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  Thu, July 15, 2004


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Tosca faces his future
Jays manager realizes his fate is not under his control but hopes team gets healthier
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

Toronto Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca, left, chats with general manager J.P. Ricciardi at spring training in Dunedin, Fla. on Monday, March 1, 2004. (CP file photo/Andrew Vaughan)

As the second half begins, what of manager Carlos Tosca's future?

"My future?" the Blue Jays manager was saying with a smile, the other day in Houston. "My future is ... I'm flying to Dallas and managing against the Texas Rangers on the weekend and then I'm flying to Oakland to manage there."

Tosca is in the final year of his contract, having taken over for ousted manager Buck Martinez in June 2002. Will Tosca survive? Will he be blamed for a losing season?

"I know that managers are paid to win and I know that everyone is held accountable," Tosca said. "I've been in baseball long enough, I realize my future is something that I can't control."

Tomorrow, the Jays resume play, 10 games under .500, at the Ballpark in Arlington, Tex., when they play the American League West Division-leading Texas Rangers.

Tosca, in his state-of-the-union address during the all-star break, spoke of the Jays' two biggest surprises.

The first was reliever Jason Frasor. General manager J.P. Ricciardi acquired Frasor from the Los Angeles Dodgers late in spring training. Frasor has saved nine of 10 chances and has a 2.13 earned-run average.

And surprise No. 2?

"The way we hit the ball when we were healthy," Tosca said. "That first month we didn't swing the bat well at all."

The Jays started the season with reliever Bob File on the disabled list while no one else had a pimple. Yet they needed an eighth-inning grand slam from Chris Gomez off Curt Schilling to beat the Boston Red Sox and avoid opening with an 0-9 record at home.

"The way we put the team together we thought we'd win 7-6, or 8-7 or 9-8," Tosca said. "If we put up the offensive numbers of a year ago it would have taken pressure off our pitchers.

"We play in an offensive league. We're kidding ourselves if we think we're going to get to the promised land scoring two or three runs per game."

Jays rank 11th in the AL in runs (400) and second-last in homers (69), which is fewer than Barry Bonds hit in one season. Can the poor showing be blamed completely on injuries?

"It wasn't strictly injuries, we didn't hit," Tosca said. "I said it all spring: We have to be free of injuries. The lack of productivity snowballed, the injuries made matters worse."

Tosca had a brief team meeting Sunday before the Jays scattered, explaining that "this is an unusual season with 18 to 20 teams out of 30 having a chance.

"Excluding the New York Yankees," Tosca said, "I don't think any team is safe."

What lies ahead in the second half for the Jays?

"If we get healthy, with our starters we have the ability to go deep into games," Tosca said, referring to Roy Halladay, Miguel Batista, Ted Lilly, Josh Towers and David Bush.

Injured outfielder Frank Catalanotto could be back this weekend and centre fielder Vernon Wells at the end of the month.

"You can't expect them to be 100%," Tosca said. "Like Carlos Delgado, they need two weeks, a spring training, to get their timing."

Tosca said he didn't actually predict the Jays would win 95 games. While former manager Jim Fregosi used to say "you know guys say they don't read newspapers, well I read every comma," Tosca does not read the papers.

"It may have been written I said we'd win 95 games, but what I said was that it would take 95 for a team to make the post-season," Tosca said.

There have been injuries, but when you look at the Jays you see: Catcher Kevin Cash lost his job; shortstop Chris Woodward lost his to Frank Menechino; right fielder Reed Johnson saw his role reduced to a platoon status; right-handed pitcher Pat Hentgen lost his job; and three -- or was it four? -- closers lost theirs.

Outside of that, the off-season evaluation has been flawless.