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December 6, 2010
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA
Q. Wondering your initial reaction to trading for Brett Loury?
JOHN FARRELL: Obviously there's been a lot of conversation reported on that. I think at the appropriate time there will be an official announcement to that trade that's been reported. I think at the right time, there will be a comment from Alex, a comment from myself at the appropriate time.
Q. If you did not have Marcum in the rotation, what would it look like?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, at this point --
JOHN FARRELL: Hypothetically, of course. With Ricky, Morrow, Cecil, Drabek, and then there will be a fifth spot that we will take a long look at internal candidates to this point and if that situation were to arise where Sean wasn't here, we know we would have to replace a pitcher who is one heck of a competitor. Having seen him across the field, it's a guy that he brought a certain amount of dependability with him to the mound and a competitive nature that was an example.
But I think until that time, that's the four we would be looking at right now and open competition for that fourth and fifth spot. While Kyle is a premium prospect and a guy we are extremely excited about, we are going to make sure that he's ready and he's been provided the ample time to be Major League ready when he comes to the big leagues.
Q. John, you've seen a lot of Blue Jays pitching over the years; a guy like Jesse, is he's healthy, can he step into the spot?
JOHN FARRELL: Oh, definitely there will be internal candidates that will compete for that spot and Jesse is one of those guys. Jesse is a guy that competes, he's not going to overwhelm you with stuff, but last year, he threw a game against Daisuke, and his cutter is a very respective pitch and somebody that we know that is going to be able to control the game and be able to bridge the gap with guys in the bullpen behind him.
But a guy that can compete. And as he gets further past the hip injury and the surgery that took place there, it's going to lend his durability and the dependability that we all strive for sending a guy on the mound on a nightly basis.
Q. The bullpen is still under construction; what does it look like at the back end for you right now?
JOHN FARRELL: Again, there's a lot of conversation, there's two key members that are free agents right now with Kevin and with Scott. Those are not easy guys to replace, and the number of candidates that are out there are certainly being discussed internally right now. But I think for everyone in uniform, to have that ability to build back to consistency in the back end of the bullpen will be key for us, key for us on a nightly basis to compete and I think it allows other guys that we know of that are returning with Frasor, Janssen, Camp, guys to slot into consistent roles. That would be the ultimate goal as we go through the off-season here and certainly into Spring Training to solidify those.
Q. What is your preferred structure of the bullpen in your ideal world?
JOHN FARRELL: The best pitchers available.
Q. In terms of using guys.
JOHN FARRELL: Well, again, to be able to build back to a guy to close out games is the basic blueprint that anyone is looking to strive for but to say that you need two or three left-handers to match up, we would like to be able to solidify roles. To get into who knows guys are at this point, it's certainly way premature for that but it would be nice to have the flexibility to match up when needed in those middle innings. But most importantly is a guy to anchor it and build back to every night.
Q. A lot has been made that multi-year deals for free agents, middle relievers tend not to go well. Why do you think that is the case?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, I'm sure it's a case-by-case situation.
But unfortunately, when you look at the group of pitchers that fall into that middle reliever category, they have either not had a repertoire that would allow them to go through the lineup two or three times. And they have not closed out well in the past so they settle into that group. I think that's the most unsettled spot on the team year on year, so with that volatility, it may extend to the individual level, as well and that's where the multi-year deals might not pan out as consistent as other guys that have a better feel for their capabilities and their dependability, more than anything.
Q. With the versatility of a lot of your players start, does it allow Alex to obtain guys at different positions that gives you flexibility with your roster?
JOHN FARRELL: That's a great point because in our discussions, without being able to elaborate too much on what free agents are being considered, but his versatility and his ability at the plate is certainly a luxury; to his credit, he's one heck of an athlete, one heck of a hitter that has had a breakout year and we are fortunate to have Jose. We feel confident with him at either position, whether it's third base or right field but in talking with Jose, he feels that he can take advantage of his arm strength as a right fielder.
But, having said that, he has not made an ultimatum, either, on what position he wants to play. So we will look at the best complimentary player to him, and whether that's an outfielder or third baseman, we'll look at in the off-season.
Q. He has one more year before free agency --
JOHN FARRELL: There's such a good rapport between Jose and the club that I have come to know. We value him extremely. Those conversations, knowing that he is into his sixth year with us, or sixth year of Major League service, that will all take place at the appropriate time, those conversations.
