Winter Meetings interview with John Farrell
Q.John, what kind of progress do you think you guys have made so far this off season?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, given the number of needs that we have, obviously, the addition of David Ross, Jonny Gomes, adds to that. Not only with just the ability to create more offense, but a definite intent to bring in guys that are proven team guys, guys of high character. I know that's something that Ben and I have talked a lot about, extensively about, and I think we're making the progress that we've hoped, at least in the early going, with adding those types of players.
Q.John, what do you think of what Alex has managed to do with your former team? Had those moves been made before you left, would you have maybe had more second thoughts about getting a chance to manage that team?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, first of all, they've improved themselves overnight with a trade. We've got the utmost respect for them. We've got work to do to compete with them. But as it relates to leaving or not, I was asked on two different occasions if the Boston situation were to arise, did I have interest? And both times I said yes. That precipitated the move. So it wasn't about me orchestrating some departure out of Toronto, which I take from it a lot of great experiences, a lot of great memories. It was a great city, good fans. They're a very good team.
Q.You completely understand that there is going to be backlash from a lot of fans, a lot of people back in Toronto thinking just the way it ended with you?
JOHN FARRELL: I think that's the nature of the game. That's the nature of sports. When certain changes take place, I think that's also a strong indication of the passion that's there. Again, it was a great experience. The changes precipitated, or came about, with what I just described.
Q.Assuming that Napoli passes his physical and he comes on board, how do you envision using him, especially in the field?
JOHN FARRELL: If all that comes to fruition, he's a guy that is a type of player that we want to bring in. Again, if this final gets finalized. We see him as a first baseman primarily, but with the ability to catch and to acclimate him to our pitchers in Spring Training. One of the things we would do, provided all this goes through, is that we would have him catch in Spring Training early on, but then certainly make sure that we've got enough reps at first base for not only him to feel comfortable there, but for us as well.
Q.John, given Mike's history with John Lackey, are you philosophically averse or open to having personal catchers or guys match up, or would it more likely be schedule matchups and others that dictate his playing time behind the plate?
JOHN FARRELL: I think it's all of our intent, by the time we leave Spring Training, we've identified who our No. 1 catcher is going to be. What I want to avoid is the catcher of the day, so to speak. I think it's important for our staff and the catchers that end up on our roster to make sure they have an understanding of what their role is and how they can best prepare for that. So recognize that there's history. One, we've got to get him finalized, and, two, we'll figure all that out as we get through Spring Training.
Q.Do you have a No. 1 catcher at this point, John? Or in your mind, is that up for grabs?
JOHN FARRELL: I think that's something we'll get a clear understanding of as we go through the off season and certainly Spring Training.
Q.Having been here for a couple of days now, what is your sense of the pitching market and your likelihood of doing something?
JOHN FARRELL: Sense of the pitching market? It's always a rich one for the pitchers, and a good thing. Ben has been very clear and we realize that we'd like to add a starter. To what level that starting pitcher is is to be determined. Whether it comes through free agency or trade, what teams are willing to discuss, we've reached out to a number of guys that are on the market.
Q.John, hate to go back, but this will be the last one I ask. At any time when you expressed to Alex, did he ever try to talk you into staying or force your hand, saying, you're under contract. You need to stay. Or right from the get go, was he pretty much open to allowing you to pursue what you said your dream job was?
JOHN FARRELL: Again, I think every job in the major leagues is a dream job. It's not exclusive of one place. These are rare opportunities. My conversations with Alex are private, and I have the utmost respect for Alex and the entire Blue Jays organization. I'm thankful for the opportunity that was provided.
Q.John, back here. Ron Washington said earlier today that some of the things you'll see with Napoli is what a high character guy he is. How important was that in this process?
JOHN FARRELL: That process is still ongoing.
Q.If it happens.
JOHN FARRELL: Again, we're trying to target the players that not only are talented, but have a very strong reputation in that way. Mike is one of the number of guys that we've targeted. Hopefully, we've got some announcement sometimes in the near future.
Q.John, do you know if any guys are playing WBC at all?
JOHN FARRELL: Not yet. We haven't had that list of invites or requests by their respective countries. When that does come out, we've got to take into account if there's any physical ailments that guys are lingering through the off season, whether it's David or Dustin. Just to name a couple of guys that might be on the invite list.
