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Lunch With the Blue Jays

The Vancouver Canadians hosted their annual hot stove luncheon Friday at the Hotel Vancouver.  I spoke a bit last year on the excellent causes supported by the event so won’t go into that again.  Instead, will focus on the Blue Jays’y stuff.

Prior to the lunch I got the chance to have a quick chat with the four players on hand.  I got some great audio with three pitchers and a catcher as I’ll call them so will save that for the podcast.  Couple of quick thoughts though.  It’s quite obvious that Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez really do get along.  Which kinda means the Jays have to start Sanchez no?  I mean, leaving aside the fact he is FAR more valuable as a starter, let’s just focus on the friendship, two guys pushing each other on to five WAR seasons respectively.

Chatting with Russell Martin I picked up on a couple of things.  A) he’s a very nice fella and was accommodating everybody and B) he seems genuinely excited to play in Canada.  I may be being a bit maple dickish here but was cool to hear.

The one interview I did that wasn’t recorded was with Toronto’s minor league coordinator Charlie Wilson.  He was rushing out to catch his flight but gave me five odd mins or so which was great of him and much appreciated.

Firstly, the two questions he couldn’t really answer were in regards to where certain guys may land in 2015.  I asked him if Miguel Castro might be pushed a bit higher initially and work exclusively out of the bullpen or drop back to say Lansing and continue to stretch out as a starter (working on his two offspeed offerings in the process).

Charlie really couldn’t answer this, saying that the decision would be made during spring training after all those that need to see how Castro is doing have seen him.  The same can be said for the shortstops I asked about.

I wondered if, with the trade of Franklin Barreto, we might see a Richard Urena or Yeltsin Gudino deviate from the linear progression plan and jump a level.  Wilson said that even if ‘Frankie’ was still here any decision wouldn’t be made until after everyone could meet at spring training.  He said that although the previous season’s performance was a big factor in this season’s decision making the player still had to show something during the spring before any final calls are made.

He also touched on the early season cold in Lansing saying ‘they didn’t want to use it as an excuse as we believe that playing early in Lansing does help to prep players for New Hampshire, Buffalo, Toronto, etc but the fact of the matter is that we’ve seen how tough it can be, especially for the younger guys not use to that kind of weather.’  So that may factor into the process.

We also touched on Max Pentecost where Charlie was able to confirm to me that it is his throwing shoulder that is the issue. He’ll come in for minor league spring training and it’s hoped that he’ll be ready for mid to late May with an assignment to one of the full season teams at the end of May.

Finally, I asked Wilson if the loss of Clayton McCullough as coordinator of instruction was big.  I really wish I recorded the answer to this one as Charlie was effusive in his praise of Clayton.  I can’t remember everything he said but in a nutshell, ‘yes, it’s a huge loss.’

‘Clayton brought incredible energy to the field and his teaching ability and knack for relating with young players was second to none.  Not only that but his work with the younger coaches was improving daily.  Clayton has the ability to be whatever he wants to be in baseball.  Whether it’s as a big league manager, GM, minor league coordinator.  Whatever he chooses he’ll be successful.  We’ll miss him as a teacher and instructor but most importantly as a person.’

The one line that really stood out for me was when Wilson basically said he couldn’t say enough nice things about Clayton.  Obviously someone else will come in and fill the role so I wouldn’t call it a devastating loss but it sure sounds like Clayton’s departure will have a negative effect on the system.  Shame.

Quick hits from the actual lunch:

Speaking to someone at TSN1040 who were broadcasting their midday show live, they only found out the night before that Anthopoulos, who was expected to join them, wouldn’t be making it.  They also got a no from the media relations people about getting Paul Beeston on and when they asked him personally he turned them down.  Which is no small feat as Beeston is usually the first one to say yes at these sorts of things.

Obviously the Jays are in full radio silence mode about this whole Duquette situation (which I’ve made my feelings perfectly clear on.  Dan would be a good hire.  Just not at the cost of a Jeff Hoffman or anyone similar.  I will wash my hands of this organization if that goes down)

If you follow the Blue Jays I’m sure you’ve seen this already but was still a nice moment when all three of the C’s brass: President Andy Dunn and co-owners Jake Kerr and Jeff Mooney took time to single out the potentially departing Beeston, not only for his work with the Jays, but in what he does across Canada to grow the game at the grassroots level.

Beeston received three standing ovations from the crowd, the first of which I almost missed as was too busy stuffing tomato salad down my gob.  And am currently icing my bad knee after Robbie Alomar got his own standing O. Four times crow-barring my ass off the chair was too much.

Similar to last year, when he was scathing in regards to the UBC program of cutting varsity sports, it was Jake Kerr who removed any vestige of filter when it came to his thoughts about Rogers, the much maligned owner of the Jays.  To whit:

‘There’s an old saying that sometimes the next generations of a family is simply not as talented.  I think that’s the case with Edward Rogers.’

‘I’m not here to beat up on Rogers but some of those guys are a bunch of klutzes.’

Excellent last words indeed.


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