Inside Baseball: Chasing Darvish

Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos lost out on Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman as a free agent, and is making a...

Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos lost out on Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman as a free agent, and is making a bid to rectify that in his pursuit of Japanese phenom Yu Darvish. (Getty Images)

Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:15 PM ET

One of Alex Anthopoulos’ regrets from his first two years as Blue Jay general manager was level of preparedness during the Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes.

“I guess my one regret is I wish it was a greater comfort level on our part,” said Anthopoulos in assessing his first year as GM last winter.

“We weren’t as familiar with the player as we needed to be. We saw him throw two bullpens and we certainly liked the player. It was just a matter of at what point did it make sense financially. You have to put a value and at some point you have to say this is our value and you walk away.

“(Jays president)Paul (Beeston) says this all the time. It’s easy to spend money. It’s hard to spend money wisely. And that’s what it comes down to for us.”

We’re going to be hearing a lot about Yu Darvish this off-season. Would he look good in a Blue Jay uniform? No doubt.

Perhaps the best Japanese pitcher ever to be made available as a free agent will be on the market this offseason and we learned from colleague Bob Elliott this week that Anthopoulos was in Japan to see Darvish pitch.

Darvish is going to cost a ton of money, maybe as much as $100 million in posting fees and guaranteed money. Is he going to be worth it?

That’s what Anthopoulos (who doesn’t talk about such things to the media) is trying to assess.

If he learned anything from Chapman, it’s that missing out on a player because of lack of homework is not acceptable.

If Darvish is a fully formed, ready-made No. 2 guy in a rotation, Anthopoulos will at least know it this time.

If Darvish is over-rated or there are other issues, Anthopoulos will know those, too.

He will understand the player and he will have placed a value on the potential and the talent. That’s how he and his baseball thinkers do business.

I wouldn’t read anything more into his fact-finding trip to Japan than that.

It’s just Alex doing his due diligence.

Juan Finds A Home

Juan Rivera wasn’t much of a fit with the Blue Jays, who were more or less forced to take him back in the Vernon Wells salary dump last winter, but he appears to have landed on his feet with the Dodgers.

Rivera appeared in 70 games for the Jays as an outfielder, first baseman and DH, hitting .243 with six homers and 28 RBI.

In just 39 games as a Dodger, he’s played left and right field as well as third base, with a .768 OPS (more than 100 points better than in Toronto, with three homers and 24 RBI.

More than that, Rivera is wanted in L.A. and looks like a lock to be with the Dodgers again next year.

“The one thing I really like about Juan is that he always gives you a professional at-bat,” manager Don Mattingly told Fox Sports.

“When he walks (up to the plate), he’s going to be prepared. He knows what that pitcher throws, so he knows what he’s looking for when he steps into the batter’s box. He always gives you a great (at-bat) when he walks up there.

“We’ve been a better club since he came over. When he’s hit behind Matty (Kemp) it’s made us a better team, because Juan is a dangerous hitter, and when he hits the baseball it jumps off his bat. He puts a little fear in the (opposing) pitcher, because they know if they make a mistake, he can hit it out of the park.”

Short Hops ...

Stephen Strasburg completed his rehab assignment Thursday, pitching six shutout innings, allowing one hit for Double A Harrisburg. He’ll be activated by the Washington Nationals and is expected to start Tuesday ... Alex Rios struck out looking to end the game with the tying run on base Wednesday and snapped, taking it out on the dugout wall with his bat. “He swung the bat pretty good in the dugout,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “He swung better than at the plate. He was connecting very hard.” ... When Cubs owner Tom Ricketts showed up in San Fran this week, tongues started wagging about a meeting with Billy Beane of the Athletics regarding Chicago’s vacant GM position. Beane is considered to be high on Ricketts’ list of candidates. ... Ichiro Suzuki had two more hits Thursday and now has 156 for the season. With 26 games left, Ichiro has an outside chance at his 11th consecutive 200-hit season.

FOUR-HOUR GAMES? REALLY?

The Yankees, with their painfully patient approach at the plate, tend to take their sweet time to play games and Mark Teixeira doesn’t much like it as he conveyed to the New York Times Wednesday.

“It’s brutal,” said Teixeira. “I can’t stand playing a nine-inning game in four hours. It’s not baseball. I don’t even know how to describe it. If I was a fan, why would I want to come watch people sitting around and talking back and forth, going to the mound, 2-0 sliders in the dirt? Four-hour games can’t be fun for a fan, either.”

Tex’s words were in print for only a few hours when the Yanks and Red Sox played a 4 hour and 21-minute snorefest Thursday.

