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December 6, 2011

John Farrell


Q.  How happy are you about the new acquisition today?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† Extremely happy.¬† You know, we were able to get a guy that‑‑ Alex outlined very clearly that for potentially the next six years, he's a Toronto Blue Jay, and to get someone that's got such strike‑out ability for that role that late in the game, an area that we came into this winter meetings as a focal point to address, we were able to do that.¬† We gave up a good pitcher, a guy that we really believed in, even though he's a guy that was just pitching in Double‑A, but gave up a very good pitcher to get a quality closer.

Q.  Do you feel like now it'll be easier to let the rest of the bullpen fall into place in some sort of order of roles?
JOHN FARRELL:  Well, depending on what our bullpen ultimately looks like, the fact that we've got someone to build back to and work from the ninth inning back towards the middle of the game, sure, I think that stability, that known commodity is what every team strives to put in place, and we were able at that do that here today.

Q.  What were your observations of him?  I know you didn't see him pitch much, but from what you saw.
JOHN FARRELL:  You know, always have seen him quickly in the last two years.  It's a remarkable story when you think of a position player to make that quick of a transition and to have dominating stuff as he does, power arm with a well above average slider, and you look at the strikeout rates, again, if you try to draw up a profile this is the type of stuff, you're looking to put in the ninth inning.

Q.  Given his relative inexperience, how close to a finished product is he?
JOHN FARRELL:  You know, I don't know that any player is ever a finished product.  You're always evolving, you're always making adjustments to the league and to your opponents and to Father Time.  I don't know what his ultimate product is.  I just know he's got a very good arm with two well above average pitches, and a guy that we're confident in is going to close out a lot of games for us.

Q.  But he doesn't strike you as a raw pitcher at this point?  Does he have a pretty good idea what he wants to do or do you see some evolution there?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† I'll probably reserve comment on that until getting a chance to see him day in and day out, but until theres is some electric type stuff from a right‑handed closer.¬† Again, I think you just look at the strike out rates, and that's one indicator that the fewer balls put in play, the better off I think we'll all be.

Q.  I know he would have faced those teams before, but is there an adjustment coming in facing teams he'll face on a regular basis?
JOHN FARRELL:  I mean, you've got good lineups in every division, so to say that the lineups in the East are better than any others is probably disrespecting everybody in the American League or in Interleague play.
The ninth inning in and of itself is a unique setting, and the fact that he saved 30 this past year gives us a lot of confidence with his experience at least in that one year and the success rate that he had.  This is a great acquisition by Alex and the rest who have been able to work this deal.

Q.  What is your suggestion now to Alex to complete the bullpen?
JOHN FARRELL:  Probably two other guys that have strike out rates of 13, as well (laughter).
No, I think when you look at the remainder of the bullpen, as it stands today, we would like to add some left‑handed depth to what we have.¬† But Casey Janssen's effectiveness against left‑handers last year I think speaks volumes to it.
Jesse Litsch, when you look at what he did when he transferred to the bullpen, I thought he was very successful in that role.  We've got some depth as far as young guys in terms of Carreno, who I thought in short stint did a good job, Carlos Villanueva gave us that flexibility not only to start but also to be an effective reliever in the middle of the game.
I think given the lineups we're going to face more routinely, New York, Boston, Baltimore, Tampa, our ability to attack left‑handers is going to become probably another focal point as we look to fill out the rest of the bullpen.

Q.  Tomorrow night Kelly Johnson makes a decision whether to accept arbitration.  If he does not, where do you see your team going from there?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† Good question.¬† You know, the one thing that Alex is ‑‑ we all know is he's open minded, he's creative, and we'll look for some combination of either multiple players or one player that will fill out that spot not only defensively but in the lineup.¬† Hopefully Kelly accepts, and we do have him back.

Q.  You're used to having a lot of Japanese media attention from your Boston days.  Now that there's a lot of speculation between the Jays and Japanese players, what do you think about all this attention you're getting?
JOHN FARRELL:  Welcome.  (Laughter).
You know, I don't know if that means anything in terms of the players that may or may not be available.  We're looking to upgrade our club and our roster in any way we can, whether that means domestically, internationally, Alex will determine the right deal and the time for that deal.

