Jays prospects gaining invaluable experience

Toronto Blue Jays out fielder Rajai Davis watches batting practice at spring training....

Toronto Blue Jays out fielder Rajai Davis watches batting practice at spring training. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:36 PM ET

DUNEDIN — Spring training isn’t all about winning jobs and preparing for the big-league season to come. It’s also about building on dreams.

There are a half-dozen prospects invited to the Blue Jays who are here without any illusions. They are not going north at the end of the spring unless it’s to Lansing or Vancouver or to New Hampshire.

They are here to see how high the bar is and measure themselves against that bar.

Kids like outfielder Anthony Gose, catcher Travis d’Arnaud, first baseman Mike McDade and pitchers Henderson Alvarez, Joel Carreno, Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire are being given a taste of the major-league experience, with no strings attached.

“It can be invaluable to the individual player,” said manager John Farrell. “They come into this setting and get a little more acclimated to what the major league environment is, what the expectations of the major-league staff are.

“They get to see players they might see only across the complex or see on TV or read about. They get to see their work ethic, their routines, to dress next to a guy and have an informal conversation.

“Those experiences can impact a career. These are your hand-picked prospects to come into this environment and they handle it respectfully. Really, it’s a win-win situation.”

Anthony Gose is a whippet of an outfielder, a 20-year-old who played at class-A Dunedin after being traded mid-season from the Phillies to Toronto via the Houston Astros. He probably already possesses major-league calibre defensive skills with his speed, his glove and especially his arm. He’s a work in progress on offence.

“I still have a lot of learning ahead of me,” said Gose. “Coming to big-league camp and being around veteran players — guys like Rajai Davis who is a similar player to me — gives me some insight into what it’s going to take.

“I’ve talked a lot with Travis Snider about what he had to learn coming through the minor leagues and what changed for him when he got to the big leagues as a hitter. Things like that.”

This is Gose’s first opportunity to associate with players who have already made it to The Show and he says it has already been illuminating.

“You see where the standard is, what it takes, what you have to do and how hard you have to work to get there.”

With the Phillies, Gose was encouraged to just slap the ball on the ground and use his speed. The Jays see him as a potential line-drive hitter with the chance to display some power, one day.

“I really don’t know what I am right now,” he said. “My game has changed a little bit in the move from one team to the other and the style of approach at the plate. Right now, I’m just trying to learn myself. This camp will help, being around these guys and maybe get into some games to see how my ability plays against big-league pitchers.”

Jenkins is at his second Jays camp. He was invited last year, right out of college, and impressed with his heavy sinking fastball. He pitched at Lansing and at Dunedin, compiling a 7-10 record, a 3.94 ERA and 142 innings. He’s a control pitcher who wants to become even more fine in that area, while expanding his repertoire to include a slider he can throw to both sides of the plate.

“I think I have the same expectations this year as last,” said Jenkins. “I know I’m not fighting for a job and I’m fine with that. But at the same time, it’s nice to get in here be around the veteran guys and the big league staff. Especially with a new manager, any impression you can leave is a good thing.”

In his first year out of college, he discovered how much work is involved in playing baseball as a professional

“The biggest thing is when they tell you it’s a long year, they’re not kidding,” he said. “It’s a long year.

“I think that, physically, I got worn down. I’ll know better how to deal with that now.

“Performance wise I wasn’t as happy with (my first season). I could have done some things better. I maybe lost too much weight last year but I think I’ve come in a little stronger this year.

“I’m coming in with the mindset, I just want to pitch, wherever I’m assigned.”

Gose, Jenkins and the others mentioned above, will eventually have a chance to fight for jobs at spring training. Right now all they have to do is quietly measure themselves and drink in the atmosphere.


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