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Janssen preparing for possible first White Christmas

California native spending holiday with girlfriend in 'freezing cold' of Fort Erie

TORONTO -- Casey Janssen is one of the longest tenured players on the Blue Jays roster, and even though he's been around for the past eight years, the 2013 campaign was one of his best yet.

Janssen is coming off his first full season as a closer, and despite offseason shoulder surgery, he managed to post an impressive 2.56 ERA while converting all but two of his 36 save opportunities.

The 32-year-old California native took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with about the holidays, his first White Christmas in Canada, the Blue Jays' offseason and expectations going into next season: What type of traditions do you have with your family during the holiday season?

Janssen: Not too much, we go to see one side of the family one day, usually a week before Christmas and then we spend it with my mom's side on Christmas Day. Nothing too crazy, but this year, I'm actually going to be spending it with my girlfriend in Fort Erie, the Niagara Falls region. I'm heading into the freezing cold. There's been a lot of snow around here recently, so you could be looking at a White Christmas.

Janssen: That's what I hear. I've never had one, so I don't know if I'm going to love it or hate it. It's going to be a brand new experience. I spent New Years up there last year, but was home for the holidays. Normally I'm used to close to 75 degrees and sunny and being able to do whatever you want. I'm looking forward to it, though, might have to build a snowman or something like that. What about the food, what is usually served at the Janssen household?

Janssen: Normally, it's pretty close to a Thanksgiving type of dinner. Along with the turkey, we usually have ham and then of course, like most families, we have a ton of desserts. If you had to buy John Gibbons a Christmas present, what would it be?

Janssen: I'd probably get him some cowboy boots. It would definitely have a Texas theme, but I'd have to go with cowboy boots. What about Alex Anthopoulos?

Janssen: I'd do my best to get him a starting pitcher. [Laughs] Your Lakers got an early Christmas present with Kobe Bryant coming back. But then he went down again. What do the Lakers need at this time of the year?

Janssen: Geez, I don't know. I keep going back and forth. I hope they make the playoffs and win a championship, but I also like the young kids that are coming out and are draft eligible. If I could give them a Christmas present, it would definitely be the first overall pick next year. This is also the time of year that a lot of pitchers begin throwing again. What's your offseason routine like?

Janssen: Well, it's funny you ask that because I was just texting Brett Cecil before you called. I started the weighted ball program (on Dec. 19) and once I get home from my trip, I'm going to not only do the weighted ball thing, but mix in a few days of actual catch and hopefully power on through into Spring Training. You mentioned at the end of the year that you were really excited to work with the weighted ball program during the offseason. From what a lot of people say, the offseason is when you see a lot of gains in that training as opposed to the maintenance routine during the year.

Janssen: Yeah, and I think more than anything, it's my first offseason in the last few years that I've been healthy. I'm already noticing a difference in the weight room and just overall health and general feeling. It's so nice to feel good and it definitely transitions into my workouts and hopefully into my throwing. I'm really excited about this offseason and getting into next year. You had a great season, but I know the shoulder was always a concern after last year's surgery. The complete shutdown you had at the end of the season must have been very beneficial for you.

Janssen: Yeah, I think so. It was tough because the results didn't necessarily indicate the pain I was feeling, but just to have a complete shutdown and to let everything heal in there, to be able to strengthen, get the strength back, get the good feeling back, I'm just excited. I'm ready for next year, I can't wait to get to Spring Training, feel good and see what I can do healthy. I'm still excited about our team and the guys we've got. Spring Training can't come fast enough. With the weighted ball program, do you already have a specific schedule to follow for now until the spring? Or do you rely on guys like Jamie Evans, Cecil and Steve Delabar to help guide you through it?

Janssen: I'll definitely use those guys as sounding boards for sure. Jamie sent me a program that I'm going to follow. I think he understands where I'm at and has a good feel for what I'm trying to accomplish this offseason. He said that you're going to be your best coach in this thing. If you feel good, you might be able to do a little bit more. If you're not feeling as good, just to back off because it is a little foreign to me. I hope the program works like it did with some of the other guys and I'm looking forward to really getting into it. Unlike last year, it has been a very quiet offseason for the Blue Jays. What do you think about where things stand with your team?

Janssen: It was disappointing to see J.P. [Arencibia] go. He was a guy that I really enjoyed, a good friend and teammate and I wish him the best. I'm looking forward to the future, I'm looking forward to meeting [Dioner] Navarro in Spring Training. By no means do I think we're a finished product yet and I'm sure Alex is doing everything he can to improve the team.

But I don't think if we have the same team as year that we would have the same record. I think we're better than what our record was, but at the same time, we have to get better. There are teams around us improving and like everybody else, if you don't win the World Series, you probably have to mess around with some moves and work on the areas that weren't up to speed. There have been a lot of rumors about Toronto possibly trading someone from the bullpen this offseason. Is that something that can bother you?

Janssen: I think being around for awhile, I've seen friends and teammates come and go. It's never fun, it's never easy to say goodbye, but it's part of the business, it's what we all signed up for indirectly. More than anything, I think it's an honor for our bullpen guys to be coveted. If another GM is interested in you, it's kind of another feather in your cap. They believe in your ability, they believe in your craft and they want you on their team just as much as your team does. The start of last season was a little crazy because of all the expectations surrounding your team. Is there any benefit going into the year without all of that hype?

Janssen: Maybe a little bit. Last year we had a high expectation level and I don't shy away from that. I've put them on myself anyways. But maybe just flying under the radar, not being the winner of the Winter Meetings or anything like that. This might be the year that we sneak up on some people. We still have a ton of talent. A full year of [Jose] Reyes, Brett, [Jose] Bautista, overall health. We have some pieces that can put us right where we need to be.

It obviously didn't work out last year, but I think after our rough start, we had to play catch up way too early. I don't think we'll start like that again. It's probably tough to do, to start as poorly as we did. I think we're going to be in the race, I really do, and I think we have all the talent it takes to contend.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
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