Results tagged ‘ Melky Cabrera ’

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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Bautista’s first availability of the spring

Lack of health last two years…
“I know that both injuries I had, the ones that actually took me out of the lineup for an extended period of time were from impact plays or a freak accident with the wrist. It’s not because I was neglecting my training regime or anything like that but it is disappointing and it is upsetting that I don’t get to go out there and finish the season with the team or finish strong. That has been the case in the last two years so hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”

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Day 1 of the Winter Meetings: John Gibbons media availability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN GIBBONS:  As far as who plays?

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

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

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

Q.  Is Gose ready to be a valuable contributor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN GIBBONS:  For which Jose (laughing)?

Q.  Bautista.  Just to get ready for April.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q.  (No microphone)?

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

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

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

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

JOHN GIBBONS:  You mean with Lawrie?

Q.  In general?

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

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

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

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

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

Anthopoulos on the trade deadline

On standing pat…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cabrera set for his return to San Francisco

Melky Cabrera will make his highly anticipated return to San Francisco when the Blue Jays open a two-game series at AT&T Park on Tuesday night. The reaction from Giants fans should be interesting to say the least considering Cabrera was San Francisco’s best player until he was suspended shortly after the All-Star Break because of a positive drug test.

The ensuing months became somewhat of a soap opera as Cabrera refused to talk about the suspension with San Francisco reporters and never spoke directly to the fanbase about what happened. He essentially vanished overnight and many of the Giants players have gone on record over the past several months about how they used to be close but he no longer returns their messages.

Perhaps in part because of the way things ended, or because the Giants didn’t want the distraction, San Francisco opted not to reinstate Cabrera after his suspension ended during the postseason. He’s only spoke about the Giants on a handful of occasions since then but he held a brief scrum with reporters on Sunday afternoon in San Diego in advance of the upcoming series.

Here’s the Q+A from that scrum with the help of interpreter Luis Rivera:

On going back to San Francisco…
“They treated me really well when I played there and they gave me an opportunity to play every day and I had a great time playing for them.”

Fan reaction…
“I don’t worry about that, it’s up to the fans, it’s nothing I have control of. I’m just going to play the game. If they decide to boo that’s fine, if they decide to cheer that’s fine with me too. But I’m not going to worry about that, I’m just going to focus on the game and try to help my team win.”

Surprised you weren’t added to postseason roster…
“That was their decision. I was ready after I was suspended, I went down and got ready just in case they needed me. They didn’t need me at the time, they won the championship and I was very happy and glad that they did it with or without me.”

Hard feelings…
“No, I was fine. I was ready to go but it was their decision. They decided not to use me, nothing I can do about that. I was ready but that was their decision.”

Looking forward to going back to the city…
“I’m going to be in the hotel to just get ready for the two games.”

Slow start in SF and how that compares to current Blue Jays team…
“I hope that’s the case. We have a lot of good players here, as good as the guys in San Francisco and I feel like these guys are going to start getting on and we’re going to finish strong before the year’s over.”

Legs causing issues…
“Everyday I’m feeling a little bit better.”

Biggest difference in play between April and May…
“It’s going to be a long season, every day I continue to play I’ve felt better and better. Games and at-bats are making a difference for me right now.”

Hitting leadoff…
“Anywhere in the lineup they use me, I’m fine with me. John is the manager and whatever he needs I’m fine with it.”

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.”

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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