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Interview with Blue Jays Pitching Coach Bruce Walton: Part Five

The final part of our interview with Bruce Walton.

Thanks so much to Bruce for doing this for us.

So the starting rotations is Romero, Cecil, Morrow, Alvarez and McGowan?

That's about what we have right now, I think we have other people in the mix, McGuire, Jenkins, Huchison, Lafferty. You have other guys there that are in the mix but I think that's the top 5. Pretty simple.

Drabek would have to have a good spring?

Yeah he'd have to have a good spring but Kyle if he, Kyle has a chance to make the team. I mean anyone that starts 10-12 games last year for the big league club has a chance to start this year. We need Kyle, Kyle is a big part of our organization. We need Kyle to get there. To find out who Kyle is and get there fast.

Sergio Santos, what do you think he'll do this year?

Oh he'll be great. He's familiar with our organization. He knows everyone here. He's a good kid. A big strong power, 95-96. The ability to miss bats. A wipeout breaking ball. The ability to strikeout 3 hitters in an inning. A tremendous addition to our bullpen. Hopefully he'll be there for a long time, so we don't have to worry about our closer for a while. We know who our closer is. It makes it a little bit easier to manage the bullpen once you have a set closer and he's our guy. He's got the weapons to close. He's got the mentally, he's got the stuff. I'm excited to have him and I know him. So we aren't going into this blind, we know the person, the person is great, the person is completive, he's going to fit in really nice. Can't wait to see him again.

Jon Rauch had trouble with home runs. Why?

He left balls up in the strike zone. (laughs). Rauch can pitch, he's a very good pitcher, he can locate. At times the ball got elevated and they got him. Rauch doesn't throw that hard. He's 88-90 and when the ball comes up in the strike zone it is very easy to hit, when the ball is down in the strike zone, coming from that big frame, it was very hard to hit. He was leaving balls up in the zone. Also playing in ball parks, you know the AL East isn't the easiest place to pitch. I know the other divisions are getting better, so I don't know if I can use that line much anymore. It's a tough league. The Boston line up is still one of the best in baseball, the New York line up is always tough, the Tampa Bay Rays are always tough, the Baltimore Orioles can always hit.

Rogers Centre isn't the best place to pitch. It's small and its comfortable. It isn't overly cold, or overly hot. If it is they close it. So it's comfortable for the hitters, the hitters get a great look at the baseball there, they love hitting there and the ball flies. Boston the ball flies. The wall intimidates you as a pitcher. Boston pretty good hitting ball park. New York pretty good hitting ballpark. Tampa Bay pretty good hitting ballpark. Baltimore is fair. I think Baltimore is the fairest one of them all. I think all those when you add them up it is a home run league.

Are you worried that we didn't add another starter this year?

No I'm not worried. I like my rotation, I liked my rotation at the end of last year. I thought we completed very well. I think with Ricky and Brandon and Brett, I think Brett is going to have a good year and Henderson was fabulous and McGowan showed signs of rebounding and coming back. I think that's a pretty good rotation. Adding to the bullpen with a closer and we know Darren Oliver, what he does. Jason Frasor and Casey Janssen, those are 4 big time guys going into the end of the game that know their roles going into spring training. I think they will be really good this year. As much as you want to add pieces, sometimes you can't, sometimes it's hard. I think we added the pieces where we needed to.

If you looked at our season last year, the most glaring thing was the 22 blown saves. 22. You can point fingers here and there but we did blow 22 saves. At times we didn't pitch deep enough into games as starters, regardless our middle guys held it and we had a chance to win those games and we failed. If we win half those games it's 10 games. Maybe that's 81 to 91. I'm really happy that the end of the game is going to be more consistent. That's nothing against Frankie or I thought Dotel pitched well for us before he was traded and I thought that Frankie had a heck of a second half.