Q.  Alex went and saw Yu Darvish pitch in Japan this year.  What did he tell you about him?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† I think it's pretty commonly known throughout Major League Baseball in North America that you're talking about a very talented pitcher.¬† But beyond that, it's‑‑ he is not posted, he is not with any other team but the anyplace upon has been, so our stance is we'd probably defer any comment about any player, either free agent or with another club.

Q.  From a pitching coach background, what you've seen, though, do you think he could succeed in the majors?
JOHN FARRELL:  He's a talented pitcher, and I'm sure he'll draw a lot of interest.

Q.  So does it mean you've seen his video or something?
JOHN FARRELL:  Have I seen it?  I have seen it, yeah.

Q.  At the end of the season, you were talking about a two or a three starter for your rotation.  With money that's saved on the closer, do you expect that that money will be invested in another area like starting pitching?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† That's one area that I‑‑ more than anything, we want to increase the number of quality innings pitched by our rotation.¬† Whether that comes through free agency, whether that comes through trade, that's to be determined.¬† But I can tell you this:¬† That Brett Cecil has as much of an impact with our guys returning to address that, to improve upon the innings that our rotation pitched, as anybody in our rotation.¬† He is a key part of that rotation improving next year.

Q.¬† Speaking about Brett there, have you touched base with him much this offseason that he was probably the most frustrated player on the team when the season ended, and where is his‑‑
JOHN FARRELL:  We have talked.  He's doing a great job right now.  I can tell you he's dropped some weight.  He is fully committed to his offseason workout program.  He has yet to start his throwing program, which any of our pitchers by our organizational program is not yet initiated that.

Q.  Is that later this month?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† Typically it's right around the 15th of this month when that will start up.¬† But what he's doing to reshape his body, to get back into very good physical condition, he's putting in that time right now.¬† We're hopeful, and we feel like that will lead to a consistent performer and one that is a 15‑game winner just two years ago.

Q.  In left field you have two candidates, two prime candidates in Snider and Thames.  If you're looking at them, what's a strength of each that each brings coming into Spring Training, and are they dissimilar?  How would you contrast the two?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† Well, they're going to both compete for the spot in left field.¬† Both have been notified of that.¬† Alex has been very public about that.¬† We feel like we've got two young left‑handed hitters that have every ability to be regular Major League players.
I think the one thing that Eric showed us is a natural confidence at the plate.  He worked his tail off during the year with Torre to become better defensively, and you know what, he did a very good job for his first year.
Travis, we feel like he's got more polish as a defender, as a base runner.  He came up and swung the bat very well, and yet to maintain that performance is the biggest thing, to let that ability and that talent play out, because both guys, I think, are Major League players, and yet it's our job to not only make the right decision but give them an opportunity to compete for it.

Q.  You talked about Torre.  Did you talk with him at all about the process he went through with the interview?
JOHN FARRELL:  All he really said about what the interview process, he felt good about it, and I think he got good feedback from it.

Q.¬† Alex has talked about wanting really an offensive wish list, but he's talked about wanting to see a little more higher on‑base percentage from the team and whether he can accomplish that by addressing it through trade or just an improvement in the players that are there.¬† How do you see that developing?¬† Are there guys on your team that you think can naturally become better?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† What we have to do is handle and work with the players that we have, and that improvement in that area has to come through daily talk, more of our culture, valuing the walk‑‑ this is where the delicate balance comes in.¬† We don't want guys going in being passing looking to walk first but to understand that there is a relentless approach to a strike zone discipline that we're all striving for, that's got to become more of our daily talk and our daily work, whether it's in the cage, whether it's reinforced through our communication in between at‑bats, and just acknowledging when guys put up tough at‑bats, which we're all striving for, 1 through 9, to create more of that on base.
When you look at the fact that we were fifth in the league in runs scored with a very different approach this past year versus the recent teams, we're going to play to the strengths of our roster, and I think guys on our club have a clear understanding of the type of offense that we're trying to create, one that's a little bit more diverse, more unpredictable.  We're willing to gamble a little bit.  We made some mistakes early in the year, but we celebrated some of those mistakes and didn't want guys to be tentative when they got on the base paths, to understand where our limits were.  I don't think we could have scored as many runs if we were just a station to station type of offense.

