‘Tis the season for hyping up the… er… season, which means that this week we’ve seen Alex Anthopoulos in all sorts of fun and interesting places that the Jays GM doesn’t normally venture. Or, at least, two fun and interesting places: speaking with Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler on the Sportsnet telecast of Tuesday night’s game, and on the CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight.
You can watch the Strombo stuff at Strombo.com, on YouTube, or at the bottom of this post. And if you’re cool like that and have MLB.TV, you’ll be able to find AA’s interview buried with Sportsnet’s broadcast during the bottom of the second inning.
Of course, if you’d rather not sift through to find the nuggets, I’ve taken the trouble of transcribing a shit-tonne of highlights from a couple of interesting, and more-revealing-than-usual chats…
With Kyle Drabek on the mound, the conversation began with a focus on the club’s hopefully-emerging starter. Anthopoulos says he was impressed with the work he put in over the winter, and the results he’s had throwing his curveball for strikes this year. He said that all spring he’d stare at him before games and say, “two-seamer, curveball, changeup”– meaning he wants him to get away from throwing the cutter and the four-seamer. “The two-seamer’s got as much velocity as the four-seamer, and it allows him to keep the ball down– he gets a tonne of ground balls.” He adds that “he’s not there yet all the way, but he’s starting to get there slowly.”
As for who might get the call behind Drabek, Anthopoulos reveals that “the depth is going to come from” New Hampshire. “We’ve elected to go with talent, and let those guys develop up here at times. Hopefully they all turn out as well as a guy like Alvarez did last year.” He adds, as Drew Hutchison’s ears burn, that “the guys who throw strikes will normally be the guys that survive here.”
With Alvarez last year there was still some development that could have occurred in the minors, Anthopoulos tells us, but “there was enough there that he could come up and help the team win and still not impact his long-term growth.” This seems to be the approach they’ll be taking with guys like Hutchison, McGuire, Jenkins, and perhaps Carreno– if he’s even considered among that group.
“Once they get to New Hampshire, if they start to perform, the needs of the big league team start to matter,” the GM explains. They won’t be shy to promote their crew of Double-A arms, unless they feel that it will impact their development to bring them up too soon.
Asked who in particular caught his eye, on the pitching side, during Spring Training, Anthopoulos quickly points to lefty-specialist Evan Crawford. “He was even better than I though,” Alex says. “I was very impressed and very excited by him. I didn’t know he had a slider the way he did, his curve ball is outstanding, he just pitched last night and was up to 94– he doesn’t sit there, but this is a guy who has a chance to be a long-term piece for us and a real impact guy.”
It wouldn’t be the first time he rather generously used the word “impact.” I mean, it’s not like the GM isn’t going to put a positive shine on things– which isn’t to say that Crawford couldn’t most definitely be a useful bullpen piece.
Asked about the pitchers at Lansing, Anthopoulos says that “they all look really good.” He notes that Sanchez hit 98 on Monday night, that Nicolino was throwing no-hit innings, and that Andrew Tinnish and his staff may have found the club “three real high-ceiling impact guys” in the 2010 draft. “We’re going to take our time with them,” he adds.
And then he says something kind of different, when speaking of position players. “You get to the Florida State League, you can end the year in New Hampshire,” he says of Dunedin outfielders Jake Marisnick, Michael Crouse and Marcus Knecht. “Those guys could be in camp with us next year, and they’re right there. They could move fast enough that they’re only a year away.” (Note: Really? Nails!)
After some standard fare talk about the off-season (“We had chances to get some starters. Some were lower-end guys– the higher-end guys the price was just too high and we would have had to pull away from some of our starters up here.”), he addresses what the Jays are going to do with the fifth starter’s spot, which is empty since Joel Carreno’s demotion, and comes up again April 21st.
“We have some ideas,” he says, making it sound clearly like Joel Carreno isn’t simply going to be handed the opportunity again, despite being not terrible in his MLB debut as a starter. “We’re going to watch a few starts on some of the guys down there, but we do have guys who we have a strong eye on for that start. But it’s going to vary on how those guys do in the next ten days or so.”
