Brandon Morrow was that guy three years ago, he was really good at the end and carried it over into the next year. I just don’t want to get too far ahead with two months left on trying to make final evaluations on players.”

On breakdown in fundamentals and how that can be fixed…
“I think one is continue to work at it. By just going through what can we do, what can we do as a staff? Are guys trying to do too much? For example, Jose Bautista making those throws. He’s made so many great throws this year. You’ re entitled to make some mistakes. Colby had had issues throwing. He’ll throw off and that certainly seems to be occurring more often this year than it has in the past. It seems there’s been a lot more plays and all his throws are sailing to that side. Some of the other things can be a factor of trying to do too much, extra things like that. Again, I don’t know that we have the answer right now. We continue to work at it and hopefully it’s going to improve. The same way as everybody was talking about Brett and how he was struggling to swing the bat. You work with him, work with him, he’s starting to turn it around a little bit and hopefully it continues.”

Does the general approach in Spring Training need to change?
“I think it’s up in the air. We’re talking about everything, really. I’m not sure that I can point out the one specific thing. You look at defensively, one, some players haven’t played well. That goes without saying. Brett’s been in and out of the lineup a lot. Two stints on the disabled list. Reyes has been out for a while. His ankle, I don’t know that he feels 100-percent but he’s certainly good enough to play. That certainly could have an impact as well.

“Even from a defensive standpoint, Colby’s been better defensively, just overall on the season than a year ago. The throwing, obviously, the arm strength’s there, the accuracy needs to improve, hitting the cutoff guy and things like that. Melky we talked about and the issues he’s had with his legs we talked about. I think Jose overall has been good in right. I think it’s a combination of things, really. Stability, hopefully guys stay healthy on the field, things like that can factor and maybe guys trying to do a little too much.”

Physical mistakes are going to happen but it’s August and we’re still talking about mental mistakes…
“I think it’s been talked about. I mean we’re talking about it now because you asked me. It’s something we’ve talked about internally. Guys are trying, guys are working. At some point it falls on the players as well. Maybe that’s something that as we’re evaluating going forward, the same way that you work with someone on their mechanics, working with someone at the plate to hit, if the results aren’t there you continue to work, to be committed to the players. But it’s not for the lack of any effort at all – whether it’s the coaches, the manager or so on. At some point, in terms of making the plays, it falls on the players as well. I don’t think these guys are trying to make mistakes. I think ultimately then it falls on me to get certain players that are going to start to make those plays. “

Did you undervalue defence in the offseason?
“Obviously we haven’t played well defensively, so … I don’t know from that standpoint. I don’t know how much of an impact not having the shortstop and the third baseman there the entire time. You look at last year, Brett played the bulk of the year, did miss a little bit of time at the end. Obviously Yunel was out there for the bulk of the time at short. And, again, I think Colby’s been better in centre. I just think it’s been a combination of things.

“So, I would say this. In light of the year that we’re having, I think we’re going to evaluate (defence) even more than we have. I don’t think we’ve ever undervalued it. It’s always been important. There’s some guys that haven’t played as well defensively as we thought they would. So that’s probably been the most surprising part, that maybe expect certain guys to be better defensively. I don’t know that we ever lost value in it, but I can say that going forward we’re going to have even more value on it.”

At deadline you talked about having trade discussions about SP and 2B. Will those conversations continue in the offseason?
“I think so. I think they’re important. They’re definitely the most important areas. There are other areas that we can improve in. I definitely think those are the most important areas. I think the rotation more than anything else. Some of it might be internal, but again, I haven’t looked in the last few days, but when you’re second to last in starter’s ERA that has to improve. It’s hard to get to .500, to contend if the starting rotation ERA is where it is. You obviously put a strain on the bullpen, it puts a strain on the offence when you’re down that many runs. Everyone trying to do a little bit too much. It starts on the mound for us and even some of the sloppy play against Oakland, we still pitched well and we won the games.”

