Tag:John Farrell
Posted on: June 17, 2011 3:01 pm
Edited on: June 17, 2011 4:24 pm

Arencibia keeping Jays steady behind plate

Though the Blue Jays' youth movement hit a bump when Kyle Drabek pitched himself back to the minor leagues this week, it's not all bus rides and Motel 6's for the kids. Blue Jays' rookie catcher J.P. Arencibia continues building the foundation for a promising major-league career.

Arencibia's 34 RBI and .464 slugging percentage led all American League rookies, and his 10 home runs were second to the Angels' Mark Trumbo, as the Jays open a weekend series in Cincinnati.

But it's not just his offensive production that has impressed the Jays.

"From spring training to now, he's advanced by large steps," Toronto manager John Farrell says. "He's handling the pitching staff, his game-calling, his blocking balls in the dirt."

At 25, Arencibia, Toronto's first-round pick in the 2007 draft, has advanced to the point where he's caught more innings than expected. With veteran Jose Molina behind him, the Jays figured to break in Arencibia a little more slowly. But he's played in 52 of the Jays' 69 games, a workload that's been the combination of acumen and want-to.

"He loves to play," Farrell says. "I had to fight him early in spring training to come out of the lineup on certain days with the plan we had. He knew about the [schedule], but he wanted to play."

Not all has been smooth. Arencibia recently has been playing with a sore thumb, and that, too, will be a learning process. Professionally, he's never played in more than 116 games (2009, at Triple-A Las Vegas) in a season. The aches and pains and grind of a big-league schedule can take its toll, and the Jays may need to get Arencibia more days off later this summer.

But overall, the kid has looked like a keeper since he said hello last Aug. 7 by becoming the first player in the modern era to knock out four hits, including two homers, in his major-league debut.

"He's maturing as a player," Farrell says. "His conversations between innings with pitchers are right on the mark. They really are.

"He's handling both sides of it."

Posted on: April 12, 2011 5:32 pm

Kyle Drabek isn't cooking yet, but he's close

First road trip of what should be his first full big-league season started pretty darned good for Kyle Drabek, Toronto's rookie right-hander.

Teammate and Los Angeles native Ricky Romero's father picked up a group of seven or eight Blue Jays upon their arrival in Southern California on Thursday night, drove them to his house and fed them home-cooked carne asada and shrimp ceviche for dinner.

A day later, Drabek held the Angels to one earned run over six innings in a 3-2 Toronto win.

"It's been great so far," Drabek says. "It's like a family here. It's a great atmosphere. It's a great team to be on. Everyone's together, it's a bunch of young guys ... this team can be really, really good."

Especially if Drabek, 23, soars to the heights many expect. The must-have player in the package Toronto received from Philadelphia in the 2009 Roy Halladay trade, Drabek will take the ball for a second time on Toronto's current trip Wednesday afternoon in Seattle.

So far, so good for the son of Doug Drabek, winner of the 1990 NL Cy Young award while pitching for Pittsburgh.

In two starts in 2011, Kyle is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA.

Over 13 innings pitched, he's allowed just two earned runs and seven hits. He's fanned 12 and walked seven.

"Obviously, we'd love to have Doc [Halladay], and we miss him and follow his continued success," Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill says. "But at the same time, we get a guy like Kyle, who knows? He may be a Doc one day.

"He's got unbelievable stuff."

The Twins saw it on April 2, when Drabek rang up his first victory of the season in a 6-1 decision in which he whiffed seven and surrendered just one earned run in seven innings. Then the Angels got a taste of it on Friday.

"He's got all the attributes you look for," first-year Toronto manager and former pitcher John Farrell says. "He's a very talented, bright young pitcher. He's getting established at the major-league level, and in addition to his physical abilities, whether it's power to his fastball or the ability to manipulate his secondary stuff, his competitive spirit is very strong.

"I think the one thing that's really emerging is controlling that competitiveness, and using it in the right way."

The Jays have seen his intense competitiveness, and part of catcher Jose Molina's charge is to help keep things under control during games.

Drabek says command of all of his pitches in general "is not where I want it to be, but it's a lot better than it was last year."

Specifically, his change-up, which he worked hard on all spring, is coming along nicely. He's already used it in a few 2-and-0 counts and found it can be a weapon amid his hard stuff.

"It's a good pitch," he says. "If I learn how to control it perfectly, it can get me back in the count. It's a pitch that will get me a nice ground ball on."

Between that and smoothing out other rough edges, Drabek and his father have been eyeing the schedule and looking for a chance to meet. Doug is a pitching coach in Arizona's system and this summer has been promoted to Class A Visalia in the California league.

"We get to Oakland once this year [Aug. 18-21] and it's only a few hours away," Kyle says.

By then, who knows where 2011 will have taken him? It's early yet, but Drabek already has advanced from his cup-of-coffee tenure last September, when he went 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA in three late-season starts. Another reason for the improvement: His coming-of-age two-seam fastball.

"You can list probably four above-average, major-league weapons for him," Farrell says. "It gives him so many ways to attack both left-handed and right-handed hitters."