Q. What do you see as the most important need for this club to address that is outstanding at the moment?
JOHN FARRELL: I think our bullpen is one area that we continue to look at combinations of certain relievers. We feel good about the middle group and the options, or the guys on our roster right now that have the ability to bridge us back into that bullpen. Fortunately we do have Jason Frasor who has had some closing experience in the past.
But when we look to identify the needs, that's where the bullpen really starts to emerge, along with corner infielders, and that's where the focus remains right at this point.
Q. As the manager of this club, how good does it feel to see your general manager being so aggressive on the trademark, the free agent mark, whatever?
JOHN FARRELL: His approach to everybody, the same work ethic and approach is being done in inquiring about every player that's out there. He's not going to leave any stone unturned. We are fortunate to have someone like him. ; the work ethic that's there and the people that are leading this organization, certainly along with Paul, and there's going to be tough decisions that are ahead of us, but feel like there's a lot of capability and understanding to make the best decisions possible.
Q. How do you feel when people are talking about closers of the future last year, names that comb up with David Purcey and Josh Roenicke. Philosophically how would you feel about taking a guy without a lot of experience in that role and just throwing him into the deep end to see if he can swim?
JOHN FARRELL: I think first you have to evaluate the given talents of an individual pitcher and for us to prioritize those strengths, the ability to get a strikeout when needed, the ability to have some swing-and-miss type stuff in their repertoire that would make them a candidate. The one thing that you have to be careful of with any young pitcher is if you throw them to the wolves as you are saying, and they don't have initial success, one, you'd better have a quality option in Plan B, and two, what is in the best interests of that given player.
I think that's where we have to be prudent in our decisions and building out this roster to make sure that not any one player is overexposed, particularly a young guy, that we have got a long-term view of.
Q. Is this your first Winter Meetings?
JOHN FARRELL: This is No. 10.
Q. First as a manager?
JOHN FARRELL: First as manager.
Q. How is it different?
JOHN FARRELL: I'll let you know Wednesday when we leave.
Q. To this point, how is it different?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, just a lot I think that's where we have to be prudent in our decisions and building out this roster to make sure that not any one player is overexposed, particularly a young guy, that we have got a long-term view of.
Q. To this point, how is it different.
JOHN FARRELL: Well, just a lot more direct conversation on the potential additions, subtractions of the current roster. In the past, there's been a lot of input from a different perspective. This is -- biggest thing is the perspective of the seat that I currently sit in versus those of the past. The dialogue is much more on the front line and much more direct.
Q. For fans in Boston, just your thoughts on the red sex pulling off something and trading for Adrian Gonzalez.
JOHN FARRELL: Makes their lineup a heck of a lot deeper and one that we'll see 18 times and I'm sure at some point wish he wasn't there, but the one thing that became very apparent the four years in Boston is that there's no player that's an untouchable that might be outside, the ability to trade for or sign makes Boston one of the reasons why they are as good as they are. The market in which they play in, there's a lot of things that point towards the acquiring of Adrian as something that you would come to expect.
Q. How does it impact you and your perspective, going from a team that has the ability and means to make those acquisitions to where the acquisitions are of a more modest nature?
JOHN FARRELL: Oh, that's probably a debatable point. I would not say that we say the Blue Jays are handicapped in any way. It might have some initial weight on those decisions because there might not be the ability to make up for your mistakes as readily as a couple other markets that we compete against. But by no means do we think that we are less than or don't have the ability to compete and want to win this division and the World Series.
Q. On the offensive side, a lot of home runs last year, you had a reputation as a free-swinging club, does any of that concern you in terms of fewer strikeouts, higher on-base percentage, maybe giving up some of the power?
JOHN FARRELL: I think our approach is going to take advantage of the strengths of this roster. Are there opportunities where we can improve? I think so. I think there's the ability to create some runs that might otherwise -- an approach of waiting for the long ball to take place, freedom to take an extra base or turn guys loose a little bit more with the green light as far as stolen bases go. That will emerge a little bit more clear as we get our roster in place. To say that we are going to become this type of team when it goes counter to the talents of the roster would not be consistent.
But I think it's also important to note that this is not a complete rebuilt. We all see that. This is a team that can put a good club on the field every night last year. Some guys had some breakout years. There's some individuals that I think if you were to ask them directly, they would say that there's room for improvement. I think overall, I would like to see us more aggressive on the base paths, encourage that if we run into an out, I think we have to be okay with that because we want to press the envelope a little bit more on the base paths.
