Jays manager John Farrell took to the airwaves this morning, providing us with some nuggets as he spoke on a number of topics with Jeff Blair of the Fan 590 (audio here), including the success Casey Janssen has had since assuming the closer role for the Jays, the progress of Sergio Santos, and a couple of young, untested power arms that the club seems intent on looking towards to shore up their shaky bullpen.
First, however, they discussed the possibility of trades.
“I think that a starter would go a long way,” Farrell said, echoing what we’ve all been basically thinking, “and if we had the ability, and the market provided two, I’d even go as far as saying that two could be used, or could be needed. Particularly, as you mentioned, the dependability of six to seven innings every night out allows you to bring guys from the bullpen that are rested. Because, here’s the thing, Jeff, we’ve got 80 games remaining. We’ve got 54 that are in the AL East ahead of us. Two of the best offenses in the game are among those, in Boston and New York, so we know that while we sit here two games over .500, two-and-a-half games out of the Wild Card, we have got a tough road ahead, and we have got to not only perform at our best, but in some cases we might even need some reinforcements.”
Easier said than done, of course, but there’s really no reason to be afraid of all those second half games against the AL East… y’know, if they can find someone decent to start against them.
The relief corps sure could use help from the rotation too– though the back end of the bullpen has been buoyed by the fantastic performance of Casey Janssen, which Farrell also spoke to.
“I think when he initially made the transisiton to closing, one, he didn’t try to be someone he was not,” the manager said. “He still attacked the strike zone, he threw a lot of strikes, and I think that, as he’s gotten into this now, the confidence has grown. You see the body language and the mound presence– he’s always been an energetic pitcher, that’s the image he projects on the mound, and I think it’s really even kind of picked up a little bit more. At the same time, because he’s used in solely one inning stints, and there’s really no ups and downs– we haven’t used him in one-plus innings– I think his arm has responded in a way where he’s gained some arm strength, we’re seeing more swing-and-miss to his stuff, and the fact is, he’s 11 for 11 in saves, and I think he’s given up two hits in those eleven save opportunites, and one has actually left the infield. Now, that’s probably going to jinx him immediately by saying that, but at the same time, he has been extremely effective. He works quick, he can control the running game, he’s an optimal reliever, and yet, he’s begun to flourish as the closer for us.”
“Currently that’s how I look at it,” Farrell added, when asked if, regardless of where Sergio Santos is at, the club has to look at Janssen as their closer for the rest of the year. “Until Sergio goes out on a rehab assignment and actually is getting in games, I think then you can begin to look at the calendar and project, ‘when does he come back?’ But with the amount of time missed and the way Casey’s established himself, we would love to have a healthy Sergio back in our bullpen. But where he would settle in initially, um… hopefully we do get him back, and he comes back to us, as a guy who’s capable of striking a guy out– but I think Casey has certainly solidified the closers role for the time being and as we go through the remainder of this year.”
This was a spot in the conversation where my ears pricked up– especially the stuff regarding Santos.
For one, they’ve reached the stage of only being hopeful that he even comes back at all this year? Yikes.
Worse still is that there’s a comma in the part of the line right after that, which I wasn’t sure belonged, but I squeezed in there just to mitigate whatever hysteria it might have caused if I’d transcribed the passage more in the way Farrell’s utterance truly sounded.
Had I omitted the comma it would have read: “hopefully we do get him back, and he comes back to us as a guy who’s capable of striking a guy out.”
Written that way, it reads as though there’s concern that Santos may have lost something, or that they’re worried he might not be the same guy when he returns. I strongly suspect, though, that it’s just a little hiccup in the Farrellspeak, and what he meant was that as a guy who can strike a guy out, they get him back. They were, after all, talking at another point in the interview about the importance Farrell places on late game relievers being able to generate swinging strikes.
Of course, “if you’re getting three outs in the ninth with a one run lead,” he said, “you could throw underhand, if that’s what it takes.”
One pitcher who the manager acknowledged wouldn’t be generating a lot of swing-and-miss is the recently called-up Sam Dyson, who has an Alvarez-like strikeout rate in New Hampshire, despite being a hard thrower. But, apparently, that’s OK.
“This is a high-profile right-handed pitcher out of the University of South Carolina that had some arm problems in his junior year– his draft year,” Farrell explains. “We drafted him, had him have the Tommy John surgery, so he’s in his first full season of pitching. But this is someone who was projected as a first round talent, but the injury held him back a little bit, into the mid-rounds, and to Alex’s credit, he didn’t shy away from the guy. He took him, we rehabbed him, he’s been in Double-A for the last month or so. He’s going to pitch in the mid-90s with a heavy sinking fastball. So, we were able to add– albeit inexperienced– a power arm for our bullpen that can find his way in the middle innings. And to me Jeff, the biggest thing is we’ve had a void– and this is because of Carlos going to the rotation– when we’re in the seventh inning and we’re down a run. That pitcher, to be able to fill that role, has been a little bit elusive. We’ve tried a number of guys in that spot. We feel like our offence can come back– with one swing of the bat we can put a crooked number on the board– but having not had the ability of holding the game close when we’re down the run, we’ve had some games that had kind of gotten away from us because of some inconsistencies out of the ‘pen.”
“We’ve got some raw ability here that is drastically different than maybe some guys that have recently been here,” he adds about Dyson. The same could be said of the just-drafted Marcus Stroman, who Farrell concedes may indeed be pitching for the Jays before the summer is through.
“It’s not out of the realm of possibility,” he says, “and I think even going into the draft, across baseball, they felt like this would be a guy who could probably get to the Major Leagues first. Or who could thrive at the Major League level first, among the class of guys who are drafted. But someone asked the same question yesterday, and my response is, their performance will tell us when they’re ready. Now, he hasn’t pitched in a while, because of their season ending and the draft, and so, he’s going to have to get back into his routine, where he’ll have to get multiple, and probably a good number of appearances in pro baseball under his belt, just to get him back into pitching shape. I know he’s going to be assigned out to Vancouver for the time being, and then progress from there. But when you look at the swing-and-miss ability, and the person himself is a very highly competitive guy that comes from a tremendous background, a great family, so we feel like, not only in addition to the physical stuff, there’s the mental capacity there to handle a lot at a very quick pace.”
It sounds like a lot to ask of some really raw young arms, but… shit, it’s not like the bar has been set very high at this point, is it?
Image via Cooper Neill/Getty.