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Catching up with the Toronto Blue Jays: Bluebird Banter

This off-season The Nats Blog will be conducting a series of interviews with sites from all thirty teams. One team a week leading up to the start of the 2011 baseball season. This week I spoke with Tom Dakers from Bluebird Banter, one of the top Blue Jays blogs on the net, to talk about the state of the franchise and some of the surprises from last season.

TNB: John Farrell was hired to replace a legend, Cito Gaston, as Blue Jays manager. What are the expectations for Farrell?

Bluebird Banter: In the long run, expectations are very high, we are expecting to have a team that can compete in the toughest division in baseball. In the shorter run, I’m hoping that, compared to Cito, Farrell is more willing to work in the younger players. Cito very much prefers veteran players. We have a lot of good prospects, Farrell has to figure how to work them into the line up and he has to be patient with them. We expect Farrell, as a former pitching coach, will work well with our young pitchers but what sort of in game manager he’ll be and how he’ll work with the batters is yet to be seen.

TNB: Roy Halladay was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies last winter for Kyle Draback, Travis D’Arnaud, and Michael Taylor. How is Toronto’s end of the deal shaping up?

Bluebird Banter: Kyle Drabek looks great. He will be battling for a job in the starting rotation this spring. Most folks list him as our best prospect. In a few years he’ll likely be our top starter.

Travis d’Arnaud didn’t have the best of seasons at high-A Dunedin, he missed some time with injuries and didn’t hit as well as we might have hoped. But he is still thought to be the catcher of the future. His defence is great and his bat should be good enough for the majors. He is likely a couple of years away.

Michael Taylor was only a Jay for a few moments, by being traded to the A’s for Brett Wallace, who for several months was our first baseman of the future. Then we traded Wallace for Anthony Gose, a 19-year old who played in A-ball last season, he is long on tools but short on stats. It was pretty tough for us Jay fans to get our minds around. One moment we were planning on Brett Wallace playing first, as soon as next season and then he was gone. Instead we have a centerfielder whose stats, at first glance, don’t look that impressive. But, he was very young for the level he was playing. He has great speed, is great defensively and has a terrific arm. He could turn out to be a special player.

TNB: Does the team have any plans of getting a new stadium?

Bluebird Banter: Short answer, no. Actually the short and long answer are the same. As much as Rogers Centre is looking it’s age, it is the wrong economic time to be looking for government help to build something of that scale. Rogers could afford to go it alone but I doubt they will.

TNB: Vernon Wells is under contract through 2014. Will the team try and move him this winter?

Bluebird Banter: Vernon’s contract makes him impossible to move. That said, he had a super season, he was one of the best centerfielders in baseball this past year. I’ve found it is best to ignore the contract and enjoy the player.

TNB: How can you explain the 2010 season Jose Bautista had with 54 home runs and 124 RBI? Can we expect to see these numbers again?

Bluebird Banter: Bautista finished the 2009 season on a hot streak. He said it was due to learning to start his swing a little sooner. Jose said that he had been told that earlier in his career, but Cito Gaston and batting coach Dwayne Murphy explained it in a way he understood and Cito had the patience to put him in the everyday line up. He swings harder than anyone I’ve ever seen and he doesn’t have a two strike approach at all. He pulls everything, he didn’t have an opposite field home run until the last series of the year.

I’m not sure you’ll see 50+ homers from him again (not that I’d bet against him) but I bet we’ll see him hitting 30+ most seasons. It isn’t like he had a bunch of cheap homers, he hit massive shots most of the time.

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