Q.  Does that mean Duane Murphy's approach to teaching has to change slightly or not at all?
JOHN FARRELL:  No, this isn't to single out any one person.  I think we collectively as a coaching staff and as an organization are valuing an aggressive approach, but it's a controlled aggression.

Q.  If Edwin Encarnacion plays left field in the winter league, would you look at him?
JOHN FARRELL:  Yeah, we're going to get him in left field in Spring Training.  He was ready to do it in September.  Our premise with that approach was to make sure that our DH was flexible when we got into Interleague play.  To Edwin's credit, he was open to it.  This is a guy that not too long ago was an everyday third baseman, all of a sudden he finds himself DH, third, first, possibly left field, and he's worked hard at it.

Q.  In October there was a lot of talk about you in Boston and Tito is a friend of yours.  What was your reaction to that whole thing because you were in Boston area during that period?  What was your personal reaction to the whole issue that was going on around you?
JOHN FARRELL:  Well, first and foremost, I'm a Toronto Blue Jay.  There was a lot of speculation, an article that started out that created a lot of feedback, and I totally understand Paul and Alex's approach to having to change a policy to deflect and really squelch out a distraction that started to be created.
You know, it's humbling when your name is associated with a potential opening, but I'm completely happy here, committed to the Blue Jays, and to think about any other place or any other position while you're doing your own is a disservice to where you are.  I'm excited about being here and look forward to putting this team together to win a World Series here.  That's our stated goal.  That's what our goal has been, and I'm happy to be doing it here.

Q.  Do you think you're worth more than Clay Buchholz?
JOHN FARRELL:  We don't comment on any other players (laughter).

Q.  Were you surprised by all the negative reports that came out from the Red Sox this season, and did you yourself see any warning signs?
JOHN FARRELL:  I never saw some of the things that people would read about.  I really can't comment on what took place inside of the clubhouse there.  I know in the time that I spent there, I didn't see the things that were being reported on.
They're our opponent, so it's our job right now to attempt and work towards overtaking them in the standings, and that's our approach day in and day out.  I really can't comment on what took place there.

Q.  That being said, what are your thoughts on Bobby Valentine back in baseball?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† Well‑respected baseball guy.¬† The Red Sox are always a challenge for anybody, and they've got a lot of good players.¬† We're going to have to play extremely well to move ahead of them.¬† Changes take place all over this game, but we know they're going to be a very tough opponent.

Q.  Adam Lind having a full season at first base under his belt, how much do you think that's going to help his preparation for next year knowing how to condition and deal with the rigors of the season?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† I think the biggest thing is he'll have a better understanding of the volume of work in Spring Training.¬† He'll be able to more probably hone in his work routine and his preparation to not overload himself as he did physically in Spring Training.¬† He was trying to play catch‑up a little bit from the ground ball work, and I think it taxed him physically.¬† That's not to say that he's soft, that's not to say he's not strong, but you go from a DH to an everyday player, and there's some workloads that he's going to have to get accustomed to, and I think he will.
When you think that he went into kind of a lengthy slump, he missed four weeks and still hit 25 home runs, I think there's still another step forward in his overall production offensively.  More importantly, when we had this conversation a year ago about Adam going back to first base, the fact that he only made four errors I think speaks volumes to his ability to handle the position and how good his hands are around the bat.

Q.  How much do you think the back and the wrist played a factor for him at the plate in the second half of the year?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† I'm sure it had some effect.¬† To what extent, I don't know.¬† But again, I think having gone through the cycle one time, he's going to be that much better off for it, I think, and be able to stay committed to his core strengthening and the needs that his body has now after‑‑ and he wouldn't have‑‑ without having gone through it last year, I don't know that he necessarily would have set out a routine that would have been different.¬† But now having gone through it, he's got to make some adjustments, and he did that when he came back from the low back strain.

