Griffin: Decisions and brush fires for Blue Jays manager John Farrell
OAKLAND-Following serious struggles at cleanup, with three homers, 13 RBIs and a .624 overall OPS, and at the back-end of the bullpen with seven blown saves in 11 opportunites Blue Jays' manager John Farrell felt the moment had arrived for changes.
The changes came on Wednesday morning as the club continued to struggle through a disappointing 10-game road trip, having lost three in a row after taking the first two vs. the Angels. Farrell indicated that Casey Janssen is the new closer and that Adam Lind is now the eighth place hitter -- when he is in the lineup. Edwin Encarnacion will he fourth.
Another simmering controversy, that may be longer-lasting than the rest, was a separate meeting after catcher J.P. Arencibia was not happy about being pinch-hit for in the ninth inning on Tuesday in a tie game with runners on first and third. The hitter was Omar Vizquel. Yes, it was a busy morning for Farrell with an afternoon game yet to be played.
The decision to change closers was almost dictated for Farrell by constant failure from the chosen one to that point. Francisco Cordero, ranking second among active relievers in career saves, at 36-years-old, gave up the tying run on Tuesday and then a walk-off grand-slam to Brandon Inge, all in the ninth inning. Farrell had a morning meeting with Cordero to tell him the club was going with Janssen, at least for the moment.
“I think it’s the right decision because I’m not doing my job," Cordero said, continuing a theme he had started on Tuesday night in full mea culpa mode. "We’re trying to win. The Blue Jays did a great job putting this team together, trying to win the division and go to the playoffs. If I keep doing what I’ve been doing, we’re not going anywhere.
” I’m more than happy to do what they want. I understand. They gave me a chance and I’m not doing my job. I’m not happy with the decision but I have to be honest with myself. If I’m not do the job, I’m not going to be a closer, not only with the Blue Jays."
The decision to move Lind from his traditional fourth spot in the batting order down to the less pressurized eight-hole seemed overdue for fans. Farrell explained his reasoning.
“First and foremost you have to be as consistent as possible," Farrell said. "You try to give opportunites and enough time for guys to demonstrate what they're capable of over a period of time and not just a three to seven game stretch. We've used the 100-at-bat number to get a decent feel on what a guy's providing or producing at the time and yet then, the overall team performance outweighs the individual performance even though it's a contribution on a number of individuals."
The two home runs and eight RBIs from Lind, who has batted cleanup for most of the season, were not enough to remain competitive in the ultra-competitive AL East.
“I feel like we need to look to jump-start some things, particularly in the middle of the order and create some length," Farrell said. "Much like the reasons with Coco, we backed Adam out of that slot to see if we can get him down there and kind of free up some things and not have him feel like he's, one, got to give protection to Jose. As he works through some of the things we've talked about before, that's being too controlled at the plate, overaggressive, this is a slot that you can continue to work through that."
Lind found out about the pending move Tuesday night before he left the ballpark. There's not much that he can do about the demotion except work to get his offensive mojo back.
But the real issue du jour that may continue to gain ugly legs as the season goes along was the unusual decision to pinch-hit Vizquel for Arencibia in a tie game. The reason? The manager wanted to try and score the go-ahead run using the safety squeeze with one out, Rajai Davis on third and Colby Rasmus on first.
The move failed, because on a 3-1 pitch, Vizquel popped the bunt to third base and runners scrambled back. Even though Kelly Johnson picked Vizquel up by lining an RBI single to give the Jays the lead, Arencibia was so upset he couldn't talk about it after Tuesday's game. Farrell and Arencibia had a meeting in the morning that seems less than satisfying.
“You don't want anybody to be accepting," Farrell said of the meeting. "Certainly guys need that feeling of invincibility and that confident feeling, one, to get to this level and yet to be a performer on an everyday basis in the big leagues. He has the right to his opinions, but at the same time I wanted to be sure that he was clear on my thinking leading up to it."
It was a strange in-game decision by Farrell. Arencibia had been coming on with the bat and had already stepped into the batter's box when he was called back. With the light-hitting Vizquel taking his place, everyone in the ballpark anticipated that the squeeze was a serious option -- that included the A's who crowded the infield in.
If Arencibia had hit for himswelf, the worst that could have happened was that they didn't score and the game would still have been tied. But the season is a marathon and as a manager you have to think of the long-term mental well-being of your key players.
“I don't think he has any lack of faith in my abilities," Arencibia said, somewhat unconvincingly. "For whatever reason he thought that was the smart play to be able to have a guy that can handle the bat, he can lay down a bunt in that situation.
"But as a player does it kind of rattle your head a little bit? Yeah, it does rattle your head a little bit. I'm a competitor and it's never really happened to me in my career. It's tough but you've got lace them up and get ready the next day."
Arencibia will never, ever really buy into the reasoning for being pinch-hit for by Farrell with the game on the line. The outgoing catcher is rarely at a loss for words, yet on Tuesday night he had felt that discretion, as he was about to open up on his manager, was the better part of valour. You want a player to be confident in his abilities.
“Throughout my career I've always driven in runs, I've always been a guy in those situations and I feel like that's when I thrive," Arencibia said. "He's our manager and I support every decision and all I want to do at the end of the day is win, that's all I care about. What I told him is hopefully in future situations, I'm looked upon as a guy they want in that situation 10 out of 10 times."
A busy day in Oakland and then they played ball.