Results tagged ‘ Edwin Encarnacion ’

Anthopoulos holds court

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

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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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Anthopoulos explains decision to sign Navarro/non-tender Arencibia

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

Alex Anthopoulos:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seitzer hired as Blue Jays hitting coach

On the main site, you’ll find today’s article on the hiring of Kevin Seitzer as the club’s new hitting coach. Below, you’ll find the full transcript of his conference call with reporters.

Kevin Seitzer:

On his philosophy as a hitting coach…
“My philosophy in a nutshell is to stay in the middle of the field, stay gap to gap, and make tweaks along the way with mechanics. Work with the guys with what their strengths are and then try to help them with their weaknesses too. I know that there’s probably a lot of questions about Bautista, Encarnacion, Rasmus, guys like that, that are more pull-type hitters, I also have a philosophy of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. So, let guys continue to do what they’ve had success with, but at the same time be able to help them with adjustments they need to make when times are tough.”

On favouring an opposite field approach with two strikes…
“Depending on the pitcher, too, who you’re going to face and what he features. Guys like a Bruce Chen, or Jamie Moyer type of pitcher, who are more offspeed with their secondary stuff and their primary stuff, you may take a more opposite field approach with them so you can continue to bust it with the majority of what they’re going to throw you. That’s the thing of making adjustments from hitter to hitter and pitcher to pitcher that we go up against, to maintain your strength, if you’re sitting more of a fastball to the opposite field but the majority of pitches you’re going to get are going to be slow, then you’re going to have a chance to pull those pitches.

“For me, the bottom line as far as philosophy, approach, is really making consistent hard contact and that’s why the thinking, the plan, of hitting the ball to the middle of the field, gap to gap, gives you a better chance to put the barrel of the bat on the ball. The better the swing, the bigger the guy, the smaller the park, the more balls that are going to go out. As long as hitters are making solid contact, you have a chance to not only hit home runs but drive gaps and if you have an approach and a plan that you can make adjustments depending on who you’re facing where you can be more consistently with putting the fat part of the bat on the ball you’re going to have more success. That’s really the bottom line in what I teach.”

On philosophy being based on the type of hitter he was in the Major Leagues…
“It’s a conglomeration of all the coaches I had along the way and things that I did along with all the conversations I’ve had with really good hitters and guys that I really respected that I played with or against. Continued as a hitting coach, I feel like my four years in Kansas City working with those guys on a daily basis and the adjustments that we made, I feel like I was able to add a lot more tools to my toolbox to help guys make adjustments quickly.

“The bottom line is you want to keep guys going the way they’re feeling good and shorten the slumps and keep those to a minimum and try to keep the confidence up to where they feel they have a chance every time they step into the box. All of the guys that I’ve talked to, and worked with, people I respected in the game, I started really studying the swing and studying hitting back when I was in college and throughout the course of the Minor Leagues. Then my time in the big leagues, I got to have some very special conversations with very good hitters.

“The things that I did, I hit the ball the other way just because my hands weren’t quick enough to pull the ball. My recognition wasn’t as good as what a lot of hitters are, and I felt like with the limited ability I had as a player I was able to have a lot of success because of my approach and plan. I can’t tell you the countless times I went in and looked to pull something, tried to pull it, and it went to right field. So, I was happy that I had a hit.”

On the special conversations, big influences, name off a couple…
“Obviously when you get to play a long time with guys like George Brett, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, those are just a few right there. Conversations with guys like Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Rod Carew, when he was a hitting coach. I would try to have conversations with anyone that would stand still long enough to talk to me. Wade Boggs was another one and Dave Winfield. I wanted to talk to power guys, I wanted to talk to high average guys, I just wanted to talk to guys who were successful big-league hitters. Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Harold Baines, when you could get him to say some words, those were great conversations. You want to continue to build your knowledge and build your program. Things that I saw and things that I heard, I would go into the cage and try them and see if they worked. I can’t really say that I would cater what I teach and my philosophy to one certain person or a book, it really just came through trial and error through 20-some years in the game.”

On conversations with Gibbons and AA about how philosophy can be beneficial to the Jays…
“I think it’s something that is going to help them be better well rounded hitters. With all due respect, they have been very successful for a long time and even though it appears to be all or nothing, they’ve been pretty successful putting up runs. I think I can even take that to a new level just by putting more tools in guys’ tool boxes, adding to their arsenal to where you understand what you need to do to beat shifts.