Tougher to identify starters? 
“It does, you always look back and say did we miss anything on a certain player, is there something we didn’t account for, and it’s hard to say. From year to year, things change, guys don’t have a great year and the next year they end up having a good year, but you definitely still evaluate it. Even when you look at the free agent market last year, you don’t know who you’re ultimately going to get, we definitely went after some guys and talked about some players, I don’t know that we ever got so far down the road where we ultimately knew we were going to get the player. In terms of the trade market, there weren’t that many guys that were available, there rarely is when it comes to that spot, so it’s always challenging when you need to improve on the mound. But that’s not going to change goals of going out to do it. 

Faith in RA as a front-of-the-rotation starter?
“I do, I know he hasn’t put together that type of year, he’s put together some of those starts, he’s shown us the ability to do that. If you look there are a lot of similarities to last year, velocity is the same, ground ball rate is down some, home runs allowed obviously are higher, and the walks are up a little bit as well. That can correct itself, and we’ve seen some outings, whether it’s Canada Day against Detroit and a great lineup, we’ve seen some outings where he’s been really good, it just hasn’t been consistent the entire time. He is giving us a chance to win each time. I don’t know that these are the reasons but it could be the World Baseball Classic, getting ready to throw five innings a lot earlier, the injury and him battling through that early in the year. I can’t say from a definitive standpoint those are the reasons the performance maybe isn’t what he’s had the last few years, but it would not surprise me if next year he comes in and has a great year.”

Internal goal for rest of the season?
“Just winning as many games as we can and playing well. Everybody in there wants to win games and play better and hopefully see some improvement from some guys you k now are going to be here going forward.

Lawrie still an option at 2B for next season or have you settled on him being at 3B?
“You just don’t know what’s going to present itself. If all of a sudden an all-star, Gold Glove defender at third base is available that’s something you could consider and take a look at. Right now from a flexibility standpoint, he’s athletic enough that he can play anywhere around the field. If you put Brett in centre field and gave him enough time, he’d be good. I remember the first we moved him over to third base, it was rough, and everyone had their doubts. He is such a good athlete and has such a great work ethic, especially when you tell him he can’t do something, that he can make himself into a great defender. I would not have any doubts that Brett, with the right amount of time, would be a plus defender pretty much anywhere out on the field. Right now I don’t see that developing trade-wise, doesn’t look like there’s a lot of guys out there at third base, with some of the things we were pursuing, second base looks like it will be easier to fill, it doesn’t mean we will, right now if I had to project three or four months from now, there will be more second baseman available than third.

Esmil has already thrown more innings than he did all of last year. Will he need to be shutdown at some point or moved to the bullpen?
“He could. We’ve definitely talked about it, during the winter as well he started, he’s been a starter before, thrown a lot of innings as a starter. When he’s not a 21, 22-year-old kid, you almost look at how many innings he’s thrown, what’s their high in their career? With Esmil right now we don’t have a number in mind, we’re going to continue to watch him, but at some point it might be something that we look at. We haven’t decided on anything.”

Workload related to his recent struggles?
“Hard to say, I don’t know, better to ask him. A few games ago I thought his slider looked outstanding, it’s hard to say. … It could, it could. I don’t know for certain if that’s the case.”

Are there any untouchables on this team?
“You have to be open to anything, there are certain players like anything you’re more reluctant to move because they’re very productive players, but you’re always open-minded, I’ll hear what any club has to say. We don’t shop our players, we target guys, and players are going to get asked about. There’s always a deal for anybody, it’s rare the other club will make it because it’s one-sided. There are a lot of players you’re reluctant to move because of how productive they are, and if you take them away, how are you going to improve on the production they’re giving you. But I don’t think you can rule anything out.”

Are you content with the rate of production in your farm system?
“We still have a lot of really good young arms. We have a lot of guys down in Bluefield right now that a year from now will be in Lansing, or they should be, and that’s where they’ll start to get more notice and acclaim, but we have some young arms we’re excited about down there. Right now, we would be scheduled to have two draft picks in the first round unless we were to sign a free agent and lose one, so we still feel pretty good. We still have quite a lot of talent there, just some of them are a little bit further down and aren’t going to get the notice because they’re a year away. A year from now or two years from now, people will start to talk about them as some of the best prospects in the game.”

Which pick do you lose if you sign a FA?
“Don’t lose pick from year before so Bickford pick would stay.”

