Results tagged ‘ Casey Janssen ’

Stray thoughts from a Thursday afternoon

The Blue Jays just finished Game 1 of a doubleheader here in Minnesota and it wasn’t exactly pretty. R.A. Dickey actually handled the cold weather a lot better than I thought he would and after the game said the frigid temperatures weren’t an issue. It’s sort of hard to tell based on his pitching line, though, as Dickey’s control problems continued again and he has now walked 15 batters in just 23 innings this season.

The full game recap is available here which goes into a lot more detail about the command issues. As I mentioned in the game story, he certainly seems to be falling into pitfalls of a what everyone usually stereotypes a knuckleballer to be. That usually includes a high number of walks and an overall ability to command the pitch. That’s not really something that happened to Dickey when he was with the Mets but there were glimpses of it last season and the issue has carried into 2014.

But let’s not get too carried away about this. There was a lot of talk on Twitter today about what the Blue Jays should do with their Opening Day starter. Let’s get one thing straight, for better or worse, Dickey isn’t going anywhere. His job isn’t in jeopardy, there’s no threat of being moved to the bullpen and even if the club were to consider something that drastic it’s not like J.A. Happ, Todd Redmond or Esmil Rogers provides a viable alternative.

Dickey went through similar issues last season. His numbers from his first few outings of 2013 are eerily similar to what he has done so far this year. Keep in mind, this is a pitcher that still had an ERA above 5 as of June 21. The Blue Jays can’t afford to have Dickey’s struggles continue that late into the year this season but he’s going to get every opportunity to turn this thing around. It’s an incredibly small sample size and there’s no reason to believe the numbers won’t eventually even out but that won’t overshadow another slow start. One thing with Dickey seems to be a tendency to let starts get away from him, in 38 outings with the Blue Jays he has alllowed five-plus runs in 12 of them.

Here are a few other random thoughts from this week:

  • A lot was made of J.A. Happ’s comments to the media this week about his frustration of being put in the bullpen. It’s clear that Happ believes he should be in the rotation and is definitely not happy about his current role with the team. Personally, I don’t agree with him but I also don’t have a problem with the public comments. A lot of people immediately jump to the conclusion that just because Happ is saying this publicly it must mean that he is a problem in the clubhouse. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Happ is one of the most mild-mannered athletes in the game and for the most part keeps to himself. He’s causing a stir within his team and I don’t think anyone in that dugout really cares one way or the other whether he decides to give an honest opinion about his current circumstances. That being said, he belongs in the bullpen for now but I certainly wouldn’t be cutting him loose just for the sake of it. If a starter goes down with an injury in the relatively near future, Happ is still a viable option — at least in comparison with Esmil Rogers and even Todd Redmond, who I think is a perfect fit in long relief because of his tendency to struggle two and three times through a batting order.
  • The Blue Jays are going to have to make a decision in the very near future on the status of Adam Lind. John Gibbons said he’s taking a day-by-day approach for the immediate future but if Lind’s not ready to go this weekend in Cleveland the Blue Jays simply can’t afford to wait any longer. Lind was barely able to move after tweaking a back muscle on Tuesday and even though he was better two days later it still didn’t seem to be close to the point of playing. With a three-man bench, unless the Blue Jays ditch a reliever in the near future, they just can’t afford to keep an injured player on the active roster. Toronto has yet to make any official announcements but I fail to see how a stint on the DL can be avoided at this point.
  • In my opinion, the odd-man out in the bullpen should be Esmil Rogers. He has gotten off to an awful start this season and his tendency to give up a lot of home runs — and a lot of long fly ball outs — has become a major liability. At this point, he can’t be trusted in close games and he’s behind Redmond on the depth chart for long relief. Carrying three long relievers — Rogers, Redmond and Happ — is extremely redundant and there’s a big problem if a valuable piece like Neil Wagner gets optioned to the Minor Leagues when Casey Janssen returns. I understand the desire to protect assets, and losing a pitcher because he’s out of options (like Redmond and Rogers) isn’t ideal but at some point the roster configuration has to be based on performance, especially for a team that views itself as a contender. Rogers may eventually pan out somewhere but it hasn’t worked in Toronto and if someone has to go, it should be him.

Day 1 of the Winter Meetings: John Gibbons media availability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN GIBBONS:  As far as who plays?

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

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

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

Q.  Is Gose ready to be a valuable contributor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN GIBBONS:  For which Jose (laughing)?

Q.  Bautista.  Just to get ready for April.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q.  (No microphone)?

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

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

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

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

JOHN GIBBONS:  You mean with Lawrie?

Q.  In general?

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

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

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

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

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

Anthopoulos on the trade deadline

On standing pat…

“Like we do every trade deadline, we had plenty of dialogue leading into it. We had something we were trying to do much before the trade deadline and last week it probably fell apart. I don’t know that we were ever that close but for a day or two we had momentum and it fell apart. There was one other thing we were hopeful to get done that it looked like we had a chance and were moving towards but that didn’t really materialize as of yesterday morning.

“It was pretty quiet overall, at this time you get a lot of ideas that are getting bounced around between GMs, phone calls, emails, texts, but for us we weren’t going to be involved in rentals unless it was a no brainer and anything we were going to do was going to help us not only in the current year but moving forward. I think we had a lot of productive dialogue that could lead to a deal in the offseason. That’s certainly happened before where you start at the trade deadline and it continues on
into the offseason and you get something done.