Q. Carlos being able to hit and defend, how much interest will you have in him as a free agent, or any at all?
JOHN FARRELL: He's a name that has a lot of success as a player. Whether he fits or not is to be determined. Other than that, I can't make any more assessment or comment on Carlos.
Q. Talking about aggression on the base paths and taking those opportunities when they arise, how much does having a weapon like Davis excite you?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, that was one of the reasons why we acquired him from Oakland and whether or not he settles into an everyday role or a platoon-type situation, that will work itself out.
But to have that flexibility, to have the athleticism, which gives us another tool to create some runs, is one of the focus points that we are looking to not only shore up, but add that component to this roster.
Q. What sort of conversations have been like with Curt Young?
JOHN FARRELL: I had a lengthy conversation with Curt. I think most importantly the players are first and foremost and a lot of relationships were built there and to give insights into the personalities and routines that he will deal with now is right and just; for he coming into Boston, he'll do a great job, and he's done a great job in Oakland. It's more the ins and outs of the individual guys but he's inheriting a lot of good arms.
Q. Is it strange that you are managing in the same divisions as the coach of an old team, the ins and outs?
JOHN FARRELL: In your approach to the game is always with the player in the front, I think I'll always take the right approach or right decision and that was no different. At the same time, I think we have got a pretty good understanding of what the Red Sox are about. Yeah, they are a great organization, great team, but hopefully there's some competitive advantage to that as well.
Q. How much have you been able to build some of those relationships with your new players, those conversations so far?
JOHN FARRELL: They are ongoing. There's been an ability to talk to just about everybody on the 40-man roster and multiple times, given certain situations. But I know that that relationship is one that's got to be earned. That respect has got to be earned and built and along with the relationship, and they can't just assume that you come into a certain position that you are going to have their complete and undivided attention. That's got to be won over time and certainly willing and able to put forth that effort.
Q. What do you realistically expect from Bautista this year?
JOHN FARRELL: For him to go out and take the same approach that he did each and every game last year. The one thing that's been very impressive in the conversations with him, he's very aware of himself as a person and as a player, and what his needs are and I think that gives him the ability to go out and I'm not going to say he's going to hit 50-plus home runs again but I think it allows him to go out and play the game to his fullest. Like I said, it's great to see a guy -- he's been challenged through the course of his career and I think he would admit to this as well.
When you see him put everything together and become the offensive player he did as last year, we hope it would be a repeat of last year. That would be the easy thing to say. But he's an impressive guy, he really is.
Q. In your conversations, is there one time you hung up the phone after getting off the phone with a player and you thought, man, I saw that guy 18 times or whatever the last few years, and I didn't know that.
JOHN FARRELL: I would probably say this of the overall group; this is the one thing that you do not really get an idea of across the field and coming away, the general impression of all of these players has been a genuine belief in themselves they talk positively about one another and it played itself out on the field.
Lackey comes out of the game after pitching eight innings, they came up and mounted a comeback and ended up beating Papelbon, you could see the emotion on the field go from one of, we like our abilities, but it becomes kind of a genuine belief in that moment, witnessing it in person. It was echoed in a lot of those conversations that this team is ready to take the next step, and guys, like I said, believed in one another. They liked one another. They talked about the chemistry in the clubhouse and the strength that allowed them to meet the challenges they spoke of; not solicited, they offered it up themselves.
JOHN FARRELL: There were a number of factors, through the conversations and having an understanding of what Alex is about and his vision for the team. The division honestly was an appeal, not a deterrent. I think when you go up and you play 72 games against the likes of Boston, New York and Tampa, that is one heck of a challenge. Some might think daunting. I kind of think of it as an attraction.
At the same time, we all know that there's been a lot of success in this organization in the past, and last year was seemingly a very big step towards returning to that level. And then you look at the pitching and the power that's in this uniform; so there was not one thing. There are a lot of things that make this, like the city of Toronto itself -- it might be considered a hockey town, but you win, they come out. That's our main objective. We have to return that fan base to where it once with as.
Q. One of the most remarkable things you did as a pitching coach was keeping the staff healthy; how much of your program comes quickly to Toronto?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, what has become apparent is that the maintenance work that Mike Reinhold and the Red Sox are renowned for, there are a lot of the same elements to that program here in Toronto. I think it's a matter of, in addition to that, the ability to communicate consistently with players, having a feel for certain guys capabilities as far as workloads and how stressful certain innings are outs or pitch counts can be. Not going to sit here and say there's a hard fast number that there a drop dead number in a game to come out but you have to make sure there's a plan and routine they carry out to have the ability to take the mound every day.
