March 26, 2012
Frasor sees a difference in these Jays
By Bob Elliott, QMI AGENCY
DUNEDIN - Roy Halladay had the floor once a day for seven consecutive springs.
Carlos Delgado took his turn looking forward to assess the upcoming season.
Same with Vernon Wells.
And now, after much discussion over who should give the 21st annual spring training, state-of-the-union address, Jason Frasor examines the 2012 Blue Jays.
Dustin McGowan has been in the organization the longest, selected 33rd overall in North America in 2000, should be at our imaginary podium, but he says: “I haven’t really been here much since July of 2008.”
When Frasor was dealt to the Chicago White Sox at the trade deadline while McGowan was still making the long recovery road back through the minors, the title of longest-serving Jays belonged to reliever Casey Janssen.
“Now that Jason is back in town, it should be him,” said Janssen.
Eight years ago this Thursday, general manager J.P. Ricciardi shipped Jayson Werth to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Frasor.
Frasor has been a Jays reliever ever since, save for a July 27 trade that sent him to the Chicago White Sox for the final two months of the season.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos re-acquired Frasor on Jan. 1 and now the right-hander will extend his club record for the most appearances (455 games) by a Jays pitcher.
We looked up some previous state-of-the-union nuggets:
-- Wells before Jose Bautista hit 54 homers in the spring of 2010 when asked who was the most impressive player in camp: “Bautista, it’s nice to see someone finally getting a chance to be an everyday player and seize the moment. Every game he plays, he either has two hits or one with a line drive at someone.”
-- Halladay in 2009 with the Jays coming off an 86-win season: “This year will be a challenge. We have more talent than last year — but other teams have gotten much stronger.”
The Jays won 75 games.
-- Halladay in 2007: “The Jays opened in Detroit in ’92 right when they won the World Series the first time. Now we open there. That’s a good sign.”
The Jays won 83 games and finished 11 games back of the Red Sox for the wild-card spot.
-- Halladay in 2004, when his locker mate was Pat Hentgen, who was back with the Jays after four years with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Baltimore Orioles: “Pat was the first to come up and say hello to me in the spring of 1996, my first camp, look at this.”
Halladay turned and pulled on Hentgen’s blue-striped shirt in the locker. “He was wearing the same old shirt then.”
-- Delgado in 2003: “We’re a better team, much better. We’ll surprise some people. We may win.”
Ricciardi had said earlier that the Jays were building towards contending in 2004?
“Maybe we’ll surprise the GM, too,” Delgado said.
The Jays won 86, eight more than the year before to finish nine games back of the wild-card spot.
-- And my personal favourite, Kelly Gruber in 1992 when asked how he thought the Jays would fare said: “I’m serious. If all of our pitchers are back from the disabled list from their minor injuries by May 1, we’ll be in great shape. September will be unlike any other we’ve had. The atmosphere will be like how it is in Florida — relaxed. We’ll be 10 games up by Sept. 1 and we’ll be resting guys the final month.”
Jays fans loved the pronouncements. The clubhouses in New York and Boston did not. Toronto clinched the American League East on Oct. 3 ... Game 162 on their way to winning the World Series.
Okay, questions for the longest-serving Jay ... not named Jay Stenhouse, the club’s P.R. man.
Does this team remind you of any previous teams?
Frasor: “I would say the 2006 team. We finished second behind the Yankees and a game ahead of the Red Sox. (The wild-card berth went to the Detroit Tigers).
“We had a great team in 2006 with some big names: Troy Glaus, A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan and that was the year Bengie Molina came over too. This team is not as proven, it’s much younger, but it has talent. On the 2006 team, the best young players we probably had were Alex Rios and Brandon League.
“With this team, we have young talent like Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia, Henderson Alvarez and Eric Thames.”
Your opinion of manager John Farrell?
Frasor: “Of all the managers I’ve pitched for here, he’s my favourite. He is the most intelligent and always maintains a good level of communication, he’s a very good communicator.”
What advice would Frasor give Anthopoulos, criticized for not making the winning bid on Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish — and a lack of other moves — which created major-league angst amongst Jays fans?
Frasor: “I’d tell him to stay the course. Keep doing what he’s doing. We’re gaining ground. It’s amazing how he has rebuilt the farm system. I see these young kids, or the guys who come over from minor-league camp, they’re so much more athletic than we are used to seeing come in here.”
Does the Jays record (18-4, compared to the Yankees, 13-9, the Red Sox 10-9, the Baltimore Orioles 9-9 and the Tampa Bay Rays 6-13 ... at the time of the state of the union) in the spring actually mean anything? After all, it is spring training, but is there anything that can be carried forward into the season?
Frasor: “I think so, it’s something to take into the season. It says a lot about the depth our system and our health.”
What’s the No. 1 strength of the 2012 Jays?
Frasor: “This is a more athletic team. We’re faster, quicker, stronger and we’re younger. We’re not going to be a team that sits around and waits for the three-run homer. This is all new to me.”
And the biggest question mark?
Frasor: “The back end of our rotation. I’ve only seen Alvarez a couple of times, once last year when he pitched in Chicago against the White Sox. But I trust my teammates. I listen to what they have to say about him. They all say that he’s the real deal.”
After an 81-81 record last season, will the Jays have a winning record this season?
Frasor: “Yes, because of all kids like Alvarez and Lawrie.”
Who else has impressed?
Frasor: “Lawrie. Remember this is my first time really seeing him on a day-to-day basis. I really liked what I saw from (pitcher) Drew Hutchison. He sort of reminds me of a young Shaun Marcum.”
“Anthony Gose has a great arm, can run and he has athleticism. You know what else he has? Arrogance. Both Lawrie and Gose are the type of guys you hate from the other dugout but you’d love them both as teammates. In all the years I’ve been here we’ve had good players, but we’ve never had that here. We’ve always had real nice guys.”
What does Frasor expect from himself?
Frasor: “Let’s not kid ourselves. Stats are important in this game — it’s what everything is based upon. I used to have two goals until I met Justin Speier and he always said his goal was to stay healthy for the whole season. So that’s one goal
“Another is to either have 70 appearances or to pitch in 70 innings. The third one is to average one strikeout per inning.
“I pitched terribly with the White Sox. Two real bad months. When you get traded — and this was my third time — you always want to show your new employers they made a good deal. Plus, (Chicago) is my hometown. I was really looking forward to coming back and having a good year with the Sox this season.
“At the time of the trade I was disappointed, I wanted to do well in Chicago. Then, I get to this camp and it feels like this is the place I should have been the whole time.”
So how do the 2012 Jays compare to the 2006 Jays?
Frasor: “It’s the best team I’ve ever been on since then. I won’t say it’s a better team.”
And finally, how many wins does he expect the Jays to have when the curtain comes down of the 162-game season after the Jays finish their Oct. 3 game against the Minnesota Twins?
Frasor: “We’re a 90-win team.”
Only 90 wins to go.