Jays' Farrell one of the boys

Manager John Farrell and Omar Vizquel of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrate after the Blue Jays...

Manager John Farrell and Omar Vizquel of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrate after the Blue Jays defeated the Cleveland Indians 7-4 in 16 innings at Progressive Field on April 5, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Jason Miller/Getty Images/AFP)

Bob Elliott, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:27 PM ET

As openers go, the longest opening game in history had plenty of weird and seldom seen moments.

From the Adam Lind-Jose Bautista-Omar Vizquel trifecta sharing first for the Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon.

To Ricky Romero allowing four runs in the second, then he and seven relievers putting up 14 consecutive zeros.

To benches clearing when Shin-Soo Choo thought Luis Perez, who threw four scoreless after not pitching more than two in the spring, attempted to hit him and put the potential winning run on in the 12th.

And finally J.P. Arencibia, hitless in six at-bats, with three whiffs, and failing on a bunt attempt, hitting a game-winning three-run homer.

The most amazing sight happened half an hour after closer Sergio Santos recorded the final out for the save.

Walking into the clubhouse we saw players at different tables eating. 

That’s the norm.

At one table were Jeff Mathis, Rajai Davis, Jose Bautista and Yunel Escobar.

And between Bautista and Escobar?

Manager John Farrell?

Farrell talked, laughed and smiled as the others ate.

It was a Farrell we seldom see.

“That’s why he’s the best,” Arencibia said.

Had I walked in to see say Montreal Expos manager Dick Williams at a table with Steve Rogers and Chris Speier, or John Gibbons sharing a post-game spread with Shea Hillenbrand ... well medics would have been needed to revive me.

“That was amazing, I’ve never seen that before,” said Omar Vizquel, who played for 13 different managers in his 23 years.

Likewise.

“He has the right to do that, times change,” Romero said. “Obviously 16 innings, down three in the bottom of the ninth and winning can get the juices flowing.”

The main topic at the Bautista/Farrell table was Escobar’s play on an Asdrubal Cabrera hard-hit grounder with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th. Farrell had inserted Vizquel into the game as a fifth infielder.

With the infield in, the decision-making process is eliminated: The play is at the plate.

“I try with my Spanish, but I needed help from Jose,” Farrell said.

After fielding the ball Escobar flipped to second and an inning-ending double play unfolded.

“John was talking about how we had discussed what to do on that exact play during spring training, but we never got around to practising it,” Bautista said. “Escobar obviously thought it was hit hard enough, saw the second baseman was close enough, there would be time to get two and so he threw to Omar.”

Mathis: “You mean Kelly Johnson.”

Bautista: “Who ever, Escobar made the right play.”

It was easy for Bautista to make that mistake with the crowded infield all in on the grass in front of three Indians base runners. Brett Lawrie was at third, Escobar at short, Johnson at second and Bautista at first with Vizquel as the rover. 

You can’t hear from the press box, but did Vizquel yell “Red rover, red rover, let a hard one hopper came over?”

The Jays went to Florida for 31 games in a span of 33 days and came to Ohio playing almost two games in one afternoon/evening ... a five-hour, 14-minute, 16-inning, opener. 

“Most of our guys hadn’t even played nine innings yet,” said starter Romero.

Edwin Encarnacion, Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, Lawrie, Escobar, Johnson, Bautista and Arencibia all went 16.

“We follow the manager’s lead,” Romero said after the win. “Obviously 16 innings, down three in the ninth, Edwin grinds it out with a two-run double, the whole team did. I’ve had about five guys say to me how they’re mentally drained.”

Vizquel said the Jays got exactly what they wanted in the hard-hit ball. A dribbler would have been more dangerous for the Jays to defend against.

We don’t know if Farrell sitting post-game with his players will result in one win, but it’s a sign of the times the manager sitting relaxing with his players.

A good sign.

“I try to keep my distance,” Farrell said. “But ...”    

Get out, skip!

Standing in the Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse in 1982 I looked up to see the manager coming down the hall.

At almost the same time right fielder Dave Parker saw manager Chuck Tanner too.

“Hey skipper, get the @&^%!!! out of here, THIS IS OUR ROOM!” Parker yelled at Tanner.

Tanner did an about face and returned to his office.

Managers’ policy about entering the clubhouse range from ...

Sparky Anderson managed the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers, tried to stay out completely ... “it’s the player’s room,” Sparky used to say.

To Jim Fregosi, who used to sit with the Philadelphia Phillies players before batting practice playing cards. 

Texas Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy was often in the clubhouse.

Is there a right or wrong way?

The best way is like John Lennon’s song Whatever Gets You Through The Night.

And into the win column.

 

 


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