Q. There are only two former pitching coaches who are managers.
JOHN FARRELL: I don't think it hurt. If it did, I wouldn't be here. I think the biggest thing is how you handle people. That will be seen and that's probably a question mark by some guys in uniform and even in our own dugout, but I think if there's consistency to your approach day in and day out, know that the relationship with each is going to have to be earned, that's where I think true leadership comes in, and it's not to deflate or devalue what other managers have been challenged with, but I think at the same time, if you're consistent with people, you'll get the most out of it them.
Q. Any reason why there's only two former pitching coaches who are managers now?
JOHN FARRELL: Well I think this is a game steeped in tradition, and I know Buck is sitting right here as a former catcher and that has always been the path that a lot of people have chosen. But I've always viewed this game from my position as from a defensive standpoint and look to attack hitters rather than create an offense. But I also know, preparing for teams that are aggressive and push the envelopes on the base paths and that are not one-dimensional and predictable, that creates havoc for people across the field to prepare against. I would hope that we do not become a one-dimensional team and become predictable.
Q. Being associated with one of the best catchers in the game the last four years and now you are inheriting a very young catcher with just a taste of the big leagues, how can you help JP understand his role in the valve a catcher on a championship-caliber club?
JOHN FARRELL: Knowing JP as I do, which has been through some conversation, understanding reports, talking to others that have been around him, we have to be sure in his mind that we value leading a pitching staff; that whatever he does offensively, is not just going to be icing on the cake but almost like an intangible, but we know he will go through slums offensively. But what we want to be sure is that foundation leading a pitching staff and characteristics that are important to that, making that pitcher believe in that, that he does all of the work to formulate his game plan and long with the coaching staff to carry that out, that remains a constant. We cannot take aware from the priority of the pitcher on the mound that given night.
Q. You have seen a lot of the Toronto staff the last few years, have you ever sat in the opposing dugout and looked at a guy and thought, if he was my guy, I would ask him to do this differently?
JOHN FARRELL: No, because I think the one thing that you learn over time is that even if it's a game or two, you don't rush to make such a quick judgment and throw out recommendations for change that readily. Going back to earning that trust and gaining that relationship, I'm assuming you would probably say then, what would you recommend for A, B, or C to make adjustments.
Q. Would you have in your mind, now that you're here, that you make talk to your pitching coach or this guy and say, have you ever tried this?
JOHN FARRELL: Again, going on to that answer is that there needs to be more information of the individual, possibly what has been attempted in the past, before just making quick recommendations or judgments on a given pitcher.
Q. You talked earlier about the rotation, saying there should be a competition for the fifth spot. Does that mean your thought is that Kyle Drabek is going to be part of the Opening Day roster or do you envision him needing more time in the Minor Leagues?
JOHN FARRELL: That's why I said later on in that same answer is that while Kyle is someone that obviously we pursued, we are fortunate and very happy that he is with us and we feel that he is going to be a premium starting pitcher; we want to be sure that we are not sitting here today and anointing who we have on our staff. A lot could change between now and Spring Training or even Opening Day for that matter.
We know that he's going to give us Major League innings. So to sit here to say, this is who our No. 4 and 5 starter is, we are going to have some competition in that rotation, but he is someone that we envision pitching a lot of innings for us for a number of years. That may be coming April 1 this year or sometime after that.
Q. When you came back to Toronto for three days in November and talked to Alex, did you guys put together an ideal opening 25-man roster and are you working towards that, or does every deal lead to the next lead to the next?
JOHN FARRELL: I think it's more the latter, one leads to the next. We knew there were certain areas that were in need to be addressed and bullpen is one. Corner infield is another. Obviously the fourth outfielder, Davis being brought in, or the speed component that we wanted to add to that.
There's a checklist. And yet we are not rushing to do anything that's not prudent, but at the same time, we are here in the Winter Meetings and there's a lot of rumors, a lot of talk and a lot of possibility.
Q. Do you have a preference as to how you can use Adam this year?
JOHN FARRELL: Ideally, where I think he feels most comfortable which is probably the biggest thing, if he feels most comfortable as DH, then that's where the most production comes from, that would be ideal. I know he played some in September at first base so that's a work-in-progress.