Regarding some day-to-day stuff, he says of the club’s early season hitting struggles that ”Obviously there’s some things you look at. If it goes on for a few weeks, I might have more concenrs, but it’s still too early.” And of Sergio Santos, he assures us that ”He’s got great stuff. I’ll go to war with that stuff any day.”
“In the Indians series, I thought he had great at-bats, great swings, hard contact,” he says of Colby Rasmus. “I wasn’t worried. I know people were. If it was bad swings, bad mechanics– I thought it looked good, so I wasn’t worried there.” He adds that “his swing is so much better than it was last year, with the leg lift, his approach, I thought he hit some balls really, really hard.”
Miscellaneously, he called last year’s outfield defence “bad,” and with a straight face calls it improved, even though Eric Thames and Jose Bautista were there much of the year, and are back. And speaking of in-season transactions, he says that he tries “to be early rather than late, if you can be, just from a trade standpoint.” So stay on your toes, I guess!
Peering straight into the soul of cynical bloggers, Anthopoulos responds to a question about clubhouse dynamic– and Jose Bautista in particular– by explaining that “Even early on in my career I was a little bit like, it’s Talent Talent Talent, and the way someone is in the clubhouse, it’s overrated– this and that. Over the years I’ve seen that, y’know, it’s really important. You can’t quantify it. And a guy like Bautista– I don’t think I’m ever going to have as good a player, as a GM, in my lifetime. He’s a rare breed, in terms of everything he brings. He’s a freak in every good way that I can say.”
Most interestingly– or perhaps just most-awesomely, he absolutely slays the Jays shitty old uniforms.
“It’s huge,” he says of the jump in merchandise sales since the logo switch. “It’s great, and it’s awesome– just to see last night, the logo, the new gear. I wasn’t a fan of the older ones. It was brutal. And I couldn’t say it when we had them, but I hated the old uniform– the twitter (?), the teal. Awww… it was brutal. Awful. It was embarrassing!”
Things then turned to the fairly standard topic of Colby Rasmus, and we actually heard something interesting.
“I think the expectations when he came in were huge, because he’s a young player with a tonne of ceiling,” Anthopoulos says, trying to put his finger on why the fans and the media have been so savage towards him. “If you look at the last two months with the Cardinals before he came to us, I think he hit .140 there. We saw some things in his swing mechanics before we acquired him that we had major concerns with, but we felt– you know what? This is a guy who’s gone through a lot in St. Louis, this isn’t the time to try to make some of those changes, we’re just going to let him play.”
Anthopoulos likened the poor spring stats Rasmus had this year to what JP Arencibia did last year. As he did on the broadcast, he said that “he didn’t have a very good spring, in terms of the stats, but his at-bats were outstanding. I thought he hit the ball hard a lot.”
As you may have noticed, I’m hopeful on Rasmus. And while I think it must have been tough to watch him wither at the end of last season– and certainly contributed to the moronic vitriol spewing forth from so many fans and clueless media hacks in his direction– it sounds like the Jays suffered the short-term pain, in the hopes of long-term gain. Makes sense.
And lastly, more sensible stuff– at least from Anthopoulos, who, in speaking about the trouble that high expectations can bring on young players like Rasmus and Travis Snider, lays on us that ”when Brett Lawrie came up, I think the second or third day in, we had a big ad in the Toronto Star with Brett Lawrie in it. I just went to Paul Beeston, I said, ‘Paul, could we just chill out on this? Could we just relax?’ And, he’s great and he’s talent, but I’d rather guys make an All-Star team or do some things first.”
Someone maybe should pass that along whoever was in the booth during the Sportsnet telecast Anthopoulos appeared on– you know, the guy who thought it was a great idea to give the mouth-breathers 15 red meat replays of Lawrie running full-steam into the wall trying to make a catch. Stop encouraging it!!!!
Here’s the Strombo segment, as well as the web-exclusive clip that includes the comments about Rasmus and Brett Lawrie (which was actually related to a question about Travis Snider, who– shock!– Alex still believes can be a great player for the Jays)…