Q.¬† As things stand out, is he still your clean‑up hitter?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† Yeah, yeah, unless something‑‑ somebody else comes along.

Q.  What are you looking for from Henderson Alvarez going into Spring Training?  Where do you see him fitting in?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† Right now it's a matter of him getting ready for the season.¬† I think we all view him as part of our rotation.¬† He showed exceptional poise for a young pitcher coming to the Big Leagues, and when he gave up some hits in an inning he didn't panic, he didn't run from contact.¬† He's got the ability to get two outs with one pitch, and we saw a slider that started to get tightened up and add some power to it in those last three starts that‑‑ that third weapon along with his fastball and his change‑up, this is an exciting young pitcher.

Q.  Is there a biggest key in general for young pitchers to be successful right away, especially in high pressure situations?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† In high pressure situations, is that in terms of role or city or league or‑‑

Q.  Either way.
JOHN FARRELL:¬† I think their ability to get outs with their fastball is where things begin, begin to not only allow them to have some confidence and trust their stuff when they're in hitters' counts and not think that they have to over throw to get extra velocity to be successful, but it still comes down to location, location and movement.¬† I think that's the one thing‑‑ the next step for Kyle Drabek.¬† That to me is where things begin so center around, creating some action with his fastball and trust it to get some contact and put the ball on the ground.¬† It's a difficult league to transition young pitchers, but we have to stay patient and we have to stay objective and give them opportunity, because every guy is going to do it at a different time frame.

Q.  Does Kyle come to Spring Training looking at a shot at the rotation?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† He'll come in and compete for it, sure, absolutely.¬† Despite his struggles, it was a major learning curve for him last year.¬† We can't lose sight of some of the games he pitched early on, seven innings against the Twins in the opening‑‑ his first start of the year, and I think he learned a lot about himself, learned a lot about the Major Leagues.¬† Those negative experiences or those challenges will go a long way in him understanding who he is as a pitcher.

Q.  How do you see McGowan in Spring Training?  How are you going to handle him as a guy who comes in out of option?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† He'll prepare as if he's starting with the club first‑‑ his first scheduled start.¬† As we go through Spring Training, we'll determine where he is at that point in time, if he's ready, if he needs more time.¬† Those are all questions that we can't answer today.¬† But his personal story and his personal path is not only remarkable, but I think it's a testament to his personal resolve.¬† But at the same time, this guy came back and pitched pretty darned effective, more than, I think, I know myself was expecting.¬† The life to the stuff, his ability to bounce back and bring quality stuff to the mound on the fifth day, and the fact that he started throwing last December and was still pitching deep into September, you know, this offseason, a normal recovery and rest for him is going to be key.

Q.  Beyond Ricky and Brandon, is anyone coming into Spring Training that's pretty much assured a job in the rotation?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† I don't know that we're ready to name our five guys right yet because we've got‑‑ there may be some health concerns that we've got to balance out.¬† We went into Spring Training thinking we were looking at 1 through 5, and all of a sudden there were two guys that needed extra time and we had to adjust.¬† That could very well take place again this year.¬† We're hopeful that it doesn't, but we'll have some competition in our rotation.

Q.  You had talked about Edwin and moving him around.  Do you like the flexibility of the DH position like that in a perfect world?
JOHN FARRELL:  In a perfect world, yeah.  Then it gives you a chance to rest guys, and I think we're in a day and age where you've got to build in not only that flexibility but the versatility of a lineup to give a guy a day, get him off his feet, and give him a recovery day.  To have a bat that can be that versatile is not a luxury, but I think it's by design that you'd look to have that type of player.

Q.  Do you think baseball is changing that way more and more?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† I think as the game has cleaned up, you have to look at the consecutive games played.¬† You've got to make sure that you communicate with guys and take advantage of off‑days with a day off before or after and build in some periodic rest for guys.

Q.  You were talking about your competition in the outfield.  I guess, in general, how do you go about making decisions like that, given the limitations and small sample size of Spring Training to make those sorts of decisions?
JOHN FARRELL:  Well, we don't lose sight of what players did the previous year.  Spring Training evaluations can be dangerous, but when you have guys coming off years that can be comparable, sometimes Spring Training is the only thing you have to go by.  But we're not going to make a knee jerk reaction to a given decision, but try to factor in as much as we can given each player.

