Jays' goal: All-star at every position

Toronto Blue Jays' batter Colby Rasmus watches a high pitch by Texas Rangers' pitcher C.J. Wilson...

Toronto Blue Jays' batter Colby Rasmus watches a high pitch by Texas Rangers' pitcher C.J. Wilson (unseen) during the first inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto July 31, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

TORONTO - It’s one thing to plan for the future, but it’s quite another to have it start to unfold before your eyes. That’s what John Farrell, who hopes to manage the Blue Jays for the foreseeable future, has experienced the past 10 days.

The Jays have added two important puzzle pieces in that span, one long anticipated, another quite unexpected, and the first-year manager is starting to see Alex Anthopoulos’ vision unfold in his clubhouse.

Centrefielder Colby Rasmus dropped out of the sky near the trade deadline. A week later, they summoned Brett Lawrie from Las Vegas to begin his career. Lawrie comes to Toronto wrapped in the Canadian flag along with rare athletic ability and a palpable intensity.

After a slow start, Rasmus has started to produce. He and Lawrie had almost identical offensive weekends in helping the team to a 2-1 series win in Baltimore. Both went 5-for-11, each with a home run.

“It’s very exciting,” said Farrell. “The players we’ve infused here the past couple of weeks, with Colby coming on board, now Brett getting here. Eric (Thames) and Travis (Snider) are going to be part of that too.

“That’s in addition to a guy who’s had a return-to-performance year in Adam (Lind). When you’ve got Brandon (Morrow) on the mound, and Brett Cecil and Ricky (Romero), that’s the makings of a tremendous core group of players. It’s looking brighter and brighter every day we take the field.”

Kyle Drabek is another key part of that vision and while he may be struggling to find himself at triple-A, he’s not as far away as it might seem from being back in the mix. Toronto fans may get a chance to see another of the club’s prize pitching prospects soon in Henderson Alvarez, another power arm who can command the strike zone.

With Rasmus and Lawrie already providing production, the Jays are that much closer to having the type of lineup that Anthopoulos wants from top to bottom.

“For us to compete in this division,” said Farrell, “we have to have length and depth throughout the lineup and when you see the production in the bottom half, even the bottom third (Sunday), it gives us an opportunity to not only manufacture runs but to not give the opposing pitcher any time off.”

Lineups like the Yankees and like Boston are relentless, creating stress for pitchers from 1-through-9. Anthopoulos has said often in the last couple of years that he wants a batting order with a potential all-star at every position.

If you look deeper in the farm system, players like catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Anthony Gose jump out. Both, especially d’Arnaud, have shown signs of coming into their own offensively to go with what is acknowledged already as major-league defensive skills.

As far as Drabek and his composure issues are concerned, Farrell is looking forward to seeing him back in Toronto in September.

“Personally, I think it would be important for him to pitch more innings (in the big leagues) in September,” said Farrell. “I may be getting ahead of myself by saying this, but it’s important not only for us to get another read on him going into the off-season, but for Kyle’s continued development. As he looks back and reflects on the things that happened this year, it would be good for him to finish the year with some positive work at the major-league level.”

Las Vegas is a tough environment for a pitcher of any age. The PCL is an offensive league and for a pitcher who lets himself become a slave to his ERA, it can be a shattering experience.

“The setting that Vegas presents and the challenges that come from that are great learning experiences for pitchers,” said Farrell.

“You can say the conditions in Las Vegas aren’t ideal for pitching. But that offensive environment may be the closest thing to replicating the major-league level. Offences at (MLB) level can explode on a pitcher — any pitcher — quickly and the ability to keep it together and make a pitch when things aren’t going well is very important.”

Drabek, according to Farrell, has shown some signs of adopting that mindset.

“Last time out he gave up some early runs yet found a way to stay composed, stay in control and get through six innings,” said Farrell. “That’s progress.”

Tuesday night, Lawrie makes his Toronto debut. He’s ready for Toronto as much as Toronto is ready for him.

“Anytime you talk about expectations, typically they’re never any higher than the individual’s own expectations,” said Farrell.

“He had a lot of fanfare and certainly will have even more (Tuesday) but to step right in and contribute like he did ... what can you say? The guy has tremendous bat speed, tremendous power and he showed a glimpse of that this series.”


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