OAKLAND - Tuesday night’s ugly ninth-inning meltdown whipped up an imperfect storm of controversy and sudden change within the Blue Jay clubhouse on Wednesday.
In the wake of the jarring five-run Oakland ninth inning that produced a 7-3 Athletics victory, the Jays arrived at the Oakland Coliseum to a rather different team landscape.
First baseman Adam Lind is out as cleanup hitter, dropped down to eighth in the batting order.
Francisco Cordero is out as interim closer, replaced by the equally interim Casey Janssen.
Catcher J.P. Arencibia, who was furious after a somewhat strange decision by manager John Farrell to pinch-hit for him with 45-year-old utilityman Omar Vizquel in the top of the ninth inning, met with Farrell and while they agreed to disagree about the move, both men have put it behind them. Sort of.
It all added up to a rather full morning of meetings and decisions by the manager.
First up, Arencibia.
In the top of the ninth Tuesday, with one out, the go-ahead run at third base and Colby Rasmus at first base, Arencibia was already in the batter’s box when Farrell called him back and sent Vizquel up to hit. Vizquel popped up the bunt, but Kelly Johnson eventually drove in the run with a single, setting the stage for Cordero’s trainwreck in the bottom of the inning.
“We all recognize that over the last 12-14 games, J.P. has swung the bat,” Farrell said. “But in that situation, against the matchup with a high fastball power pitcher, the ability to have another option or two, being able to bunt with the safety squeeze as a possibility, to go to the hit-and-run a little bit was the overriding thought in that situation. J.P. believes in himself and we all believe in J.P.. And yet I felt like (going with Vizquel) in that situation, in that particular matchup and unfortunately it didn’t work out when Omar popped the bunt up. The thought of having a little bit more of a bat control guy in the spot was a decision at the time.”
Arencibia was livid after the game but held his thoughts in check until Wednesday morning, after a restless night.
“I was upset,” said the catcher. “I was upset as a competitor. Throughout my career, I’ve always driven in runs. I’ve been a guy who thrives in those situations. As far as the decision goes, he’s our manager and I support every decision and all I want to do at the end of the day is win.
“As a player, does it kind of rattle your head a little bit? Yeah. It’s never really happened to me in my career.
“It’s important to be able to talk it out but I lost a lot of sleep over it. It didn’t sit too well with me. It was more difficult because we lost the game. If we win the game, it’s a little different outlook. When we lose, it adds to my frustration.”
Then it was Cordero’s turn. As Sergio Santos’ stand-in, Cordero has been abysmal, blowing his last three save chances.
“We’re going to back him out of that role to give him some more opportunities in the middle of the game, maybe some more frequent use to get him on a little bit of a roll,” said Farrell. “Coco is understanding of it. The most important thing is he’s accountable. He’s a standup guy and understands the decision and the need to go in this direction.”
Farrell didn’t get even the hint of an argument from Cordero.
“I think it’s the right decision because I’m not doing my job,” Cordero said. “We’re trying to win. The Blue Jays did a great job putting this team together, trying to win the (Eastern) 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.”
It’s an opportunity Janssen welcomes but he’s not thrilled about the circumstances that led to the decision.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” said Janssen. “You never want to see a teammate struggle. I can’t say enough about what Coco has done and the kind of person he is. Hopefully, I can get some outs and get us some wins.
“The bullpen is a family down there and we all take it hard. We hate to see guys struggle, especially with the amount of impact that ninth inning has on the game and the team.”
And then there is the Lind situation. Farrell has shown extraordinary patience in leaving his struggling first baseman in the middle of the order but even he has finally seen enough, with Lind in a 2-for-29 swoon.
“We’ll see if we can get him down there and kind of free up some things and not have him feel like he’s got to give protection to Jose.”
Much as with Cordero, Lind recognizes that he’s not doing the job of a bat in the middle of the order.
“Just trying to kick-start something,” he said of the move down the order. “I’m not really doing a whole lot in the fourth spot so hopefully I can help the team out more.
“I mean, am I going to argue?”