(Francisco) never really got rolling till the second half till the second half. When he got rolling he was good, we needed that Frankie at the beginning of the season, we didn't have that at the beginning of the season and that hurt us. We missed Frankie at the beginning of the season. He just had some lingering stuff, tried to get it done and he couldn't get it done. It showed. And when he got healthy it showed.

I was hoping Casey would be the 8th inning guy this year.

(This was before the Cordero signing).Well Casey did most of the 8th inning stuff at the end of the year last year and I'm sure he'll get more 8th inning stuff. I think that between him and Jason and Darren, they are all the 8th inning guys. The only time when Casey didn't get the 8th is when he pitched a couple of days in a row. Casey had a heck of a year, Casey is coming into his own, he knows how to pitch, he'll keeping the ball down, he's doing everything that he needs to do to get his outs. And he's a legitimate 8th inning guys and if you have a legitimate 8th inning guy that's pitching the 7th that's a pretty good bullpen.

What do you think of the Jays having pitchers skip Vegas?

It isn't the funest place to pitch, you have to do different things to pitch there. It's not the ideal place to develop, just because the ball travels. You gotta pitch backwards, you gotta do a lot of things. You have to go against getting ready for the big leagues. I want them to pitch in, I want them to throw a lot of fastballs. I want them to get their fastball command. When you are in a league that hitters can only hit fastballs, most of them, that's why they are in Triple-A. And in a league that the ball flies, so they are throwing a lot of off-speed pitches and they are throwing the wrong way to put up numbers, which they need to do. What do you tell a kid, it's ok to do that, so you don't have a good ERA so people don't notice you. So what do you do. So it's not the ideal place to judge pitching, it's not the ideal place to teach pitching, it's not the ideal place to develop place to develop pitching.

I think you have to shave points off. If it is a 5 or 6 ERA, it's likely a 4 and a half. Then again you are guessing. What if? The what ifs get you in trouble. What if he was playing there, but he's not he's playing here, and this is what he is doing. It depends on who it is and what they need to do with that certain pitcher. I don't think it is that bad to come up from Double-A. Then again you like to see the guys come through the levels. Levels are there for a reason. Each level has its own challenges. And once they meet those challenges, and you see how they handle them, it gives you the most information you can possibly have to decide if this guy is ready to come up and handle our league.

So you like the levels, you'd like to see how they do at the levels and when someone comes up from Single-a or Double-a you are like ohhhhh. He might not have been bad yet. I need him to be bad. I want to see what happens to them when they are bad. Because you are going to be bad in the big leagues, it is a given, I don't care who you are. I don't care if you are Roy Halladay, I've seen hit bad. What are you going to do when you are bad.

We got 7 off (David) Price one day, then Price was good for 12 straight. So we know how he handles bad. He forgets about it, he lets it go. He gets it. And he's fine, he gets it.

That must be the hardest thing about pitching, to forget?

Short term memory. It's the hardest thing to give a pitcher. They wear it on their sleeves. Some of them because of the team . Some of them for selfish reasons, which are fine, contract and stuff like that. If I don't get somebody out I'm not going to get paid. How much more pressure do you need? This is the job I choose, I've thrown everything away in my life to do this occupation, knowing there is a reward at the end of the rainbow if I do well. If I don't do well, I gotta go back and start life over. Go back to school, get an education. So a lot of these players, including myself, threw everything out the window to chase this dream. The dream isn't only to pitcher here but to make a career out of it, support your family and it's almost like becoming an actor. There isn't much of a fallback baseball players, other than those that are scholar and player. That's not that common.

There is a lot of pressure on them, the mental part of the game is huge at the big leagues. At the big leagues they let you know how you are doing. There are 50,000 people telling you how you are doing, there's a social network now, there's newspapers still, there's blogs. Everybody is not afraid to tell you how you doing or how you're not doing. I try to keep them off the social networks, for the most part, other than if they do it the right way. Just because they read something and they take it to heart. That guy doesn't know you, he doesn't know what happened next week. I'm the only one that knows what happened. And they come to the field and think maybe they are right, maybe I suck. I'm like no you don't.