Results tagged ‘ J.A. Happ ’

State of the franchise with Anthopoulos

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

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

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

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

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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.

Anthopoulos holding court with the media

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

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

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

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Early impressions from camp

I’ve been in Florida for less than a week and I’ve already changed my opinion on several key issues surrounding the Blue Jays during this year’s Spring Training. There are only a handful of jobs up for grabs this spring but those competitions should be rather interesting to watch as these next few weeks unfold.

I arrived in Dunedin with a few predictions in mind. The first was that Drew Hutchison was going to win the final spot in the rotation and that Josh Thole would be the back-up behind the plate with the main purpose of becoming R.A. Dickey‘s personal catcher.

Unlike previous springs, it hasn’t taken very long for me to change my tune and here are some of the reasons why:

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Random thoughts from Day 3

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

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

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Anthopoulos explains decision to option Romero

Anthopoulos media scrum:

On the decision to option Romero…

“After today’s game we sat down and talked for quite a bit. Myself, Tony LaCava, Pete Walker and obviously John. Ricky was better today, there’s no doubt about it and he’s making strides. You can see it, his changeup was so much better, everything was better but he was not there yet. The more we thought about it, could we have started with him? Sure. Ultimately it may have come in Toronto because he has made strides here but if he’s not ready and he’s not as sharp as he needs to be, we need more time.”

Why Dunedin…

“We thought about where we would send him, we ultimately decided, the other affiliates it’s cold, rain outs, we want to make sure he gets his work in. We’re going to continue to work with him down here where it’s warm, where can get his work in, and really just continue to get the direction of the plate because he’s making strides. Like we told him, we just ran out of time in getting him to where he needs to be.”

On how Romero took the news…

“Ricky, if you ask him, the bar is set so high for him because he has that type of ability. If you ask him, Ricky are you at your best right now? He knows he isn’t. Even if he’s not at his best, he’s still really good but he’s also working on things too. We did this a few springs ago with him, we were able to get it going in time for him to make the team right at the end and that was the hope again that he was going to get it right back at the end and we weren’t going to have to look back.

“Ultimately, the more we talked about it, we saw a lot of good things and he was fine but it’s not the Ricky we know he can be. We can try to just keep going, and when you’re at the big-league level it’s hard to continue working on things, or take a little more time, get him back to where he can be and from his standpoint, he understood, he’s a pro. That goes without saying. It’s always a tough conversation but he knows, he’s not exactly as sharp as he needs to be and he knows it’s going to take a little bit more time.”

Did Happ’s performance this spring impact the decision…

“No. That’s not to take anything away from J.A., this was about Ricky. Obviously we’ve seen what he has done, take away last year, three years in a row he was a horse for us, 225 innings, 2.90 ERA and everything he has done. He has been outstanding. It’s about getting him right and getting him straight. If we didn’t know what his ceiling was and what he can be, it’d be totally different. It’s about getting him right and obviously the sooner the better for us.”

Romero’s outing on Tuesday the final straw?

“No matter what, the entire time, things change in Spring Training so fast. Each year, I’m to the point where I’m almost not even going to watch the first few weeks of spring. You almost just have the watch the last 10 days or so. We sat down, we still have some other moves to make, you’re talking about the roster all of the time but today was one of those things, spring is done for all of the starters, these guys have pretty much all pitched and what’s the best thing to do. We weren’t going to make any evaluations until everyone was done.”

More on Romero’s results…

“It’s not results as much as we see some things he needed to change. You talk about direction and lines to the plate, it’s basically your balance going to home plate and where your front foot lands. It sounds easy but it just takes time when you start repeating it. He has done this before, he just has a tendency to do it. It’s one thing if it’s results, you’re just not getting results and you just have to continue to pitch and get out of it, we have a plan for him.

“We know what we need to address it’s ust not coming as fast as we wanted it to come. It  takes time. It could be the next start, all of a sudden it comes, it’s outstanding, he’s sharp, or it’s two starts from now, or three starts from now. He definitely took a step in the right direction today, it’s getting better, he just needs more time.”

Timeline for when Romero will be back….

“We have to get him back to where he was. We haven’t even gotten (to that point). This isn’t one of those things, we need to get him right mechanically. How long that takes, I don’t know. It could be very fast, it could take a little longer, we’re not putting a timeframe on it. Once we get him right mechanically, I think the results are going to follow.

“We’re all going to know and we’re all going to see it. You can go out and throw shutout innings but you can watch certain things, it can be line drives, it can be deep counts, you know someone’s not right mechanically. The performance might have been better than the line or the performance is not as good as the line. For him, it comes down to how does the stuff look, how does the command of the stuff look and how is his balance going towards the plate.”

Romero’s role? Is he now the sixth starter? Is there a place for him on this team?

“I have no idea where we’re going to be at. Obviously we have to move forward but I have no idea what the roster’s going to look like, what’s going to happen. Obviously if he gets back to where he can be, he’s one of the best starters in the game and I think he ends up being on anybody’s team at that point, certainly ours.

