The Blue Jays are not going to have to face Sergio Santos this year and that’s a good thing.
Monday a few of the Jays’ hitters got a firsthand look at Santos’ repertoire in a live batting practice session and the new closer sent Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion away shaking their heads and grumbling under their breath.
Santos has a heavy mid-90s fastball, a sharp, biting slider and this year is dusting off a changeup that he neglected last year as Chicago’s closer.
“The one thing we went back and looked at when he evolved into the closer role was that he became predominantly a fastball-slider pitcher,” said manager John Farrell. “The year before when he was in a late-inning (setup) role his changeup was a true weapon for him.
“By his own admission in conversations throughout the off-season, he felt like he got away from that pitch. It’s a darn good pitch, whether to righthanders or lefthanders, and when you’re running in the mid-90s, with a wipeout slider and you can throw another pitch into the mix that they have to defend against, it makes him less predictable.”
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Monday’s field work among pitchers, catchers and coaching staff was almost exclusively given over to defence of the running game.
In 2011, the Jays allowed 111 stolen bases, seventh-fewest in the American League. Their caught-stealing percentage was 26%, 10th in the league.
“It’s an area that I think we need to improve upon,” said manager John Farrell. “There are clubs in our division who use speed as a major weapon and to me it’s a total team effort, not just on the pitcher. It requires the guy behind the plate and the players in the middle of the infield to work in unison.”
The Tampa Bay Rays led the AL in steals with 155 and the New York Yankees were third with 147. Toronto’s offence stole 131 bases, good for sixth place in the AL.
LIND'S NEW REGIMEN
Last year, the Blue Jays knew Adam Lind would be facing a steep learning curve, re-acquainting himself with his defensive responsibilities at first base.
What they hadn’t counted on was the physical toll all that extra preparation would take, manifesting itself in a back injury that caused Lind to miss more than three weeks.
“The number of ground balls he took when we were on the road and the number of reps he took pre-game lent to somewhat of an overloading,” said manager John Farrell. “We’re not going to take any shortcuts, but I think he can balance that a bit more. He knows that the core strengthening program that we had to institute is now part of his regular routine so, hopefully, we shouldn’t have to experience those physical setbacks.”
BAUTISTA NOT SHY
The value and importance of leadership in pro sports is one of those arguable concepts but there’s little doubt that this Blue Jay outfit is Jose Bautista’s team.
“We hope every player takes ownership of the team but when people think of the Toronto Blue Jays, the first guy that comes to mind is Jose Bautista,” said manager John Farrell.
“He doesn’t shy away from those responsibilities of being a leader and when your best player is that personality, it makes our jobs as coaching staff that much easier.
“He’s a guy you can go to and find out not only how he’s feeling at a given moment but get some insights about the pulse of the club. He likes that. He likes to be in the middle of things. He’s very much aware of everyone around him and we’re fortunate to have him in our uniform.”