Q.Getting back to the pitching, obviously, you want the best guy you can get. Is there a type of pitcher that fits well with the other starters you have coming back in terms of styles, that would make you a better rotation?
JOHN FARRELL: Right now I can't say we're focused on style, rather performance history. That would take precedent. Innings certainly is one. A criteria that we're looking to add someone to log a number of innings. So that's probably to the extent I can say who we're talking to.
Q.John, the last couple of days we've talked about with the right fielder, the emphasis of defense, basically having a centerfielder in right field. How important do you think that is in Fenway's right field?
JOHN FARRELL: It's probably the toughest right field in baseball to play, just in terms of the space to cover. So that range comes into play. And yet you try to combine the best range of elbow along with offensive production. It might not be your prototypical right fielder where it's a power bat because we do value the defense in that area. That's not to exclude anyone, but defense takes a high priority, in that position at Fenway particularly.
Q.How important is it with the signings you've made so far and the hypothetical one with Napoli, all right handers, is it to get maybe another left hander in the mix?
JOHN FARRELL: It's part of what we're looking to combine, but to say we're targeting only left handed hitters, it would probably be a little premature with that as well. You'd like to strike a balance with the lineup throughout to make us not so susceptible to any kind of matchups at that point in the game. All that is being taken into account.
Q.Given what you hypothetically have now and that Napoli could occasionally catch, how much would you need somebody that could play first base when he's not there?
JOHN FARRELL: When he's not there?
JOHN FARRELL: We'd need someone.
Q.Do you have somebody like that now, or do you need to go get somebody?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, when you consider what Mauro Gomez did for us last year, he's a guy that's got some experience at first base. I know this question has been brought up in the past. Would you consider salty at first? We probably wouldn't go to that extent. Our roster is far from being complete. All the things that you're mentioning, Peter, those are all being sought after and attempted to be filled.
Q.What about a guy like Lavarnway? Would you consider that at first?
JOHN FARRELL: Not yet. And I say not yet because we're looking to exhaust every development time with him, and he's got maintenance, as every player does, to be as proficient behind the plate. One of the things we're still building with him is just the overall number of games caught in any given year. Last year being the highest, right around 100 games caught. Right now our focus is to keep him behind the plate.
Q.How much have you talked to Middlebrooks this winter? And where is he at health wise?
JOHN FARRELL: Health wise to be ready for Spring Training. I spoke to him a number of times from Boston with situations coming up there. I'm planning to go to Dallas a couple of weeks from now to see he and John and maybe some other players that might be in that area. So it will be another opportunity to connect with him. There's no lingering effects with the wrist or anything like that or the hand.
Q.John, based on what you saw of him last year, where do you think he could eventually become in the lineup? Could he be a 3, 4, 5, 6 kind of guy?
JOHN FARRELL: Without placing any limitations on any guy, you could see him growing into a middle of the order bat. In the interim, if we've got a chance to have him somewhere in that second half of the order, it just speaks that we've created further depth in the lineup. He's a good looking young player, there's no doubt. Just in the time I've seen him across the field, it's an exciting young player.
Q.John, what's the health status of David? How's he doing with the Achilles and his rehab?
JOHN FARRELL: Everything has progressed on schedule. I know he's I think he's due to come back to Boston sometime middle of this month to get another recheck, but the rehab that he's been going through, the treatment he's been getting, all of that has been able to respond in the time frame and the overall, I guess, prognosis of his rehab to be ready for Spring Training.
Q.When you started seeing the Red Sox were interested, you were their number one guy in August and September, did you try and verify that? Did it affect the way you managed down the stretch?
JOHN FARRELL: Did I try to verify that?
Q.Well, it was just in newspaper headlines at the time that you were the number one guy.
JOHN FARRELL: And at the time my response, which was all I knew how to say, was that my focus and attention was clearly with the Blue Jays at the time. So there was really no way for me to verify it. That was where my commitment was. So with that being said, my focus being with the Blue Jays, my total concentration was on the best effort that I could provide on a given day to put together a game plan to win on that night.
Q.You mentioned going to talk to John Lackey. A lot of times it takes pitchers that full year to come back from Tommy John. Is he going to be a little more advanced because he's had like 18 months or so?