Q.  José Molina did a nice job for you.  Does bringing Jeff Mathis in as a backup signify anything about his progress last year?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† No, I wouldn't look into Jeff's acquisition, which we're glad he's with us, because he's athletic, he's an aggressive catcher, love the way he throws, love the way he takes charge behind the plate.¬† But this doesn't‑‑ this isn't a reflection on J.P.'s role or what we intend to roll out for him in the coming year.¬† I still look at the position as a two‑man position.¬† It's also a high‑risk position where you've got a lot of nagging injuries that can cause a guy to miss some time.
In this case with Jeff having been a regular catcher not too long ago, in the event of an injury, we've got a guy that we can go to without having to rush a young player.  So Jeff's acquisition with us I think is a very good one but shouldn't signify anything that we're either displeased with J.P. in any way.

Q.  (Inaudible).
JOHN FARRELL:¬† I think J.P. would even acknowledge that there's an ability to hit for hire average without sacrificing power.¬† I think he had a very productive year.¬† I would sign up today for 23 home runs and 78 RBIs from a catching position next year right now.¬† I think he's also going to grow, he's going to learn, and I think he's going to continue to‑‑ I think he's going to develop into an All‑Star catcher.¬† That's what I believe in the guy.

Q.  Back to Mathis for a second, how much stock do you put into stuff like catchers' one loss record?  When you look at Mathis, he hasn't hit at all.
JOHN FARRELL:  I don't think those numbers lie.  I think the battery of who's behind the plate and who's on the mound, there's a confidence element that can come into play, and if a pitcher is confident in what game is being called behind the plate, they go into a mindless game of pitching.  And when a pitcher's mind is out of the mix and he's just reacting to the pitch that's called, typically that's a better performer.  And to have that kind of confidence in a catcher is a plus.

Q.¬† Last year, when we sat here, Davis was going to be your leadoff man and it didn't work out that way.¬† Is Escobar the guy you want to be the lead‑off man going into next year?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† We want our on‑base guys to be at the top of the order.¬† You can say that Yunel is not your prototypical lead‑off guy because he doesn't steal a lot of bases, but he does get on base.¬† That's most important, the head of our middle‑of‑the‑order bats.¬† It's not to say that Rajai couldn't be our lead‑off guy against left‑handed pitching.¬† He was very good against left‑handers.¬† He also showed in the role that kind of evolved towards the second half of the season to have that weapon the bench and create that havoc, he's a pretty exciting player.

Q.¬† Is your ideal a two hitter or a left‑handed hitter with a high on‑base?¬† And would that mean if Kelly Johnson comes back, he or Colby would be the top two candidates?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† They'd be candidates.¬† I don't know where things settle in.¬† I thought Eric Thames did a good job in the two hole.¬† I think whoever is in that role, there's some benefit of hitting in front of Jos√©.¬† But I'd like to keep some mix of right and left‑handed to keep some balance throughout the lineup so we're not so susceptible to some matchups late in the game.

Q.¬† You had 81 wins last year.¬† How do you add nine to get to 90 and would a second wild card‑‑
JOHN FARRELL:  I thought that's what you were going to tell me.  More quality in the rotation is one.  And to add that, to get to that level of 90 wins, I don't know that you can just say that one area is going to be the sole reason for that.  But increased quality innings from our rotation, have a better efficiency rate in closing games out.
If we can produce our overall offensive production and be fifth in the game, fifth in the league, that's another strong point.  But I think improving our overall defense, which I think we have the ability to do now, we went through a lot of changes, and I think our outfield defense got better as the year went on, but it's going to come down to pitching.

Q.  How important is having your third baseman, Brett Lawrie, having him for opening day?
JOHN FARRELL:¬† Well, he's added an awful lot to our club.¬† Energy‑wise, our production at the plate, it was a little bit of a state of flux, that position last year, and to have a core player at that position adds a lot of stability and a lot of identity to our team.

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