Day 3 Blue Jays -- Beeston, Ricciardi & Takahashi
It was quiet at Jays camp today with most players staying away from Englebert Complex obviously cramming for their physical exams scheduled for all day tomorrow. Highlights of the day were the first sighting of J.P. Ricciardi, Paul Beeston and the mysterious Asian quadragenarian Ken Takahashi.
The first meetings are slated tomorrow, all day, guaranteeing the first Cito sighting. Ricciardi took the opportunity to come out and watch a little b.p. and schmooze with some of the players for the first time. He spoke briefly with three of us media types as he left to go back to his office. Loose and relaxed, knowing that this was as good as it gets, he addressed a wide range of topics -- although claiming he had no reason to talk to Roy Halladay, even asking "What do you want me to talk to him about?" Hmm.
Here's a summary of the 10-minute tete-a-tete-a-tete-a-tete (there were four of us). 1-J.P. was happy with the abundance of relievers with major-league experience, clearly a strength. "I think we're going to need everybody at some point. It has a way of working itself out. What we breeak with in April won't be what we are at the end. We're going to need all those guys at some point." 2-J.P. discussed the rotation. "It's a wide-open situation for some guys. It's going to be fun to see who takes advanatage of it."
He has heard from the coaches that have been here about the enthusiasm of the kids in camp knowing there's an opportunity to win a spot. As far as I can see (this is Griff talking) that's actually a good situation as long as they don't get blinded by spring statistics and as long as the Jays have options with more experience like Matt Clement and Mike Maroth. "Putting our staff together is going to be the biggest challenge we have," J.P. said. "We've got enough bodies, it's just going to be inexperience."
I asked J.P. if this spring compared to the spring with the grab-bag of Ohka, Thomson and Zambrano that was saved by the emergence of youngsters Marcum, McGowan and Litsch. "I never looked at it that way. I guess you could. Our kids (this time) could be a little wet behind the ears compared to that group. But definitely not Litsch. Litsch really came out of nowhere that year."
With the discussed move of Scott Downs to the rotation, Ricciardi dismissed it: "His heart's not in it. He doesn't want to do it, so we're probably better off keeping him at a comfort level." That's a good move.
As for Maroth and Clement having any out clause of either make the team or leave, Ricciardi wasn't sure about Maroth but he explained that Clement could leave on May 31 if he has the opportunity for another major-league job. "We never want to stop anyone from having a big league job." J.P. and the staff need to see both men before offering any opinion on whether they can help.
As far as the signing of Kevin Millar is concerned, it seems from today's J.P. chat that Millar and Jose Bautista are there together in the event that Travis Snider is not ready to take his place in the majors. In that light, with Bautista slated for a lot of left field action this spring, it looks like if both Adam Lind and Snider earn fulltime spots then there is no room for both Millar and Bautista and one will have to be moved or released. Recall the apparent redundancy of Reed Johnson and Shannon Stewart last spring and the boneheaded decision to go with Stewart.
BEESTON IN FINE FORM
Interim president Paul Beeston was wandering around camp with a huge, unlit cigar looking for a light, complaining about the changes in smoking laws. He stopped to chat with Bob Elliott and me, talking about everything and nothing, which are usually his best two topics. He had brought down Rogers executive Tony Viner, who has been involved with a lot of Jays stuff in recent years but had never, ever been to training camp. His funniest line involved new Japanese pitcher Ken Takahashi. Beeston had been talking about meeting Takahashi earlier in the day inside the clubhouse and all the ritual head-bowing that was likely screwed up sincerely by mistake. All of a sudden two Japanese guys both looking in their 40s come out the side door behind him and he turns and smiles, engages them in small talk with the one guy translating Beeston's short, sometimes incomprehensible sentences to the other guy as best he could. Finally the two guys wander off. I asked Beeston if that guy, the translator guy he was talking to was going to be in camp the whole time. Beeston goes: "That guy? That guy's the pitcher." Funny.
Finally, driving down 19 to my favourite lunch spot to file this blog, came my first Florida driving moment. I was turning right off of Sunset onto the entrance ramp to the new elevated 19 when a red PT Cruiser screeched out of the mall parking lot, cut across three lanes, scraped the front bumper of an old Toyota Camry station wagon and sped up the ramp. The worst piece of driving I witnessed since trying to merge from the Bay Street entrance west onto the Gardiner -- every day. I shook my head and pulled up on 19 to see who the perpetrator was. It was a Rush Limbaugh-looking old guy wearing a XXXL yellow print Hawaiian shirt with Wisconsin plates and bumper stickers on both passenger windows that read:" Palin 2012". Dude, this is not Alaska and you're not driving a snow machine. Later.