“But without trying to forecast what happens a week from now, three weeks from now, a month from now, it’s impossible to say. But I can’t wait for that day to come, when he’s ready and he’s back to what he was.”

Facing low level A-ballers and what can be gained…

“It’s not the results, it’s is he balanced. I know I brought up the example last year against the Yankees he was really good, I remember the second inning against Philadelphia earlier this spring he was really good. He was right where he needs to be, when he’s doing that, he’s on, he’s there. The problem is we’re getting it in spurts, we need to get it over six innings, seven innings, eight innings and then to do it over again each time. It’s there because he is showing it in flashes. We just need to get him back to the point where he’s doing it night in and night out, start to start, and then he’ll be back.”

Progression through the minors, will he go through every level?

“I don’t know. We haven’t gotten to that point. We’re open to anything. We’ll just see how things go but we haven’t gotten that far. Right now, if this was June or July, I don’t think he’d be in Florida. The problem is, is that it is cold, we miss a lot of games and also it’s a good time to continue working on some things especially with the Florida State League, that’s our affiliate.

” If he needs time to work on things, he can throw more bullpens, more sides, doesn’t matter if you’re playing short. For whatever reason if he needs to throw more sides you can work on things. That’s a big part of it, but we may change course a week from now.”

But eventually he’ll need to face better competition…

“Absolutely. But there have been times where we’ve had guys that have some success and you can call them up at any time, from anywhere. It certainly can be from here.”

On whether outing versus Pirates could have changed the club’s mind…

“Obviously if he was right back to where he was, Ricky and his delivery was right, sure, he’s outstanding. We were hopeful that at any time he was going to be right and we were going to continue until we ran out of time, continue to work with him and believe in him. We certainly do, we just need a little more time. If spring had gone on a week or two more maybe things change.”

Who will work with him in Dunedin…

“Dane Johnson is going to be the point man and obviously Rick Langford has worked with him in the past. They’ll be the guys to work with him day in and day out.”

Were Romero’s knees a factor…

“Obviously we’ve talked about that as well and we don’t see any correlation. It’s as much balance as anything else so it’s not drive, it’s not power, it’s none of that. Way back in 2008 or 2009, he was doing a lot of drills because he would spin off and fall off at times and throw a little more across his body and cut himself off. That’s your direction to the plate. When you’ve been doing something for so long, it just takes time to get back into a routine and do it inning by inning.”

All physical or is it mental as well…

“You can see when he’s right. I even find there are times when he’s going through his delivery and you can say okay, even before the ball crosses home plate you can tell that was good. It just takes time. We have to get him right.”

Comparable to Halladay?

“I don’t think so at all. I wasn’t here but that was a total overhaul, arm slot, delivery, this is more lower half and getting his body direction on line. It’s something we have done with him in the past and he just reverted back a little bit.”

Spent all winter and spring saying he’s in rotation. Does this affect your credibility in clubhouse?

“No, because Ricky knows. I can easily ask Ricky, and I did, are you exactly where you need to be? And he said no. In a lot of ways you’re doing this together. We can continue and you can get by, and do what you’re doing, he made it through six months last year, he made every start, he battled, but we knew he wasn’t at his best. We can sit idly by and just let him continue to just grind through it or we can get him right. I think that’s ultimately what it came down to.

“This isn’t about results as much as, obviously, the delivery impacts the results. He knows he has something he needs to address and fix and he’ll continue to work on it. It’d be different if he didn’t agree he had to make the changes. He completely agrees, he said I know I have to make these changes and I know I have to get them down. He’s working on something that he hasn’t completed yet. We just didn’t have enough time to get him to complete it. He’s certainly on his way, he’s making progress and he’s starting to get close.”

Expectations on team speed up this decision to send him down?

“No, because ultimately, we’ve said this many times, it’s hard to work on things at the big-league level. If there are no changes to be made and you just need to get through some things, fight through slumps, but when you need to make mechanical changes whether you’re a pitcher or position player, it’s hard to do that in an environment that’s results oriented.

“If we need him to throw five changeups in a row down here, it’s hard to do that against the New York Yankees because he needs to feel that extension on his front side just to make sure he gets it. It’s hard to do that when the games matter so ultimately what has to happen, we need to get these three outs, do whatever you can do to get those three outs.

Last week’s Minor League start, was that when this move was really considered strongly?

“You can save a lot of breath and a lot of conversations when you give yourself more time because your opinions can change. The one thing we knew was that he was working on things. How did he look? ‘Great, it’s coming.’ And that’s it. It’s now a matter of carrying over his bullpens into games and that takes time. It’d be one thing if Pete Walker and Pat Hentgen were coming back and saying it’s not coming back in the bullpen. But at times they’d come back and say, he looked great today … Is this the day it’s going to finally come?  But we’ve been down this path in 2009. We just needed to stick with it, be patient, and we were finally rewarded with it. This time, it’s going to take a little more time.”