On the mound, for now -- physically, at least -- Drabek looks nothing like his father. The mind's eye recalls grainy footage of Doug, unshaven and squirting tobacco juice, looking fierce as midnight. While Kyle is intense as well, he's still baby-faced.

"I can get pretty scruffy," he says, chuckling. "But I prefer not to right now.

"Maybe if I win a Cy Young award, I can get as scruffy as him."

For now, hey, he's just finding his way. At 23, he's still young enough to love a between-starts, home-cooked meal like the Romeros provided.

"It was a lot of fun. I wish we were going to Houston," Drabek says of his hometown, thinking of maybe returning the favor one day.


"I'd have my mom cook. Or someone."



Posted on: October 25, 2010 6:11 pm

Farrell has what Jays need: Pitching knowledge

The Toronto Blue Jays interviewed something like six dozen candidates to replace Cito Gaston as manager ... and they wind up hiring a man who has managed nothing other than pitching staffs during his coaching career?

Moving to hire John Farrell as skipper is either going to be young general manager Alex Anthopoulos' most brilliant move yet ... or a crashing disaster.

In the AL East, with a Blue Jays team that fared better than expected post-Roy Halladay in 2010, there will not be any in-betweens.

As Boston's pitching coach the past four seasons, Farrell was the typical genius when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2007 and, well, not-so-genius in 2010, when most every pitcher other than Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz under-performed.

Still, he's got a strong background in player development in Cleveland, he helped develop young arms like Lester and Buchholz in Boston and that's exactly what the Blue Jays want. Even in the post-Halladay days, they've got a strong nucleus of young pitchers, guys like Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek.

Anthopoulos is overseeing Toronto's latest rebuilding project, and based on the Blue Jays' 85-77 finish in 2010, fourth in the AL East, it's moving along more quickly than anticipated.

But here's the key: Toronto, over the next two or three seasons, will move as far as those aforementioned pitchers will take it.

If they stay healthy and continue to progress, the Blue Jays may finally get over the hump and climb back into the upper reaches of the AL East.

If too many of those pitchers flat-line, then all 2010 was for Toronto was one more mirage.

I like that Anthopoulos is thinking outside the box, so to speak. No, Farrell does not have any managerial experience. Yes, he knows pitching. And given where the Jays are, and that the game is returning to an emphasis on pitching, this has a chance to be one of Toronto's wisest moves yet.

Time was, former big league pitchers were looked upon skeptically as future managers. But look at what Bud Black is doing in San Diego. That perception is beginning to change.

Obviously, it is imperative that Toronto hires a bench coach who has been a manager, a wise old coot who knows strategy and rules. That's the type of guy who can help Farrell, with his knowledge of pitching, make a major difference as the Blue Jays look to soar.

Posted on: May 14, 2009 6:34 pm

Ramirez nails for Red Sox

While an overhwhelming majority of clubs are negotiating unsteady bullpens, the Boston Red Sox remain rock solid in part because of an under-the-radar trade they completed last November.

Right-hander Ramon Ramirez, acquired from the Royals for outfielder Coco Crisp, was not exactly a household name. Few middle relievers are, especially those in Kansas City. But Ramirez has been lights-out for Boston this season, going 4-0 so far with an 0.52 ERA (tied for third among AL relievers). He also ranks tied for third in the AL with five holds.

He's certainly not the only reason Boston's bullpen is fourth in the majors with a 3.20 ERA. There's still this closer named Jonathan Papelbon (a perfect nine-for-nine in save opportunities) and, as manager Terry Francona quickly reminds when you ask about Ramirez, "It's our whole bullpen. Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen. ... some things about our club are going to be later -- David (Ortiz, coming out of his power slump, and John Smoltz, who isn't expected to join the rotation for a few more weeks). But our whole bullpen has been good every night."

It has, and Ramirez has helped make a unit that ranked seventh in the majors last season with a 4.00 ERA even better. He's surrendered just one run over 16 1/3 innings this season, and opponents are hitting only .127 against him (right-handers .118, lefties .143).

"His physical ability, his demeanor and his ability to pitch late in games have really been weapons for us," Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell says. "You look at his track record, his numbers outside of Colorado for his career ... his ERA is below 2.00.

"What he's doing this year is not bursting out (of the norm). He's got quite a bit of sample size."

Ramirez came highly recommended to the Sox by David Howard, a special assistant to general manager Theo Epstein. Howard, a former big leaguer with the Royals and Cardinals, still lives in the Kansas City area and, among other things, thought that Ramirez had a demeanor that would serve him well in a high-pressure market like Boston.

The Sox especially like that he has the stuff to regularly obtain swings-and-misses in the late innings, thus increasing the odds of obtaining outs and limiting the potential for damage.

"You can't say enough about his work ethic and preparation," Farrell says. "He's prepared to pitch every day. He takes care of himself as well as anyone we have."

Boston's biggest issue with Ramirez from here on out is going to be to monitor his workload and not overuse him.

