Q. When people over the last few years talked about the Blue Jays, it's always about the middle-of-the-order guys hitting home runs. Do you think your starting rotation has gotten credit this year for what it's done?
JOHN GIBBONS: I think they're recognized, especially this late in the year, there's no doubt about that. But really, the identity of this team, after last year, the second half of last year, really going into the season, that's kind of our trademark. It was kind of up and down, up-and-down year for us offensively. And really, our pitching has held steady all year.
Whether they're getting enough credit, I'm not sure. But they know they're good. They've really been a huge part of getting us here, really.
Q. When it came to lining up your rotation, not that it was an easy job, but because the depth is there, could you have gone wrong regardless of how you lined them up?
JOHN GIBBONS: I don't think so. We feel good about them all. And really, they've all performed well this year. Yeah, it is kind of a luxury you get to this time of year. But you're not going to find teams out here that don't have good pitching staff, really. You don't get to this point.
These guys, Cleveland, they took a couple of big blows, a couple big injuries, and they just kept on trucking. Who knows how it all plays out. But on any given night we think our guys give us a chance to win, because they've been doing it all year, maybe a couple of bumps here and there, but there haven't been many of them.
Q. One of the constants of the Blue Jays has been Encarnacion and Bautista in the middle of that lineup. What has it been like penciling those guys in every day?
JOHN GIBBONS: It makes it easy. There's no doubt about that. I think every manager's dream is to have a lineup you can throw the same guys out there every day, same order, and they're productive like our guys have been.
But like I said about pitching this time of year, the pitchers -- every team that gets here has pitching. The same way with lineups. You get to this point and there's not a whole lot of weaknesses necessarily in any team. Nobody's got the perfect team. Everybody wants it but nobody has it. But generally all the teams are pretty solid, every which way you look at it. But it's a luxury for me, no doubt about that.
Q. It sounds like Liriano will be ready to come back at some point in this series. Do you expect any other changes to the roster?
JOHN GIBBONS: We're tossing some things around, I think it will be by 10:00 tomorrow. There are a couple of options we're looking at. He was going to throw in the bullpen today off the mound. If all is well, he should be good to go. I haven't heard how that went yet.
He won't be eligible until Saturday. The rules say you have to play a pitcher short, so he'd have to play tomorrow night if he's a go. With 24 guys, not ideal, but that's okay.
But barring any setbacks, he should be on there. He's got a chance to be a valuable guy to us if he's healthy.
Q. You guys are one of the lower-ranked teams in the league in caught stealing percentage. Is that a concern to you heading into this series?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, we're well aware that somebody mentioned one of our local writers a while ago asked me to compare them to Kansas City, last couple of years' Kansas City. A lot of similarities, good team speed, good hitters, put the ball in play, a lot of those things. So there's a lot of similarities there. You're always conscious of that.
Pitching staffs have a lot to do with base running, too. And they were much better last year. But there's some different guys in the rotation, too. And I don't think you can get carried away with it, because the name of the game is to get the hitter out at the plate, too. But that's how they beat you, they'll try to exploit that. We'll definitely be conscious of it and hopefully we can shut that down.
Good teams, teams with real great team speed, you're not going to totally shut it down, you never can. There are certain guys that you hope to get that you need to get that might run and you live with the rest.
But that's a big part of their offense.
Q. Kluber has had success in the last few years. But against you guys he's had some struggles. Do you have any way of explaining that?
JOHN GIBBONS: All we know is he's pretty good, one of the top in the game. He won the Cy Young a couple of years ago. There's a lot of things that happen in this game. You don't know why. Whether it's an individual hitter against a certain pitcher or pitching staff or vice versa, or certain teams can't beat certain teams and you scratch your head and you don't know why. That's the way the game works sometimes. You expect him to be very good out there and be a little bit stingy. But you never enjoy facing him, that's for sure.
Q. What about Russell Martin do you appreciate the most?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, you know, he's the backbone of this team. One of the reasons we acquired him a year ago was he's one of the top catchers in the game at the time, still is. But every year he's one of those guys that shows up in the postseason. Just like Napoli across the way. Every time you turn around Napoli might be in a different uniform but he's always in the playoffs. There's something to be said for those guys. It's their mentality. They push the guys in the right direction. Donaldson is the same. We've got a few guys like that.