Do you second guess how you nurture your minor league pitchers? (Syndergaard now in Double-A with the Mets as the main example)
“No because he started in high A and that’s where he would have started for us and even, I mean you’ve seen some guys move up, whether it was Drabek or Hutchison. Hutchison was in Lansing, went to Dunedin and ended the season in New Hampshire all in one season. Or Mark Rzepczynski, the same way he through flew through as well. Obviously we loved all those guys and we really liked all those guys but we know that with young starters, they can get up here, like we’ve had a lot of guys come up here before whether it’s a Drabek or a Drew Hutchison, to get them where they’re throwing 200 innings and they stay healthy and they become mainstays in the rotation going forward it takes a little bit of time.

“The tough part about trading a guy like Noah and things like that is that while you’re getting a guy who’s won a Cy Young, who’s thrown over 200 innings three years in a row and it times better with your current club. You can’t get players for free and you have to trade talent away and I think it’s a credit to the scouts and the development staff that we had guys like that that we could draft and develop them to put them in trades. Ideally you’d like to hang on to all of them and sign free agents and not have to give anybody up. Some of those players, like I said, may end up being multiple All Stars, Hall of Fame, some may not pan out, some may get hurt, I mean that’s just part of it. But again, maybe by the time they become the mainstays, some of the current core will either be at the last year of their contracts or free agents or at the end of their careers. It was as much about us trying to move it forward, timing it with the current team.”

Do you keep being surprised about the waiver hoopla even though your policy has always been to put your entire team through waivers at this time of the year?
“Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. There’s nothing really in August, it’s quiet, I can’t speak for every team but I think every club puts almost all of their players through. Maybe they put 20 of 25. I know it’s a story but when you put a guy through it’s the same as someone calling on the player in July. It’s the same thing. The only time I think you see moves like that is with money. Guys like Alex Rios was moved from us, he was making some money, he got claimed. Years ago Loaiza was claimed by the Dodgers from Oakland but other than that you really don’t see a whole lot.

“We won’t put in claims unless we think there’s a fit, especially claiming players with no service time, zero to three years of service you’re so restricted there’s no need for a club to make a deal in August. They can do it in the offseason. I just don’t think it’s news. If someone gets traded or I think if a big contract gets claimed and that leaks and is out there, that’s a story. If certain All-Stars get claimed, I just think if you didn’t see them get traded by the end of July they’re probably not going to get traded. Guys that are free agents, guys with big contracts, those are the only ones that I think should be big stories.”

The fact that it’s a club policy to put guys through waivers does that help inside the clubhouse when guys see their names leak? You can simply tell them everyone goes through that?
“No one even asks. I think everyone knows we run everybody through. We’ve been doing it for four years now. I’ve never had a player come up to me and ask me about it. The only time I remember it being a distraction is when I was an (assistant general manager) and the report came out about Rios because I think everyone understood with the $67-million left on his contract at the time there was a scenario that he could be gone and that became a story. Rightfully so. It shouldn’t have leaked, you’re not allowed to divulge information by the rules but it was the only time it seemed to be a story in the clubhouse and everyone was wondering what was going to happen.”

Is your clubhouse in need of a “culture” change?
“I don’t know that I’m prepared to say that. I think it’s just player change. Everyone throws the word around, “culture,” and things like that and I think it’s getting players that maybe are better defensive players. Some players and I’ve seen it, and again you guys have been around our team long enough, there’s been players you’ve seen who’ve been plus defenders. I remember there was a player who looked like he was going to win a gold glove one day and then the following year, the year after, the defense isn’t as strong and it’s not for a lack of work ethic. Sometimes guys change defensively and it’s hard to tell why they’re not the defenders they once were. I think it comes down, sometimes, to having the players on the field that are plus defensive players.”

Q+A with new Blue Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inherit team that has last two NL batting champions..

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

Approach or philosophy how is it different from Murph…

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

Getting guys in proper head space (ex Lind)…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Approach with Lawrie, priorities…

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

Rasmus…

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

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

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

What are you trying to modify?

