Earlier this evening, Blue Jays manager John Farrell appeared in person on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown on the Fan 590 for an extended period of time. There were a fair amount of notable nuggets, some of which I shared on Twitter at the time of the broadcast, but, as promised, here’s a complete run down of the 33-minute interview with complete quotes and video footage embedded below in case you want to take a look.
The two chat about the upcoming winter caravan and the feeling amongst the Jays’ fan base both around the city and at the ballpark, with Farrell adding that “it’s an exciting time to be following the Blue Jays”. They talk about Farrell’s first year as manager, where he repeats, from an interview earlier in the year, that he needs to do a better job handling the bullpen and how it was difficult going from being in charge of 12-14 pitchers to a full 25-man roster.
Bullpen-wise, come spring training, Farrell feels that there are more defined roles unlike last year where it was a “by committee” approach. Farrell adds that Santos marks “where the blueprint really begins” and the organization has a clearer picture heading into the start of spring training. Farrell gets into specifics about how he can improve his handling of the bullpen next season, citing that things will be easier since there are more known commodities in the individual pitchers in the bullpen and that he better understands what their capabilities are .
“I ran from some guys when they didn’t perform as expected, and I think I need to trust the belief in them and ride them in some rocky times,” Farrell admitted, eventually adding that he was, at times, reluctant to go back to a guy right away if he didn’t pitch well the night before.
They then talk about the additions to the roster in last year’s second half (Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, Kelly Johnson), and the two arrive to the consensus that there’s really only one job in the field that is open heading into spring training and that’s left field. This spurns a discussion about Travis Snider:
“The best way I could describe it is, yes he has all the tools that everyone sees, and to project as an above-average, everyday left fielder. He’s got instincts, he’s got very good defensive capability, he can run the bases well, he’s of the right makeup that you look for in a competitive guy who’s ready to toe it up every night. What we’ve noticed on a few occasions is, he comes up, he gets off to a good start, and then begins to falter a little bit. That’s the difference between pitching at the Triple-A level and pitching at the big league level. In a conversation with Travis two days ago, he’s very well aware of it … We haven’t given up on him, we still value him as a player and a person, and if he drives the competition in spring training with Eric, and it makes us better and a better team.”
Transitioning into a conversation about a frustration this off-season amongst the Jays’ fan base without mentioning “payroll parameters”, McCown mentions the finger pointing towards Rogers, Paul Beeston, and Anthopoulos before directly asking Farrell how he feels about the acquisitions that have been made thus far and the fact that the Jays opted not to acquire an impact player or big-name free agent:
“Well, there’s a couple of ways to respond to that. First of all, I talk with Alex daily, and many times multiple times in the course of a day,” Farrell says before admitting that both him and Anthopoulos initiate their daily conversations. “It’s a very open line of conversation. I can understand some of the frustration, but I think that’s a positive thing as far as the public is concerned. It means they care. And, at the same time, the offseason’s not over, so I’m not saying there’s something imminent, but I think it’s Paul’s and Alex’s responsibility to not only put the best product on the field — as that work is going on daily — but it can’t be done without any method and responsibility to overpaying either in terms of prospects or in terms of total finances. I think we’re methodically moving in the right direction, a contender that we feel is not only going to contend in a given year but over the course of a long period of time. That doesn’t just happen overnight.
“If we were to start spring training tomorrow, we don’t feel that we’re not capable of competing in this division this year. We feel like we’re able to compete.”
So McCown asks Farrell how exactly do you add 10 wins, or perhaps more than that, to win the division, and Farrell responds quickly by mentioning the late-season additions that the Jays received from Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, and Kelly Johnson.
After a mundane couple of minutes about ensuring players stick to their routines to avoid a potential sophomore slump (a point that McCown brought up), Farrell mentions that the biggest key to improving the team next year will be to get more quality innings out of the rotation to not only keep them in games, but also to avoid overtaxing the bullpen. When asked if he knew what pitchers he’ll have in his rotation next year, Farrell replied with “I think we look at seven guys that will compete for those five spots,” before offering a few quotes on only six players:
“Certainly Ricky will lead us off. He really emerged as one of the elite pitchers in the American League last year.”
“I think by the end of the season, Brandon Morrow really figured some things out. The last three or four starts that he made I think signified the effort level that he has to pitch at and operate efficiently and most productively start to finish inside a given game.”
“Henderson Alvarez, his emergence last year was extremely encouraging for a young guy, and we don’t want to pin all our hopes on a 10-start look, but it was a very solid, a very promising 10 starts that he made for us.”
“Brett Cecil has committed himself to the point of– we talked a lot individually with him last year. But I think, more than anything, his core strength and his overall body composition needed to be addressed. He’s doing that now, he’s committed to that, and this is a 15-game winner of two years ago, a left-hander with good stuff, and quite honestly, we need him to regain that form right now.”
