McGowan update; State of the Franchise
Chatted some with Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos this morning and McGowan completed a pain-free bullpen session this morning. A small step, but an important one.
“We’re taking it step by step,” Anthopoulos said. “But, we’re not looking too far ahead. We don’t want to build any expectations or timelines or anything like that. He threw off a mound today. He didn’t have any pain or any soreness. It went well and he looked good and it’s a step in the right direction.”
Over the summer, McGowan walked away from a similar mound session with tightness in his surgically-repaired right shoulder. No such turn of events this time around. Dustin is definitely a pitcher to keep an eye on during Spring Training. If he’s healthy, he is a darkhorse for a spot on the pitching staff.
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
For those of you who were not following my Twitter coverage or did not see my story covering last night’s State of the Franchise event, I’ll run through some of the highlights on here for you really quick:
–Anthopoulos admitted that the Blue Jays have talked internally about free-agent outfielder Johnny Damon and that he’s called Damon’s agent,who you may have heard of before, Scott Boras. Damon could fill left field and leadoff, but unless his asking price comes down I’m not sure how serious Toronto’s interest is right now. If the price seems reasonable and the Jays feel Damon could net some assets in a later trade, or by being worth a Draft pick if he qualifies as a Type A free agent again, the club may consider it. Would Damon consider the Jays? Probably not if he has an offer from a team with a better shot at contention.
–Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston basically lobbied for the club to bring Carlos Delgado back to Toronto, even though Anthopoulos has said in the past that he’s not currently a fit for the team. Gaston feels Delgado could be a great asset for the young hitters. That said, he’d have to DH primarily and Anthopoulos said he prefers to leave Adam Lind in that role.
–Gaston and Anthopoulos both said they have confidence in John Buck as the starting catcher. Rod Barajas is still out there as a free agent, but the fact that he is worth a Draft pick when he signs elsewhere is big for the Jays. Had the club not commited to Buck, though, AA said the Jays would be been more serious about maybe bringing Barajas back. Raul Chavez is in the mix as the backup right now, but AA noted that he’s still seeing if he can bring another backup catcher into camp to compete for the job.
–The closer’s job is “up in the air,” according to Gaston. He said there are “two or three guys” who can do that job. That’d be Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and… someone else. Asked about Jeremy Accardo, Gaston got him confused with Casey Janssen again. Then he laughed it off, saying “I get my guys mixed up there sometimes.” Anthopoulos said if Accardo has a strong showing this spring, he should be in a good position to make the cut for the bullpen.
–The lineup? “Right now, if you asked me who was leading off, I would say [Jose] Bautista. Right now, if you asked me who was hitting third, fourth and fifth? I could probably give you some answeres there, but it might not be the truth,” Gaston said. The lineup will be a work in progress all spring. Gaston did say he feels the Jays have potential for a lot of power. “I think there’s going to be some power out there. We’ve just got to get it out of these guys this year,” he said. He said he believes guys like Lind, Hill, Bautista, Encarnacion, Wells, Snider and Overbay all have the potential to hit 25 homers. We’ll see. Cito also sees Bautista as a starting outfielder as things stand right now.
–Gaston noted that the Jays might do some “crazy” things this season in order to score more runs. “We’re going to have some fun this year,” he said. “We’re going to do some crazy things, as far as trying to score some runs. It might look crazy, but it’ll work out.” Later, Cito elaborated, saying the club might play some more small ball — bunting more, maybe stealing more and definitely trying to get better with the hit-and-run, something Gaston said the team did not do well last year. “Hopefully we can execute some of the things we haven’t been able to do in the past,” he said.
–The main complaint from the fans was in relation to marketing, wanting the club to do more in the community or at the ballpark to add to the entertainment value. President and CEO Paul Beeston said there is a marketing plan in place and admitted that the club needs to improve in that regard. The Jays Care foundation is doing a lot behind the scenes, though, as are the players. Also, “Doc’s Box” will still be at the ballpark, though likely under a different name, run by the JCF. Roy Halladay would host children from Sick Kids Hospital in his private suite throughout each season and that program will continue.
–The turf at Rogers Centre was being ripped up and new long strips were being installed — no more squares of FieldTurf. Some players have complained about the previous playing surface, so hopefully the new stuff will get better reviews. It wasn’t completely installed yet, so we didn’t get a chance to really scope it out.
–Beeston emphasized that the Blue Jays HAVE money to spend on free agents if they need it. The payroll has been trimmed, but funds have been poured into scouting and player development, that’s the focus right now. He said when a young core is established, Rogers is ready and willing to pony up the resources to add high-profile players through free agency if it makes sense. They may have the money now, but the Jays don’t want to spend for the sake of spending.
Q&A WITH HAYHURST: If you haven’t checked it out already, be sure to read my interview with Jays pitcher Dirk Hayhurst from earlier this week, discussing his upcoming book, “The Bullpen Gospels.” A great read. Check the previous post for my review of his book. It’s available for pre-order online and will hit bookstores on March 30.