Likes: Boston's Daniel Bard, who impressed legions of scouts this spring, looked really good in his major-league debut Wednesday night in Anaheim. He was sensational against Mike Napoli, the first batter he faced and one of the Angels' hottest hitters. Bard got three swings and missed on fastballs of 94, 95 and 97 miles an hour. Napoli never had a chance. This kid is going to be a key pitcher for Boston, probably sooner rather than later. ... The new Green Day song, Know Your Enemy. Good reviews on the new disc, 21st Century Breakdown, so far. I've still got American Idiot heavy in my iPod gym rotation. Great workout music.

Dislikes: Umpire Paul Schrieber did apologize for placing his hand on Detroit's Magglio Ordonez in Wednesday's Tigers-Twins game in Minnesota. But I don't see how he cannot be suspended. If a manager or player touches an umpire, it's an automatic suspension. Don't ever touch the umpire -- it's one of the game's cardinal rules. Rightfully so. Conversely, an umpire can't touch a player. That could cause holy hell if the situation got heated enough. Gotta be a suspension then, right? ... Fleetwood Mac touring under the name Fleetwood Mac. Christine McVie has retired. I'm sorry, but if she's not around and not singing Don't Stop, Say You Love Me and Over My Head, it's not Fleetwood Mac.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You've been telling everybody
"You're just plain in luck
"My wife cooked me neck bones and beans
"And she cooked you chicken and duck
"That's why I don't want you hanging 'round my wife no more
"That's why I'm telling you somebody sure has gotta go."

-- Big Bill Broonzy, Somebody's Gotta Go

Posted on: March 1, 2009 9:18 am

Boston's Beckett strong early

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This time of the spring always comes with a qualifier: It's early. Looks and impressions can be deceiving.

But lots of what you see and observe at this time of year can be telling, too. And what Boston pitching coach John Farrell is seeing from ace Josh Beckett could present big trouble for the American League East and other Red Sox opponents this summer.

After battling back and oblique problems for much of 2008, Farrell's gauge so far this spring has Beckett looking more like he did in two seasons ago, when he dominated at 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA, than last summer, when he was 12-10 with a 4.03 ERA.

"He's throwing the baseball more like he did in '07 than '08," Farrell says. "The ailments he had to contend with, his back, his oblique ... that's all cleaned up."

Not only is Beckett far better physically than he was for most of '08, the fiery look in his eyes that meant trouble for others as he was leading the Red Sox to the '07 World Series title is back, too.

"There's an apparent demeanor about him right now," Farrell says. "Every time he's stepped on the mound in the bullpen, this is what it was like in '07."

Beckett, who is slated to pitch Sunday afternoon's Grapefruit League game against Minnesota, tried to pitch last October with a torn or pulled oblique -- depending on whom you believe -- and it did not go well.

In one start against the Los Angeles Angels in the AL Divisional Series, Beckett was hammered for four earned runs and nine hits in only five innings.

In two starts against Tampa Bay in the AL Championship Series, the Rays torched him for 10 earned runs and 13 hits in just 9 1/3 innings.

"The standard he sets for himself ... walking away last year, I know he wasn't pleased. We have a lot of quality pitchers here, and this is not to degrade them in any way. But Josh is our leader. He sets the tone.

"Granted, it's only February, but the tone he's set in this camp is important."

Likes: Hate to see John Smoltz in a uniform other than Atlanta's, but love to see him still pitching. He says he's ahead of schedule following his shoulder surgery, though he's still not expected to pitch before June. But if he and Brad Penny (shoulder issues last year) return to form and join Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester and even Clay Buchholz, one Red Sox strength by mid- and late-summer should be the depth of their pitching. "This group has a chance to be exceptional," pitching coach John Farrell says. ... Sign in the Red Sox clubhouse: "Work hard, play hard, listen hard." I may hang that one in my daughter's room. ... You can tell it's fund-raising time at PBS when they run Roy Orbison and Friends: Black and White Night. Have to say, though, that never gets old. It's an exceptional concert, with guests Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, T-Bone Burnett, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello and others.

Dislikes: No concerts are lining up with my spring travels so far. There isn't a lot of down time at this time of year, anyway. As a writer, you're usually in a team's camp by 8 or so in the morning, and it's often dinnertime or later until you're finished interviewing and writing (and, this year, shooting videos). Still, it's fun when you happen to be somewhere where there's a show -- in the past in Florida I've seen Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Buffett and Bonnie Raitt, among others. So far, though, no go this spring.

Sunblock day? Yessir. On a roll here with a bright sun and temperatures near 80. But alas, on the eastern side of the state, at least, it is supposed to rain Sunday and cool down into the 60s through midweek.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day

"Don’t gimme that look, that’s right, let’s get sweaty
"Let’s get real sweaty
"I’m talkin’ rainforest sweaty
"I’m talkin’ swamp sweaty
"Let’s fill the bathtub full of sweat"

-- Jackie Moon, Love Me Sexy
(Or, as you better know him, Will Ferrell, in Semi Pro).


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