JOHN FARRELL: He'll be advanced on the calendar, but as far as total number of innings pitched, structurally, I think it's at least put his mind to rest that he got to somewhat game speed before the off season approached. We'll go into Spring Training with a normal progression for him. Spring Training is going to tell us a lot about where John's at, and we fully expect him to be ready to go.
Q.As you're planning out what you hope your season's going to be, you're looking at him as he's going to start 28, 30 games for you. Or is this too early?
JOHN FARRELL: That's our intent right now, yes.
Q.You talked last week about maybe having Morales come into spring with the mindset and preparation to start to stretch him out. Are there any other candidates, maybe Aceves or anyone else who have been swing guys in the past that you might do the same thing with on the notion it's easier to scale back than to ramp up?
JOHN FARRELL: Morales is the one internal guy that we've talked about. Whether or not we choose to go that way with Alfredo remains to be seen, but typical with a guy that's been a multi inning reliever or a swing man type, we're always going to look to get multi inning outings in Spring Training. Further developments to the off season are going to give probably more guidance to who those candidates might be as well.
Q.John, Napoli had some durability issues in Texas. Is that a concern at all for you going forward? Do you guys have a satisfactory explanation for it?
JOHN FARRELL: Again, hopefully, that comes to fruition, but whether or not it was because of games caught behind home plate, and I'm sure if something were to get finalized, a full and complete physical would be done. I don't have that exact answer for you right now.
Q.Are you satisfied with the late inning relief group that you have now, or do you see trying to do it as well?
JOHN FARRELL: I think Ben will always look to upgrade. But I don't think we saw the true end of Bailey last year after he came back from the injury. One, any time you're coming back from an injury, and, two, you're trying to play catch up, sometime in August, after guys are so entrenched in their performance in a given year, yeah, he's playing catch up. But this is a successful closer in the past that right now you look to him to be in that role.
Q.How are the guys leading up to him?
JOHN FARRELL: What Junichi has done in his emergence coming back from Tommy John, he's put himself in that mix coming back into the game. The ability to mix up with lefties that are in house right now, both strike out with power stuff. You look at me LAN son. Daniel Bard, there's work to be done with him, and conversations with him are starting that process. I know Juan will travel to see him and begin that relationship building on their end. Knowing Daniel and the conversations that have been had to date, we've got to get back to what has made him so effective and really so powerful.
Q.You left Toronto this year. 17 men on the DL, a team beset with injuries. As soon as you leave town, they are not only healthy, but they retool and become a force in the division overnight. It must have come into your mind you do this now after I left? Did those thoughts come in at all?
JOHN FARRELL: There's no predicting the timing of anything. They made one heck of a trade. Alex has been aggressive. They've improved themselves with the number of players acquired. But as I said to an earlier question, the decision to leave I was asked on two occasions, would I have interest if this opportunity in Boston arose. At that point, I said yes. And they felt the decision was probably the right one to make to trade me.
Q.And to Blue Jays fans, you know, if it was going the other way, Red Sox fans would resent a manager going to another division rival. To the Blue Jays fans who thought you were part of a young team on the rise, growing the organization organically who could feel frustrated you left, to them, you'd say what?
JOHN FARRELL: They're very good fans. It's a great baseball city. If any comments neglected there neglected that appreciation, that was never intended, and I'm thankful for two years of great experience and opportunity that Paul and Alex and the Blue Jays have provided. So it shows that they're passionate and they've got a darn good team.
Q.John, did you think the Blue Jays had the capacity to take their payroll where they did? If you thought that before, were you disappointed it didn't happen a little bit earlier while you were still there?
JOHN FARRELL: Once again, I don't know that you can ever predict the timing for anything. It was mentioned that that payroll resource was available. It was quickly fast forward. So if there was an initial reaction to this, the reaction is a little bit of surprise only because those young players were so highly valued, so highly discussed. But they felt like the timing was right.
Q.John, have you had conversations with your former players on the way out? What kind of things did you hear from them about your trade and the exit, how things finished off?
JOHN FARRELL: I talked to a number of guys, whether it was directly over the phone or through text, and from both sides, it was appreciative of the experience that we shared for the two years.
Q.John, you mentioned Daniel Bard a couple of minutes ago. What's sort of the process to try to get him back to what he was? How much of that is physical? How much of that is his mindset and how he goes about pitching?