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

Newcomers does it take time to get familiar with them…

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

Been with Gibby before…

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

Hitters facing live pitching Sunday…

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

Looking for specific things who are coming back from injuries…

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

Return from the holidays

I’m back in action after taking a couple of lovely weeks to return to my home province of New Brunswick to visit with friends and family. Now that the holidays are out of the way, it’s time to resume looking ahead to the upcoming season and what better way to start than a news conference with R.A. Dickey and Alex Anthopoulos.

On the main site, you’ll find my article on Dickey plus another item with all the latest information on Darren Oliver‘s potential retirement, request for more money, or a trade. After the 30-minute news conference with Dickey, Anthopoulos took some additional time to meet with reporters.

I’ll attempt to post a full transcript later this week but in the meantime here is a rundown of what Anthopoulos had to say:

  • The Blue Jays continue to move forward under the assumption that Oliver will retire instead of returning for another season in Toronto. The club appears unlikely to offer him additional money on the $3-million he’s set to make in 2013 and Anthopoulos said a trade would only be made if it provided the Blue Jays with a clear upgrade.
  • Even if Oliver does retire, Anthopoulos doesn’t expect to spend the $3-million on another player: “We blew so far past where we were supposed to be (in payroll). Darren was an exception, we exercised the option at the beginning of the offseason, payroll commitments were so different back then. Obviously if Darren was to choose to come back, we would certainly honor that, we’d be thrilled to have him. But that money is Darren Oliver money, it’s not go get another player or reliever money.”
  • Anthopoulos confirmed that former shortstop prospect Justin Jackson will make the transition to a pitcher this Spring. Jackson said on Twitter that he was clocked at 95MPH and it’s the live arm that has the Blue Jays intrigued about the possibilities. There are no guarantees it will ever work out but with Jackson failing to produce at the plate during his Minor League career it’s a risk worth taking.
  • J.A. Happ will begin the season as the Blue Jays sixth starter. In order words, he’s the back-up and won’t get an opportunity in the rotation until someone gets hurt. In the meantime, Happ will compete for a spot in the bullpen but he also has an option remaining on his contract and it’s possible he could begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo.
  • Anthopoulos said Happ wasn’t exactly happy about the news but the writing was on the wall once the club acquired Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Dickey for its rotation. Happ has accepted his role and for whatever it’s worth Anthopoulos said he’s excited about playing on a winning ballclub.
  • The Blue Jays do not expect outfielder Melky Cabrera to be asked to take part in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie are all but a lock to participate while it remains unlikely Jose Bautista will receive clearance considering he is coming off a left wrist injury that prematurely ended his 2012 campaign. No word yet on whether pitchers like Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson would be in the mix for Team USA.
  • Pitchers and catchers are set to report to Spring Training on Feb. 13. The full roster will officially report on Feb. 17.
  • Dickey said that he played catch with J.P. Arencibia in Nashville on Monday. Dickey praised Arencibia’s willingness to learn how to catch a knuckleball and provided the third-year catcher with a large glove that it typically used to for that type of pitcher.
  • Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays remain in the market for a right-handed bat that can be used off the bench. The preference is to acquire someone that has the ability to play in the infield but Anthopoulos may choose to stick with signing several players to Minor League contract with a shot at competing for the job. It’s also possible that additional players will become available when teams start making their cuts late in camp.
  • Anthopoulos also said that Sal Fasano‘s departure as the manager in Double-A New Hampshire will not have any impact on a potential future in that role at the big league level. The Blue Jays approached Fasano about taking a promotion to become a Minor League catching coordinator and they feel it’s something that will make him a more well-rounded coach/potential manager in the future.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB.

Meet the manager with John Gibbons

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

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

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

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

Q.  What were your thoughts coming into today?

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

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

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

Q.  Is there enormous pressure on you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q.  Update on Sergio Santos?

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

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

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

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

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

Q.  How do you feel about the starting rotation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q.  He knows your players fairly well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q.  On the running game….

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

Q.  Which coach will handle the running game?          

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

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

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

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

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

 JOHN GIBBONS:  My personality or ‑‑

 Q.  Both.

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

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

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

JOHN GIBBONS:  No doubt, yeah.

Q.  So that’s part of the job, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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