Notes from Game 6

arnsberg.jpgBrad Arnsberg is as passionate a pitching coach as you’ll find. His pitchers are his boys and he tries to create an environment that he can only describe as a family. That aspect made it hard for Arnsberg to say goodbye after five years as the Blue Jays pitching coach.

On Monday, Arnsberg chatted with a few of us Blue Jays reporters and talked about his time with Toronto and his new opportunity as the pitching coach for the Astros. Arnsberg was told by Toronto that he could pursue other jobs and he accepted. Soon, new Astros manager Brad Mills called with a job offer. Arnsberg took it.

“Basically, I was given the right to go out and search for a new job,” Arnsberg said. “They told us that we weren’t 100 percent
coming back and we weren’t 100 percent not coming back. They gave all of us coaching staff members the
opportunity to go look if we chose to.

“So I made a couple phone calls and lo and behold a week or so later
Brad Mills got the job and gave me a call and one thing led to another and a day and a half later I was
signing an Astros contract.”

True to his style and passion for the game and his pitchers, Arnsberg tried to organize a conference call with all of his Blue Jays pitchers to discuss the situation. That was his chance to explain the reasoning behind his decision to leave.

“It was tough leaving,” he said. “We all got on the
phone and talked about old times and I told them kind of the reasoning that I was heading in a different
direction. As I explained, it was turning a page on one chapter and going on to a new chapter.

“Hopefully I
can attain the success that we had [in Toronto]. The guys over there made me look like a hero. Hopefully I can come
over here and help a few guys get a little bit better at their craft.”

One good thing that came out of the offseason situation was that Bruce Walton, the bullpen coach under Arnsberg, was named Toronto’s new pitching coach. That was something that Arnsberg was thrilled to hear. “Pappy” and “Arnie” became good friends in their time together in Toronto.

“That was probably my biggest thrill. I was so excited,” Arnsberg said. “I didn’t know they were going to
ask him to take the job. I knew that he was probably next in line and was probably next in line when I got
the job. So I was elated.

He’s got
his hands full. It’s a tough camp for a first camp, but we’re still great friends and I couldn’t be happier and
more excited for this new opportunity for him.
That was the toughest part of leaving, the family that Pappy and I had built there.

“I’m trying to establish that
over here.”

Blue Jays catching prospect J.P. Arencibia has three hits this spring, and they are all towering home runs. On Monday, Arencibia started behind the plate and hit third for Toronto and he launched a solo homer with two outs in the first. Manager Cito Gaston has been impressed.

“He’s amazing, man,” Gaston said. “He’s having some spring for us. I didn’t get a chance to see him play that much last year. I saw him play in the Florida State League a couple years ago when he was here and I liked him the times I’ve seen him play here.

“It’s good to have him out there and see him play, seeing the future in him that we have coming — whether it’s this year or next year. But, we want him to play, too.”

Even with a strong spring, Arencibia is likely ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas to open this season. The Jays signed veteran John Buck to a one-year deal to be the starter and the club brought veterans Jose Molina and Raul Chavez into camp to compete for the backup job.

Molina’s contract is non-guaranteed, so he is not a lock to make the team. Chavez has a MInor League deal, so he can be sent down. So, in theory, they could both be excluded from the Opening Day roster, clearing room for Arencibia.

The Jays will not bring Arencibia north as the backup, though. They want him to play regularly and are grooming him to hopefully be the starting catcher someday. It seems most realistic that he will either join the Jays midway through this season or as the starter in 2011.

As for that powerful swing? Here’s Gaston’s take: “He’s short and quick [to the ball]. He’s got a real quick bat and he’s got some bat speed there. If you’re standing behind the cage when he’s hitting, you can tell. You can hear the sound of the bat. He hits the ball, he centers the ball up pretty good.”

THE BENCH BATTLE: As I’ve noted on here before, there are three openings on the Blue Jays’ bench: backup catcher, backup outfielder, backup first baseman. In the running are Joey Gathright, Jeremy Reed, Mike McCoy, Randy Ruiz, Brian Dopirak, Molina and Chavez, among others.

On Monday, Gathright got the start as the leadoff man for the first time this spring for the Jays. He went 0-for-2, dropping his average through five games to .167, and he was caught stealing after drawing a walk in the first inning. Gaston was asked what Gathright is up against in his quest to make the roster this spring.

“Everybody’s got a chance,” Gaston said. “He’s certainly got Reed out there against him. Reed’s got a chance to play. Mike McCoy has a chance to play the outfield, too, and play the infield. So, just go out and play well. Everybody’s going to get a chance at it.”