“Above and beyond that, McGowan comes back to us. He’s gotta start. He’s going to need that rest in-between starts as opposed to the wear and tear that a reliever’s going to pitch on short rest I think for his own benefit and really for the good of our club. We need the innings that he’s going to provide. What that total number is is yet unknown, because he’s coming from probably a 70 or 80-inning load that he pitched last year. Realistically, we can’t jump him up to 180 [innings], that’s going to be out of the question.”
“With Kyle Drabek, we talked about some of the young players a minute ago, harnessing his abilities is the last developmental tool for him. It’s not a matter of developing another pitch, it’s a matter of harnessing his emotions and his energy on the mound and channeling that the right way for seven or eight innings while he’s out there. It’s not uncommon for young pitchers, young players, to rely on, almost a middle-linebacker’s approach and they start to overthrow, they’ll come out of their delivery, which they’ll sacrifice location and command of their pitches. That’s what happened to Kyle. If he was sitting here right now he’d be the first to agree with that. Last year was, I think, a very steep learning curve for him, not only about what it’s like in the big leagues, but more importantly about what it’s like for himself, and what works for him and doesn’t work for him.”
Before cutting to the next segment with questions from callers, McCown asks Farrell if there’s a comparison between Morrow and McGowan, and he responds with “I think they’re different at this point.”
Where do you see Brett Lawrie eventually hitting in the lineup?
“Where he ends up, he profiles as a No. 3 type of hitter down the road. I think the fact that he came up, started in the nine hole, started to migrate his way north, some games up into the five and six-hole. Try to keep some continuity and balance with left/right all the way through the lineup if we’re able to do that. I think , initially, we’ll probably see him in that six or seven range to start, but that doesn’t mean that, through his own maturity and performance, he can’t go north from that.”
What does Colby Rasmus have to do to regain his form and become an elite center fielder in the American League?
“The fact is, Colby just needs to come in and be himself; and I say that in all sincerity. There was a lot that was made of his time in St. Louis, he came over here to, and has gotten, a fresh start, and we believe in the player. I think that one thing that he’s going to find, similar to what he experienced in St. Louis, is that there’s going to be a book out on him pretty quick. I think the fact that he can come in and at least address an area of the plate — he’s been a dead-pull hitter pretty much his entire career — as long as he’s able to handle a ball that’s going to be close to him, and still put a good swing on a pitch that he can drive to the pull side. I think last year he tried to do a little bit too much after coming over from the trade and you saw him pull off a lot of pitches with a lot of swing and miss. To trust his abilities and feel comfortable, more than anything, and that’s what’s going to allow his natural abilities to play out. He’s an above-average player, we saw very good defense from him in center field, he’s got above-average power, but I think more than anything, his second time through with us this year will give him that comfort level to allow those abilities to play out.”
I’m wondering if Travis d’Arnaud comes in to spring training and gives you no choice, as far as keeping him up for the season.
“I think going into spring training and the fact that Travis is coming of a very strong year, an MVP year, in the Eastern League, his development path is going to warrant some at-bats at Triple-A. The one thing, I think, when you look at a young player as they’re making their way forward, making their way to the big leagues, you want to be careful as to not to rush them too quick. And that might sound not aggressive enough or too conservative, but a player is going to tell us when he’s ready to come to the big leagues. Spring training evaluation can be dangerous, much like September evaluations can.
“We’re very fortunate that we’ve got a very good, young catcher, a frontline-type catcher, in our system who is going to be a very good big leaguer. We also have a good catcher in J.P. Arencibia, and obviously with the acquisition of Jeff Mathis as his backup, we feel very good about our catching core right now, and it doesn’t put us in a position where we’ve got to succumb to spring training evaluations and say “okay, let’s get Travis here right now”. He’s going to be here in due time, but I think the best thing for his development path is probably at least half-year in Triple-A, and if he pushes the envelope and bangs the door down that he’s ready before that, we’re certainly open to that, but that’s the plan going into spring training.”
(From McCown, final question) Give me one guy, that if he made this club, people would be surprised but you wouldn’t be.
“Wow you’re really putting me on the spot right now. There are two guys, and two guys that are going to be very good players. Anthony Gose, center fielder, he is an electrifying player, and I don’t throw that out there lightly. If people can think back to Kenny Lofton, there’s a lot of similarities. This is a guy that stole 75 bases last year in Double-A, hit close to 20 home runs, at 20 years of age. Now there’s some swing and miss there, so the strikeout totals are a little bit high, but this is a center of the diamond player that’s got lights-out ability.
“The other one is Drew Hutchison, right-handed pitcher. A right-hander that’s going to pitch in the low 90s, and I’m not going to say that he’s going to make the team, but he’s an exciting young pitcher. The reason I say that, he pitched a game for us in spring training, brought him up from minor league camp, went six innings against the Phillies at Clearwater in front of 9,000 people in spring training, didn’t hesitate, didn’t balk, didn’t show any outward apprehension. Most importantly, he can really command his fastball and get outs with his fastball. Those are the key ingredients to becoming a successful big league pitcher.
“I think initially he’ll probably start at Double-A, but then we’ll see where it goes from there.”