“If teams are shifting around to where they have the second baseman playing up the middle on the shortstop side for a right-handed hitter, or vice versa for a lefty, to be able to shoot that ball the other way. Guys like David Ortiz, he just came off a pretty good postseason, but I feel like a few years ago was when he finally made up his mind that I’m not going to let them shift on me and get away with it, especially with men in scoring position. Then he had the Fenway wall that he would pepper the other way. He still pulls plenty of his share of balls, but having the ability to go the other way to beat a shift to drive in a run is critical. I think a lot of times it goes with spending a little bit of time and showing guys technique No. 1 and mindset No. 2, of what adjustments they need to make to be able to execute that in a game. I feel like that’s one of the strengths I can bring to my game.”

On relationship with Gibbons…
“We had a tremendous relationship, I have all the respect in the world for him. He’s a very easy going guy but yet has some fire and intensity to him at the same time. If you’re around him, he’s a very good baseball man, I have ultimate respect for him. One of the things, too, our first year, he was our bench coach, we spent some time talking about philosophy and what I teach.

“I have a lot of respect for him because I felt like I had to win him over, I had to prove to him what I was doing and what I was teaching really worked. He saw the proof in the pudding for the three years that I was there. There was some pretty drastic changes in guys careers when we were together and he got to watch it on a daily basis and I think that played a big role in him wanting to bring me in. I came in, I interviewed, I met with Alex and other people in the front office, I had to share what I teach, what I base everything on, share stories and talk about things I’ve done in the past, how I worked with guys and helped them make adjustments.

“Alex Gordon, is probably one player that I feel the best about in accomplishments just because he struggled so bad his first years in the big leagues and it was a major overhaul process to help him make some adjustments he needed to make. He said the biggest thing that helped him was being able to stay in the middle of the field from a mental standpoint, but if you go look at his spray charts from his successful seasons, the majority of his hits were to the pull side. I could care less where the ball goes as long as we’re getting hits and driving in runs and having good at-bats. Just that ability to focus on a consistent approach is a big thing that I’m really concerned with and that’s what I feel like leads to success.”

On what he was dong last year…
“I have an indoor baseball facility here in Kansas City with Mike Macfarlane, it’s called Mac-N-Seitz baseball, we’ve been doing this for 17 years. I was here full time with the business and I have a son who was in Double-A last year with the Rays and I got to go see him for the first time in pro ball so that was really cool, I got to go see him on four different trips and having the summer to do that was a real blessing. I always try to find the good and the bad and as much as I hated getting let go by the Royals, there was a silver lining there. But I also realized how bad I wanted to get back in, I missed it a lot, I love helping guys, I love being in the dugout and being in the cage. It’s a really rewarding job, so I missed it.”

Plan for offseason…
“I’m going to get video sent to me by the club and just be able to get to know these guys from a swing standpoint. Then, I’ll reach out to them and touch base. They’ve had a long grueling season and probably the last thing they want to do is talk about their swing, talk about hitting and talk about their workouts for the winter but I will reach out and touch base with them.

“Try to keep it as brief as possible, introduce myself and let them know I’m excited, looking forward to working with them and holler if you need anything. Once guys start working out, if there’s a way that we can hook up, that would be a great thing but, for me, it’s not life or death. Once I get with guys and start building that relationship, we can make some things happen pretty quick.”

On the expectations of 2013 and moving forward…
“The expectations from last year were definitely, it didn’t work out the way everybody thought and hoped. I’ll be honest, I thought that team was going to pretty much walk away with it. But due to injuries and whatnot, they had a rough year and I think the potential is there to meet people’s expectations of what they were going into this season, for next year.

“Depending on what happens as far as the offseason goes with moves they decide to make, there’s definitely an expectation to win the division and go to the postseason. If anybody is thinking short of they, they probably need to make an adjustment mentally with all due respect.”

Q+A with Travis Snider

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

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

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

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

More on his new experience in Pittsburgh…

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

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

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

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

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

On reflecting and moving past his time in Toronto…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On his role in Pittsburgh… 

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

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

On playing right field… 

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

On Gose….

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

On Mottola being hired as hitting coach…

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

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

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

State of affairs with Jose Bautista

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

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

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

Reyes as leadoff hitter…

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

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

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

Versatility of lineup…

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

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

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

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

Bonifacio even more valuable during Interleague Play…

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

Chemistry tough with so many new guys?

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

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

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

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

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

It’s from the culture…

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

Expectations do they bring added pressure…

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

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

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

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

Fastest workers in Buehrle and Dickey does that help…

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

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

Did you mention that to Ricky?

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

Surprised he was hurting physically?

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

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

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

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

Doubted that the time would come this team would spend?

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

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

Alex bounce ideas off you?

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

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

Melky different player now?

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

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

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

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

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

Q+A with 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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