Here’s a list of New York’s 4-hour-plus nine-inning games in 2011 and 2010.

n Sept. 1, 2011:

NYY 4, Boston 2 — 4:21

n Aug. 25, 2011:

NYY 22, Oakland 9 — 4:31

n Oct. 19, 2010:

Texas 10, NYY 3 — 4:05

n Sept. 11, 2010:

Texas 7 NYY 8 - 4:16

n May 29, 2010:

Clev. 13 NY 11 — 4:22

n May 18, 2010:

Boston 7 NYY 6 — 4:09

PHILLIES PHANTASTIC

The Philadelphia Phillies are on a pace to win more games this year than ever before in their 128-year history.

Thursday, when they completed a four-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, the Phils went to 41 games over .500 for the first time since 1976.

At their current pace, they could win 105 games. Only twice in their history have the Phils won more than 100 games.

In 1976, they won 101 and they duplicated that number in 1977.

The Phils have lost 100 or more games 14 times in their history.

With 87 wins already (through Thursday), there are no signs of slowing down.

“Everybody’s playing well,” first baseman Ryan Howard said.

“Atlanta’s playing well. Milwaukee’s playing well. The way I see it, we need to keep our foot on the gas and not let up.”

Manager Charlie Manuel (right) is of the same mind.

“Keep winning games,” he said when asked of his goal as the season moved into September.

“I’d like to see us win a lot of games — run off a good streak where we could play a lot of those (bench) guys. We can win some more. We definitely want to win the division and have the best record.”

WANTING TO BE THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION

It will come as no surprise that Mariano Rivera (left) is thinking that the end of his career, at 17 seasons and still counting, is coming soon.

It may raise some eyebrows, though, that the greatest closer in baseball history wants to take a turn in centre field just once before it’s over.

In an interview with Bob Costas on the MLB Network, Rivera said he doesn’t know when he will retire.

“I don’t know. That’s the question that I always ask, you know. I think after this season when spring training comes up, I think I (will) have a good idea (of) what I’m going to do,” Rivera said. “There (are) other things to do more than baseball. I don’t think I’m going to be hanging around here, even not if I’m effective, for too long.”

Last winter, Rivera signed a two-year, $30-million contract with the Yankees. “I would love to play centre field at least for one inning or one out. I told my manager. I don’t think it would happen, but I hope so,” Rivera said.

Rivera (595 career saves) and trails all-time leader Trevor Hoffman by six.

D-LIGHTFUL TRADE FOR EX-JAYS

It isn’t as if either John McDonald (left) or Aaron Hill were desperate to get out of Toronto.

They weren’t.

But they’ve landed in a sweet situation in Phoenix heading toward the playoffs after the waiver trade that saw them exchanged for Kelly Johnson.

Both players, but especially Hill, have made early contributions and the Arizona Diamondbacks are on a massive roll right now. They’ve taken the NL West by storm the last month, leaving the Giants in their dust with their recent nine-game winning streak.

“You can tell everyone’s excited for the game to start, talking about winning — not just talking about playing well — wanting to win the game,” McDonald said.

“It’s an easy atmosphere to fit in to.”

Hill, who was in a hitting funk that lasted almost two full seasons in Toronto, had 11 hits in his first 31 at-bats for Arizona, for a .993 OPS.

“They’re happy to be here,” manager Kirk Gibson told the Arizona Republic. “They’re excited. They’re professionals. They’re hardworking. They fit right in. As far as that goes, so far so good. I wouldn’t expect it to be different.”

Gibson has fostered a winning atmosphere in Arizona and it permeates the team.

“You don’t even have to identify it,” McDonald said. “You just walk in there, and you know that it’s there. I think that starts with your first meeting with our manager just because that’s what the focus is, as it is throughout baseball. It’s only heightened because we’re at the end of August and we’re in first place.”

GIANT-SIZE SALARY DUMPS

The San Francisco Giants took a big bite of humble pie this week when they dumped the high-priced contracts of Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand.

But the main course may be yet to come if (when?) they say goodbye to Barry Zito.

“If this stays ugly,” general manager Brian Sabean told the San Francisco Chronicle, referring to the Giants’ collapse over the past five weeks, “we’re going to turn the page and look at some other people to get ready for next year, and try to win and develop at the same time.”

Rowand is still owed

$14 million on the five-year, $60-million overpay the Giants committed to before the 2008 season. Tejada’s one-year deal was for $6.5 million, so they’ll eat only about $1 million.

“After much deliberation,” Sabean said, “we felt this was the right time to set them free. We appreciate their efforts. We’re sorry it didn’t turn out, but again, it’s about managing the roster.”

Zito is still owed $46 million (including a $7-million buyout) on his deal which runs through 2013. In five years with the Giants, Zito is 43-61 with a 4.52 ERA.


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