Still comfortable with current roster?
“There’s no question we need to make improvements, we need to get better and the results in the standings speak for themselves. We certainly are going to need to improve, I think that goes without saying. There are times during the year when you have a chance to do that, when teams are engaged, general managers are engaged and this trade deadline is certainly one. GMs meetings, winter meetings are obviously other areas and then you obviously have free agency as well. I still feel good about a lot of our players but like anything from year to year you evaluate, some evaluations change, and the way that the season plays out you have to adjust accordingly, there’s no question we’re going to have to make some changes and improve the roster in various ways but there weren’t those opportunities for us in terms of deals that made sense right now.

What areas did you focus on at the deadline?
“I don’t even know that I want to say we came close, I’d say maybe we had some traction. I think last year we came a lot closer to a deal that we were working very hard on and I thought we came very close but it ended up falling apart at the last minute. We had some traction on some things but ultimately it wasn’t going to make sense for us.

“We’re always in the market to add a starter especially with the way the rotation has been for us so we definitely explored some things there and we’re still looking to acquire some middle infield help, that’s definitely something we’ve taken a look at as well. Those were probably the two areas we were most active in overall and then there were some other ideas thrown at us that were larger concepts but just didn’t seem like things we needed to rush to do now. There were a lot of concepts that were thrown around where you just agree that maybe it’s something we talk about again in the offseason when we both have more clarity at that time.”

Blue Jays players drawing interest from a lot of other teams?
“We have a lot of players, we had a good number of players that made the All-Star team, each team has players that fit for other clubs. So I’m not saying ours is any more than any others but you always get activity. It’s a good team of the year in the sense that it’s the one time that 29 clubs are really engaged and open to making trades and that’s really their focus especially this past week, the past three or four days, that’s all everybody spent time doing. Deadlines are a good thing in terms of
getting deals done and that’s why you get a lot more dialogue.

“As we have each year, we got asked about a lot of our players. The two things we
tried to do, did not ever once get out there in the media, they were never in the rumour mill, there was a lot of things out there, we follow it, we read it … there was a lot of things out there about us shopping players, being asked about players or being engaged in players that were completely false. The things that we worked the longest and the hardest on were not out there and the things that were out there from a media perspective I’d say almost all of them were completely false.”

On not moving guys who are on expiring contracts…
“You don’t want to make a deal for the sake of making a deal, that’s the biggest thing. You can trade anybody at any time, every GM can make trades at this time of the year but you have to feel good about it and you have to feel like it makes sense.  Same way if we made trades today and you had asked me why I made the trades, I’d better have some reasons. Even though there are expiring contracts, if you don’t feel good about the value…

“I know we have expiring contracts and I know a lot of times players get moved on expiring contracts, I haven’t looked at the total with the other 29 clubs but it’s not always the case that guys get moved just because their contracts are expiring. We make deals when we think it makes sense and we think it improves the ballclub. If we don’t think the moves are going to improve the ballclub, there’s no sense in doing them. “

On not moving Oliver…
“In fairness to him specifically I don’t want to comment about trade rumors but I guess what I can say, in general terms, the left-handed relief market overall there were a lot of players out there that were available to other teams. I think you only saw one team in the last two or three days acquire a left-hander and that was the Indians. I don’t think any other team made a deal for a left-handed reliever.

“That’s not to say teams didn’t want to but sometimes things get written that teams are interested in this player, that player, and I don’t know if there was the demand out there … you didn’t see a lot of left-handed relievers traded and I’m pretty aware of what players were available on other teams and there were quite a number of left-handed relievers available through trade, many with expiring contracts, and you just didn’t see them move. In fairness, maybe the demand isn’t there for a certain spot.”

(editor’s note — Anthopoulos did later talk about a left-hander going to the Diamondbacks in the deal for Ian Kennedy as well)

Anticipate August being busier than years past?
“It’s tough to say, I think there’s more money in the game so I don’t know as many contracts will slide through waivers in August, with a lot more players getting blocked and I think that could limit the activity overall.  I don’t have a sense one way or the other, it wouldn’t surprise me if it stays consistent to what it has been in the past. I know there has been a lot of talk that this has been a slower trade deadline than it has in the past.  I think a lot of that is because of the wild card standings, even last year you saw more teams that were in the running and in the hunt.  I think a lot of teams want to be as competitive as they can be. I don’t  know, it’s hard to predict, I would expect it to be slow. I don’t know that I expect it to be a very active August one way or the other because I don’t know that that many players are going to clear.”

Q+A with Jamie Evans of the Velocity Program

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.”

Steve Delabar:

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.”

Brett Cecil:

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.”

Casey Janssen:

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.”

Blue Jays hire Jamie Evans

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)

Q+A with pitching coach Pete Walker

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

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

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

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

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

How is the workload determined for other pitchers?

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

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

On Casey Janssen’s progress from a shoulder injury…

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

Janssen’s plan for the next couple of weeks?

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

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

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

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

Lots of time remaining to work out the kinks…

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Esmil Rogers…

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

Who are the untapped power guys?

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

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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