Building a Better Bench Key to Jays Success


August 24, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Los Angeles Angels third baseman Maicer Izturis (13) makes a throw to first during the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Los Angeles won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsThere were a lot of issues that plagued the Toronto Blue Jays during the 2012 season. Teams do not undergo the kind of epic make-over that the Blue Jays did this winter if things just needed a little tweak. But while the majority of attention has been focused on the the big names added it is some of the minor moves that go unnoticed that deserve a bit of attention also.

Of the aforementioned issues last season, perhaps one of the most blatant was the team’s lack of depth to recover from injuries.

One year after the bench was at times littered with names like Eric Thames, Omar Vizquel, Jeff Mathis, Mike McCoy, Yorvit Torrealba, and Ben Francisco, general manager Alex Anthopoulos made a concerted effort to get it to add quality to those roles.

There is the diverse Maicer Izturis (assuming Emilio Bonifacio is the starter at second), a sure-hander fielder that can play second, third, or short. A slap hitter with little power, he has managed to produce a career OPS of .718 over nine years with the Angels.

How about Rajai Davis as the back-up outfielder? He will be playing a role he is much more suited for, coming off the bench as a late-game pinch-runner, utilizing the speed that has helped him steal 223 bases over his career.

Then there is Mark DeRosa, who recently signed with Toronto. The former Cub, Ranger, Giant, National, Brave, Indian, and Cardinal has struggled with injuries recently, but has been productive when active and has twice authored seasons with 20+ home runs and owns a .752 career OPS.

Henry Blanco does not jump off the page at you, but his role could be very important in Toronto this season. As another catcher that has seen R.A. Dickey‘s mysterious knuckleball, he’ll contribute with his glove. And while his bat is nothing to write home about, Blanco has some occasional pop that could benefit the team in a back-up role.

Even the minor league depth is more promising this time around. The ability to stash players with Major League experience like Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra, Andy LaRoche, Adam Loewen, and Ryan Langerhans will only serve to protect the team as the season wears on. With a 162-game regular season, having a loaded top of the roster is a big plus, but balancing out the back end of that roster with a strong compliment of bench players and minor league depth is what sets winners away from the rest of the pack.

And that is exactly what Anthopoulos and his team went out to do; build a winner.