We did it together. Ultimately, it falls on me to make the decision but Gibby and I ultimately make the decision together but Pete is very involved and obviously Tony LaCava’s in there too. We talk about it and say, where do we think he’s at. We talk about things that we saw and you’re starting to take the entire body of work. But really it comes down to delivery wise, is this the right thing. We debated it. Is he better off being in Toronto and is it going to come there? So, that’s part of the discussion.

Was it unanimous?

“Yes. Ultimately you come to that but it takes time. We were talking about some other spots on the roster,  you start talking and you go one way. Then after five minutes of talking it out, we went a completely opposite way. Guys we thought were going to be on it, all of a sudden we’re going to change it. We’re going to sleep on things but that’s how quickly things change and that’s why you have to give yourself as much time as you can and you can’t make snap moves.”

Happ’s performance make this easier?

“I don’t look at it that way. This is about Romero. We have to get him right. It’s a matter of, the right thing for him is to get him back on track and we need more time to do that. If we didn’t have anybody, I’m sure we would have done something.”

But it’s a nice luxury to have…

“That was by design because you always want to have depth. We’re going to continue to try to add depth no matter what. We still need people to stay healthy and perform. Depth, we’re still going to continue to look for that the entire year.”

Described as minor tweaks. Expectation this will resolve itself sooner rather than later?

“I don’t know. It’s not a major mechanical change but it takes time. If I asked you to write with your left hand rather than your right hand, it doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal. We’re not changing the way your arm moves but it would take time to end up doing that. Just changing the way you land on the mound is not a big thing but it takes time and it takes repetition to do it, to do it with every pitch and to do it over and over again. We’ve been down this path before, it took some time then. Maybe if we had started a little bit earlier, a week earlier, would he be 100% right now. Those are all things you can look back on.”

Confident if and when this gets solved it’s a permanent solution?

“You have to be. I haven’t really thought that far ahead. He has been great, he has been great for a long time. He was a horse for us for three straight years when we got him ironed out. He was an All-Star and we’re very confident we’ll get him back to that.”

In Minors as long as it takes?

“Until we can get him right, sure.”

Talked to Happ yet?

“I called him after we told Romero, I told him ‘We optioned out Romero, wanted to call you directly. You’re going to be the fifth starter. I wanted you to hear it from me first before we announce this tonight.’ “

How much was yours and Gibby’s public backing in recent weeks was for Romero’s benefit?

“It’s what we ultimately believed because if we hadn’t been through this before it’d be very different. I remember in 2009, I think he walked four in an inning. We were getting ready to send him out. Same thing your coaches are telling you in the bullpens, don’t worry about what you’re seeing in games, it’s coming, it’s getting there, we’re working on it. The exact same thing happened. Since we’ve been through this before and it was a success and it worked out, there was no reason to change or deviate from that at all. Especially when you saw flashes of that too.”

Upcoming Grapefruit League pitching schedule

The Blue Jays have released their pitching schedule for the first five games of the spring. It’s important to note that the amount of innings aren’t necessarily set in stone. It ultimately will come down to pitch count. If the starters have a long first inning then it’s less likely they’ll come back out for a second frame.

Feb. 23 @ DET:

Brandon Morrow (one inning)
Brad Lincoln (one inning)
Steve Delabar (one inning)
Esmil Rogers (one inning)
Dave Bush (two innings)
Ramon Ortiz (one inning)
Neil Wagner (one inning)

Extras — Chad Beck, Sean Nolin, John Stilson, Tyson Brummett
Work — Ricky Romero

Feb. 24 vs. BAL:

Mark Buehrle (two innings)
Sergio Santos (one inning)
Aaron Loup (one inning)
Jeremy Jeffress (one inning)
Chad Jenkins (two innings)
Alex Hinshaw (one inning)
Tommy Hottovy (one inning)

Extras — Three Minor Leaguers, Tyson Brummett

Feb. 24 @ NYY:

J.A. Happ (two innings)
Brett Cecil (two innings)
Justin Germano (two innings)
Claudio Vargas (one or two innings)
Richard Thompson (one inning)

Extras — Three Minor Leaguers, Mickey Storey, John Stilson

Feb. 25 vs BOS:

R.A. Dickey (two innings)
Josh Johnson (two innings)
John Stilson (one inning)
Mickey Storey (one inning)
Chad Beck (one inning)
Sean Nolin (one inning)
Tyson Brummett (one inning)

Extras — Three Minor Leaguers, Neil Wagner
Work — Brandon Morrow

Feb. 26 vs MIN:

Ricky Romero (two innings)
Steve Delabar (one inning)
Esmil Rogers (one inning)
Dave Bush (one or two innings)
Ramon Ortiz (one or two innings)
Neil Wagner (one inning)
Richard Thompson (one inning)

Extras — Tommy Hottovy, Alex Hinshaw, Claudio Vargas
Work — Mark Buehrle, J.A. Happ

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.

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