JOHN FARRELL: The separation of mental and fundamental is a great debate, what's going to come first. I think it's first and foremost that we get him in a position to command the baseball a little bit more regularly. Just in reviewing some video from last year versus a couple of years previous, there's some noticeable changes there just from a physical side. So I think to address those first and then have some reminders through video of where he was, either on the rubber previously or where his arm slot was or what his mindset was to begin to discuss what he tried to do as a pitcher. And what I mean by that is in the role of a late inning, one inning guy, it's a completely different mindset than the attempt to manage a game over six or seven innings. I think he tried to, quote, unquote, pitch rather than be dominant with his stuff. So those are the angles that I would want, and I would both look to take with him and get him back to a more simplified, more power type of approach.
Q.In your conversations with him, do you feel like he's turned the page from last year?
JOHN FARRELL: I think you turn the page as the calendar turns. I don't know that you can fully separate yourself from the experiences that took place. Those are going to continue to shape who he is as a pitcher going forward, and to learn from the adversity that he faced. I think along the way he's probably learned more about himself as well.
Q.Given what he was until last year, how potentially important a guy could he be for you?
JOHN FARRELL: I think, if we could snap our fingers and go back to 2009/2010, I'd be looking at one of the top two or three setup men in baseball. Clearly a weapon that, depending on where you were in the lineup, he was always matched up against the middle of the lineup, regardless if it was left handed or right handed, and pitched a lot of high leverage innings in that seventh and eighth situation.
Q.John, how many trips will Juan make this off season visiting guys?
JOHN FARRELL: To be determined yet. But to be sure that he has a chance to start to build those relationships in person rather than waiting for the start of Spring Training.
Q.John, any insight into what role Aceves will play next year?
JOHN FARRELL: Personally, I see him as a very dominant reliever late in the game. Whether we sit here today and fully define what that role is. I don't know if we're here to do that. There's a lot of discussion internally that he could still provide a depth starter for us or possibly a fifth starter. The one thing we have is a talented pitcher that can do some things physically that not many can do. That's the frequency with which he pitches and the number of pitches he'll throw in a given outing. He's a valuable pitcher.
Q.How much studying have you done with him on why his numbers dropped off? Late in the season, his performance really dropped off.
JOHN FARRELL: On Aceves?
JOHN FARRELL: Haven't gotten that far in depth with him yet.
Q.John, you have a pitcher in AAA in Allen Webster. Do you see him contributing with a big league team and what role?
JOHN FARRELL: Power armed right hander with a good live sinking fastball. We still see him as a starter. Whether or not the arrival to the major league level, we don't know when that date is going to be, but he's a guy we're extremely excited about coming over in the trade. This is someone that personally looking forward to seeing him, other than video I've seen so far. We see him as a starter going forward.
Q.Do you see him playing the season as a reliever, or do you want to stick to him as a starter?
JOHN FARRELL: Time is going to tell that one.
Q.Along that same line, De La Rosa, who's pitched at a higher level, if only briefly, with the added complication of the surgery, how does he fit in as we sit here?
JOHN FARRELL: We still see him as a starter. He did obviously get into game activity before the season concluded last year. We'll bring him into camp, stretch him out, but I think it will be important for guys coming off of Tommy John, particularly young guys that have only experienced the major leagues in a small number of innings, I think we've got to get him going in terms of consistent turns through the rotation, starting to build his innings foundation, and more importantly, that first year back there's always that last mental hurdle to get over. And that probably is similar in Ruby's case.
Q.With Bailey, do you see him definitely as your closer? Would you consider going into Spring Training and letting that role sort of be won by somebody?
JOHN FARRELL: Certainly, the goal is coming out of Spring Training to have that identified. Not looking to go into a situation where there's a closer by committee. So right now, provided Andrew is 100%, which there's no reason to think he's not, that's where we're looking to build from, build back to to close out games.
Q.John, one more from the Toronto side. There have been comments the last couple of weeks from a couple of players that they didn't feel towards the end that you were invested. There was one who said, rather someone who is a Blue Jay rather than just works for the Blue Jays. What's your reaction to that stuff?
JOHN FARRELL: That I can tell you emphatically that my focus and attention was there every day. And we dealt with a number of changes along the way, and I don't think anything that I demonstrated through my actions was anything less than 100% focused on the Blue Jays.
Q.You have the second series of the year in Toronto. What kind of reception
JOHN FARRELL: Looking forward to it.