Gaston’s mention of McCoy was unsolicited. After following up, the manager said he plans on giving McCoy some playing time in the outfield this spring to see if he can be an option as a utility man off the bench. Like Gathright, McCoy also brings some speed to the table (40 stolen bases with a .400+ OBP at Triple-A last year).

BIRD FEED: Lefty Ricky Romero was sharp in his second start of the spring. His line: 3 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB, 40 pitches (28 strikes). Romero also created seven outs via grounders. He said his sinker is the strongest it has ever been right now. … Toronto brought a “B” squad to Kissimmee to take on Houston. From the “A” group, Lyle Overbay went 2-for-2 with a double, John McDonald went 2-for-3 with some nice plays at shortstop and Travis Snider went 0-for-2 with a walk. Prospect Brett Wallace started as the DH and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Dopirak went 2-for-2. … LHP Dana Eveland logged three shutout innings after Romero. … Chad Jenkins, the Jays’ top pick in the 2009 Draft, allowed one run on one hit with two strikeouts and one walk in two innings. … Prospect Zach Stewart logged one shutout inning of relief. … RHP Dustin McGowan is scheduled to throw a two-inning simulated game on Tuesday. … Tuesday is an off-day for the Blue Jays.

QUOTABLE: “It felt good to get through three innings and I’m a groundball machine all of a sudden.” — Romero

QUOTABLE II: “I’d say life after the Blue Jays is all that I was expecting it to be and more.” — Arnsberg 

For complete Blue Jays coverage this spring, make sure you’re reading and following me on Twitter at @MLBastian. You can also find spring photos on


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  1. contrasoma

    Glad to hear Cito’s noticing McCoy. Seems to have a good eye in the box, running speed and some of the infield defense we lost with Scutaro.

  2. dt005

    How old is McCoy? And it looks like a little bit of Halladay has stayed behind in Romero (at least the philosophy). If Romero can get that sinker working to go along with his change-up he could take another big step. I’m trying my best not to get too excited over these spring training games but it’s difficult.

  3. gsjays

    dt-What is exciting is what the future holds for this team. We have Hill, Lind, Snider, Arencibia, Wallace, Ruiz, EE and Wells all capable of hitting 20-30 home runs per year each.
    We have starters like Romero, Marcum, Morrow, Rzep, Cecil, Drabek, Jenkins, Litsch. McGowan and Alvarez all capable of being solid number 2 starters with some aces.
    We have enough guys to build a quality bullpen, with more help on the way from the most extensive scouting department in baseball.
    We have strong team management and strong player development groups. What’s not to be excited about, but don’t expect them to win this year.

  4. gsjays

    I’ve been a Ricky Romero fan ever since he threw his “introduction bullpen” in Toronto after he was drafted in 2005. I remember everyone raving about his stuff. Ricky was lights out in Dunedin in 2006 and was promoted to New Hampshire-in retrospect probably too soon.
    The next year in New Hampshire he wrote a blog which was published on the team site. I remember reading it each time he posted and noticed he seemed a bit scared of what he faced.
    He really worried about how many guys he walked, how many hits he gave up and how he didn’t want to let down his college piers and friends-all negative thoughts of a young man suffering from a lack of confidence in his abilities. He consistently spent more time thinking of negative things that could happen to him than the positive things that did happen.
    When he had a good game, I sent him emails congratulating him for his efforts.I remember thinking all this kid needs is develop some confidence in his own abilities and when he does he could be something special since he was doing pretty well as he was, and scouts raved about his raw stuff..Then he got injured, probably came back too soon and struggled for a year or two.
    In late 2008, in AAA, he started getting it back and finished the year very strong…It is truly nice to see it happen, you did it yourself Rickie not Arnsberg, you’re the one who started to believe in your own abilities in late 2008. True Arnsberg helped straighten out some mechanical issues, but you’re the one who believed him and followed his advice..Arnsberg just confirmed what you already was starting to believe…
    Now the sky’s the limit, push it every day and you will become the ace you want to be……By the way, 27 ground outs is perfection, who cares about strike outs, ground outs keep you in the game longer and that is exactly what we need….

  5. yerouttaheah

    One of the main reasons that our pitchers are able to pitch to contact and take the groundball outs is the quality infield the Jays have put together over the past few years. Hats off to Brian Butterfield and his infielders for making our pitchers look as good as they are. Pitching and hitting make the news, but “D” gets you a lot of Ws.

  6. 53toledo

    When is Casey Fien scheduled to pitch? Watched this guy at AAA and Detroit , was very impressed with his upside and future potential. Great Addition for Blue Jays!

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