I finally got to transcribing the short talk I had with manager John Farrell while the Jays were in Calgary. So much has changed in the week since we talked. I though about adding a question where I say 'I think the Jays ought to trade Vernon to the Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera and then flip Napoli to the Rangers for Frank Francisco.'
I was impressed with Farrell, he was friendly and thoughtful.
It was very noisy at the at the Y where this event took place, so some of what was on the recorder was hard to hear, but I'm sure that while the odd word might not be right, none of the meaning has been changed. Some of the questions are from Hugo.
How does the Jays pitching staff stand up against the other teams in the AL East?
This is a very good blend of youth and talent in rotation and good combination of veteran, proven relievers, that can provide some protection to that young core of starters. I think the year that Brett Cecil had in kind of a break out year last year for him, the continued consistent performance by Ricky and really what we've seen from Morrow making a very successful transition from a bullpen arm, this is an extremely talented group. The key for us is going to be who fills out the fourth and fifth spots. How consistent they can be? I think if we can gain some consistency from those young pitchers in contention for those spots, whether it is Jessie litsch or Kyle Drabek or Marc Rzepczynski . If you look at the talent we can stack up against anybody in this division. But the key is the experience and being established in a very tough tough division.
The team last year, under Cito, wasn't terribly aggressive on the base paths. Are you going to change that?
Well, we've made some changes to the roster that will really help that, the acquisition of Rajai Davis. I think there are some guys on the rosters that are returning players that could be a little more aggressive on the base paths. They are not going to be restricted in terms of ‘will they run' the green light will be given to them. Yes we want to instil a more aggressive attitude on the base paths. Overall to be a little more unpredictable with our ability to score runs, rather than being so reliant on the home run. It is a strength of ours, but I think there is other areas that we can shore up to make us a little more even in our approach to the offense.
In the interview process, for this job, was there a moment when you suddenly thought ‘I want this job'?
That started before the interview process. Knowing that there was going to be turn over, knowing that there was going to be an opening and having the fortunate ability for the last 4 years to see this team 18 times a year, you could see the momentum that was being build, you could see individual players continue to develop and get better. And you combine that with the youth. And I look at the AL East as an attraction, not a deterrent, I thought that was a challenge that was an exciting one. And to do it in a city that has very supportive of a winner in the past, there is a lot of things in place to be a very good situation.
Are you still interested in Manny?
Alex said it best, about 3 or 4 weeks ago, during the winter meetings, that if we were going to add a bat in the DH spot we'd like him to be able to first base, to give us some flexibility. We've got Adam, we got Edwin to platoon in the situation at first base, but we'd like the flexibility to have someone be able to play a corner infield position, because we are fortunate to have the luxury with Jose and his ability to go back to right field if need, so it allows us a lot more flexibility, if we were to add a bat, that he's got some infield experience and the ability to play the infield as well.
There has been a lot of changes in the bullpen. What is your philosophy in building a bullpen? Closer or committee?
No, we will work to identify who that closer is. We got 3 candidates right now with Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch and Octavo Dotel. Spring training is going to give us more insight on who that person will be, but I'm a firm believer in having roles established, so when a guy goes to the bullpen in the first inning he's got a view of the game, he can start to think along with the manager began to anticipate when he's going to be used in the course of a given game. The flexibility to adjust, certainly that's there, but I think a player performs best when he has idea of when he is going to be called upon.
Are Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart going to have a shot at making the team out of spring training?
Oh absolutely, I think Kyle is a guy that we‘ve got a very high level of expectation for. There's many in the organization that think he is ready to assume a major league starting role. He has proven himself at the minor league level. Granted that's the minor league level, but when you talk about young pitching prospects that have durability, talent, competitive know how and the will to win, he epitomizes a lot of those characteristics. So he is going get a long look in spring training. I'm not going anoint him on January 19th, but he has got a very good opportunity to begin his major league career going forward.
Whether or not, there will come a fundamental decision on him in what his ultimate role is. Is he best served with continuing to develop as a starter? He made some fundamental adjustments with his delivery that has really allowed his slider to come along, his velocity to climb. Whether or now we feel now is the time or if he has to go to Vegas to continue his training, that's going to take spring training to answer that question.
A favourite of mind is Marc Rzepcyznski, what does he need to do to become a major league starter?
Trust his sinker. Trust his sinker. He's got a well above average breaking ball. He's shown in flashes, in relief appearances, that he can dominate left-handers and very good left-handers. But his ability to start for us really vaults his value to this organization. And to be able to do that, as he showed in the AFL, he can become an efficient starting pitcher by throwing his fastball for strikes with a little bit more consistency and when he does that he pitches ahead in the count, because of that sinker he can get a lot of outs and a lot of quick outs. And the ground ball double play, is always, he's always one pitch away from getting out of a jam. So he is someone that we are very excited about being in the rotation.
How about Jesse Litsch? Have you seen him much?
Oh yeah, I've seen him, not only last year but in previous years. He is a very good competitor. You look at, he's had to come back from Tommy John and had to come back from hip surgery. He's obviously shown perseverance, but a guy that's not afraid to compete. And you like that pitchablity. He isn't going to overwhelm you with physical stuff, but his cutter is well above average pitch and he's got pitches to get both righties and lefties out.