I think it's very, very important, especially for this team, a playoff star for so many years, Donaldson and Russell were the first guys here. They kind of changed our attitude a little bit last year. And at the trade deadline we added some similar type players that really put us over the top.
I think everybody is caught up in it and really, they've been our leaders and it's made a huge difference.
Q. The winning streak that you guys are on, starting in that Saturday game in Boston with Carrera's sac fly, he had a big hit in the Wild Card game as well. Can you talk about what he's done for you in the playoffs and down the stretch in the regular season?
JOHN GIBBONS: Zeke, he's been a key guy. If he hadn't played so well maybe we're not here, to be honest with you. He was our fourth outfielder coming in. He had to compete for that in Spring Training. But he did a nice job in that role last year. This year wasn't playing a whole lot, but when Bautista had a couple of injuries he filled in for him and really was a spark plug for us both times. Jose had the toe and then the knee injury, and of course when Jose comes back, he's basically back to the bench.
I don't know exactly what started his playing every day, I don't remember what led to that. We put him in a couple of games and he got some big hits. He did get a pinch-hit home run against Tampa late in the year, in a tie ballgame. Every game since then he's doing something for you to win, whether it's a big defensive play or getting a big hit or big walk, getting on base. He has good, solid speed, so when he gets on base he's an asset for you.
So I tip my hat to him. He's taken advantage of his opportunities. And he used to play for these guys, Cleveland, so it means a little extra to him, too. Yeah, I really can't praise him enough what he's done. And he's filled in that leadoff spot for us, which is a big spot for our lineup.
Q. How optimistic are you that Devon Travis is going to be ready to go, and you'll be able to have him on this roster?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, we feel good. After the workout yesterday he ran the bases a little bit, took some ground balls, did some agility stuff. We were waiting to see how he felt today, that would be the test. He came in feeling great. So barring any setbacks, I don't know why he'd have one, but he should be good to go.
Q. You guys had some struggles for much of September and then got it going right at the end. Was there anything that jolted you guys and spurred you on to the strong finish and ultimately into the playoffs?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, we did struggle in September. But you can probably go back to May maybe, we might have been one of the steadiest teams in the game. We just kept plugging along. No big win streaks but no major dips either in the other direction. In September our bats went silent is basically what happened. We have that kind of team, we have a free swinging team that hits for a lot of power, so that's not abnormal.
But they hung in there. We won some close games. The pitching was really good. And then towards the end there we started to come back to life, which is generally what happens. You're not going to hold a good team down forever. So it was the timing. We went down to the wire there. And we've been really swinging it well this past week just to get to this point. And our pitching has been really good, continued to be really good. And our bullpen has picked it up a notch, too. It's all coming together.
But Cleveland has been hot, too. So it should be a good matchup, you would think, you never know how these things play out. Two teams, two hot teams right now.
Q. This has been asked before, but Osuna and the poise he's shown at such a young age last year and this year, and how is he feeling physically as far as arm fatigue, if there's any?
JOHN GIBBONS: He's one guy that the big concern in baseball, you look back over the years, there's always too much time off, when we clinched the thing Sunday, it's going to be five days. But in our particular case our bullpen definitely needed some time off. Some of our position players are banged up. And we're not young, young, either. I think it will be more of a benefit.
But he came out of the Wild Card game with a tender shoulder. But in that Texas series a couple of outings, multiple innings, two innings, and no signs of any ill effect. But I think these four days will do him, as much as anybody, some good.
We're talking about Carrera, I don't think I can give him enough praise for what he's accomplished at such a young age. He came out of nowhere last year. If he wasn't so good at Spring Training he wasn't going to make the team anyway. He might have been Double-A, I don't know. He made the team and eventually forced into the closing role and ran with it, and he's been our closer ever since. And he's a special guy. They don't come around too often. He's got a great arm to begin with.
But his mentality is different. But a lot of pitchers, like Mexico, that I've seen over the years, they're a lot like that. They're ahead of the game it seems mentally, and with their toughness and everything, because they play competitive ball with guys much older. And he set the record earlier this year, I don't know, most saves by the age of 21 or what have you. And so that tells you everything you need to know right there.
He's a special kid. He should pitch a long, long time. We've got to be careful with him, too. He's already had Tommy John. When he comes out of that Wild Card game, that gets your attention. But tip your hat to him.