Is he an internal candidate for first base, he would be. There's also a couple of guys on the market that would be a tick ahead of him defensively but we want him to get back to being the productive middle of the order bat that we have come to know him from, and that's the first and foremost thing with Adam.
Q. Manny Ramirez spoke about his fondness for you personally.
JOHN FARRELL: He did? (Laughter.)
Q. What are your feelings towards him, about Manny?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, the thing that was really impressive was to see him day-in and day-out, we are talking about one of the top probably three or four right-handed hitters this game has known. I think one thing people don't realize is the work that he puts in. He just doesn't show up at game time. There's a tireless work ethic here. Whether or not he fits for us remains to be seen but you talk about a guy who is a relentless at-bat, but I can't sit here to say, he's someone that we have got on our prep board at the top of the list for a right-handed bat either in the lineup every single day or to spell somebody in the outfield.
Q. When it comes to Lind and Bautista is there any time frame that you have that you want to let them know before Spring Training what their roles are going to be so they have time to prepare for the position you see I fit?
JOHN FARRELL: That will become more crystallized here I think as we get closer to Christmas. But you raise a good point and the one thing that will be clear to all of them is that when we settle on an approach, that will be our intent as we go into Spring Training. Can there be variations from that? Sure. But we would like to avoid that as much as possible. Much like you look at guys in that bullpen, the sooner you can solidify roles, the more they know where they stand and what's expected of them; that's the ultimate approach here and ultimate goal.
Q. Did the Red Sox make any attempt to keep you or was there an understanding between you and them that you were going to --
JOHN FARRELL: Oh, no, I mean, they have been tremendous throughout the four years of being part of their organization. There was a mutual agreement on both sides that was in play for some time but much like they were willing to allow anyone else to pursue an opportunity to better their situation, they were free with that, and can't thank the Red Sox enough for the opportunity they provided, taking the chance on somebody that was sitting behind a desk for five years to put them in the dugout.
It was a great experience, and to work with Tito every night, the guys in that uniform, in that ballpark, it's nothing but a positive experience there.
Q. The resistance to pitching coaches as managers, does it go beyond tradition? Do you think it's simply a matter of, well, that's the baseball has always looked at it, pitching coaches don't make good managers?
JOHN FARRELL: You know, it's a good question. There's been a few. But by comparison, it pales when you compare it to other positions played by individuals. Much like we bet on the people, the players that we acquire or look to get; I think that's probably a question maybe better suited for a GM. Where is the comfort level for the path that this person has traveled or the set of experiences that they have. It's an obvious question but it's one I don't really have an answer to be honest with you.
Q. Have you kicked around a few batting orders in your head?
JOHN FARRELL: More than a few.
Q. Anything that jumps out, guys that you like at certain spots?
JOHN FARRELL: No, not really. I mean, I'm not here to sit here and say that, you know, ideally a true lead-off hitter would be something that would be an addition to the group that's here. That's not to say that you can't go with an unconventional lineup, but at the same time, you like to have some balance; not to be subject to any given matchups inside of a late inning situation. But I think that's where until we get a complete roster, you've got more of an understanding of what you've got to work with.
Q. You mentioned how volatile the bullpen can be year-in and year-out, and I know you have key guys coming back for yourself, but other teams may need four or five guys in the off-season; how much of a challenge is that, where it's volatile year-to-year?
JOHN FARRELL: One thing we set out to do is set criteria to match the guys to the criteria. The ability to put the ball on the ground, the ability to work ahead in the count. You've seen a number of guys throughout -- whether it's this past year or not just with Toronto or just in general. You can rely on just overall stuff at times, but pitching behind in the count too often, particularly in this division, is going to come back and haunt you. So the ability to throw strike one is key.
Based on the other components of the bullpen, if you have strikeout guys, you can afford more of a ground ball type guy but if we can get high-strikeout, high ball type guys, that would be the best of all worlds but they are not always available.
Q. Have you learned anything with the situation this year, a team that is fighting for a playoff spot with 88 wins --
JOHN FARRELL: One thing that became very clear is we went through a stretch where, about a seven- to ten-day period we had every other night a key guy go down and I think Tito's unflappability and his nerve and steady hand and resolve was an example to all of us and it was a moment of calm within a lot of uncertainty. And I think people really rallied around that and it was never doom and gloom. It was a matter of, who is going to step up now, because the nightly goal never changed and that was to go out and win tonight's ballgame.
End of FastScripts