Jays stroll to even finish

Blue Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson prepares to tag out White Sox base runner Alejandro De Aza...

Blue Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson prepares to tag out White Sox base runner Alejandro De Aza on a steal attempt at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Ill., Sep. 28, 2011. (FRANK POLICH/Reuters)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:40 PM ET

CHICAGO - Before his team’s final game of the season Wednesday, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell was reflecting on just how far his young team has come this year.

He included his own learning curve in that analysis.

“The one thing I had never been exposed to was the responsibility for 25 players,” he said. “In the past it’s been just the pitching staff, but now it’s 25 guys you have to be in tune with to put them in the best position for success. That’s being in tune with what’s currently going on with an individual player, whether it’s mentally, physically or fundamentally.”

Farrell has consistently applauded his team’s resilience and they displayed it right to the final inning of their season.

Down by a run in the ninth inning of game No. 162, with a .500 season on the line, the Jays came from behind on a pair of RBI walks to beat the Chicago White Sox 3-2 at U.S. Cellular Field.

That surprise ending gave the Jays their 81st win to go with an equal number of losses.

Toronto's Kelly Johnson ignited the uprising with a leadoff double off Chicago reliever Chris Sale. David Cooper followed with a single to put runners on first and third.

Colby Rasmus then failed to note the safety squeeze had been taken off and bunted the ball directly to the pitcher, forcing Johnson back to third, but moving Cooper to second.

Sale intentionally walked J.P. Arencibia to load the bases, then did the same thing, very unintentionally, to Mark Teahen and Adam Loewen in succession to score the tying and go-ahead runs.

The Jays had two more chances with the bases loaded, but Mike McCoy and Eric Thames both hit ground ball outs.

Toronto's Frank Francisco worked the bottom of the ninth for his 17th save. Shawn Camp earned the win, pitching the bottom of the eighth inning.

Jays right-hander Brandon Morrow worked six innings in his final start, allowing five hits, five walks and just two runs, including a solo home run by Gordon Beckham.

Thames had give Toronto an early 1-0 lead on a first-inning RBI-double.

“You can look at this game and summarize our entire season,” said Farrell. “We finish at an even .500 but it was a game that is characteristic of the way this team played all year long. We don’t give up.

“We book-ended the game. We got a run in the first and two in the ninth and not a whole lot of anything in between. It continues to demonstrate that guys aren’t cashing anything in: we play to the final out.”

This has been Farrell’s first managerial assignment after working in the Cleveland Indians front office and, for the last four years prior to this one, as pitching coach of the Boston Red Sox.

He was asked what he needs to get better at.

“To get better at? Use of the bullpen,” he said without hesitation.

“We had a number of options late in the game and because of those options, there might not have been defined roles -- one closer, one eighth-inning guy and so forth.

“In looking back I would have liked to have had more defined roles. When a given pitcher didn’t perform well, we went to the next option. It might have created some inconsistency in their mindset. Pitchers like to be able to think along with the game, knowing that their time of the game is coming up and they are able to mentally prepare.”

If he had it to do over, Farrell said he would have defined some roles and stayed with them longer, even if some of the individuals struggled from time to time.

“That change that took place, whether it was Frank (Francisco) as closer, Jon Rauch as closer, Octavio Dotel as another available guy -- in hindsight, I could have done a better job in that area.”

For most of the first half of the season, the Jays had an eight-man bullpen, a by-product of a young and shaky starting rotation.

While that 13-man pitching staff was perhaps not a mistake as much as a requirement, it tied the manager’s hands when it came to keeping his everyday lineup fresh.

“Going forward, I would like to think if we need to add an arm, we would make that (roster) change at the same time rather than carrying an additional pitcher,” he said. “The need to rotate guys in and out of the regular lineup and give guys a day off is an area that needs to be factored in.”

Farrell’s critics can find a variety of other beefs to complain about, ranging from matchups to lineups but they’re not any harder on him than he is on himself.

The bottom line is a .500 record saved by this team’s 39th comeback win of the year. Through the course of the season the Jays were bang on .500 on 32 separate occasions. At no point in the season were they ever more than five games under or more than four games over that level.

“We’re a .500 team,” said Farrell. “That’s not satisfying. But that’s where we are right now.”

But not for long, if he has his way.


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