OAKLAND - It was suggested to Luis Rivera that he's definitely in line for a raise. In addition to his value as an infield instructor and in-game eye-in-the-sky scout and strategist, he has been the media translator for a growing number of Latin-American players on the Toronto Blue Jays.
He started the season interpreting for Yunel Escobar and now that list of "clients" includes Henderson Alvarez and Luis Perez, two-fifths of the Jays' starting rotation.
Rivera just smiled, proud of their accomplishments.
"To their real credit, these young players have done a great job trying to deal with a second language," said manager John Farrell, "especially while trying to hone their skills as players at this level."
Alvarez will make his third start for the Jays Saturday and Perez will make his first start on Sunday. In addition, Joel Carreno has joined the Jays from New Hampshire to work out of the bullpen.
Carreno was with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats for a series in Altoona, Pen., when he got the call on Thursday. He flew from Altoona to Washington, D.C., where he discovered his flight to San Francisco had been cancelled.
"It was about 1:00 in the morning they offered him a chance to get a hotel room but he had been rescheduled on a 6 a.m. flight," related Farrell. "He was so excited to be coming to the big leagues, he wouldn't leave. He said 'I'm not missing that flight,' so he spent the night in the airport."
These are heady times for these young pitchers trying to make their first impressions.
"I'm very happy because I've always been a starter," Perez said through Rivera.
"They needed a reliever when they called me up but this is a good chance for me. I'm ready because, even as a reliever, I was preparing just the same as I did as a starter.
"When I was in the minor leagues, I was facing the lineup two or three times. I'm used to throwing fastball, changeup, slider and I can throw those pitches at any time. Of course it depends on who's hitting, but I'm always going to stay with this approach.
"As a reliever, I might only have one hitter to face, and you know you have to get him out. Now I'll be facing a guy more than once and he'll know how I approached him the first time, so it's a matter of keeping him off balance."
Perez, like Alvarez, has impressed his manager and coaches with his poise and mound presence. He's been unfazed, even when he has gotten into tough situations.
What Farrell and the rest of the Blue Jay brass will be looking for is how he responds the second and, hopefully, third times through the lineup. The key to that will be a patient approach.
"He needs to be consistent in the use of three pitches for strikes," Farrell said. "What we saw the other night when he got into his third and fourth inning of work, he used his changeup a little more against righthanders. It gives them that third pitch to contend with. That'll be the case on Sunday."
Farrell hopes to be able to ease Carreno's transition from starter in double-A to reliever in the bigs.
"Since he's coming out of a starter's role the whole year," Farrell said, "what we would look to do is finish off an inning with a reliever who's been in that role and then give Joel a chance to come in to start an inning off and be sure we give him time to get loose in a proper manner."
The last two winters, Carreno has made 20 appearance for the Escogido Lions in the Dominican Republic, 16 of them out of the bullpen, with very good numbers.
In 2009, Carreno appeared in seven games, all as a reliever and tossed 11 2/3 innings, went 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA, striking out nine and walking just one.
In 2010, Carreno appeared in 13 games, nine as a reliever and four as a starter. He went 2-1 in 272/3 innings with 24 strikeouts and a dozen walks.
He says he will draw on those experiences, as well as his role as a reliever during spring training with the Jays, when called upon.
He throws a low-90s fastball but he won't be surprised if he gets it up a little hotter than that in a short relief stint.
"Yeah, probably," he said. "When you're a starter you're looking to go six, seven innings. When you come out of the bullpen you throw, maybe, at the most, three innings."
He, like Perez, is hoping one day to make his mark as a starter but isn't going to look down his nose at a chance to be in the big leagues in any role.
"You never know what's going to happen tomorrow," said Carreno, speaking as a man who woke up that morning in an airport.