Delgado: Jays look good but Reyes injury hurts

Carlos Delgado hit 336 home runs in 12 seasons with the Blue Jays. (Aarond Harris/AP)
April 15, 2013, 2:17 PM

The 2013 season isn’t going according to plan for the Toronto Blue Jays. They have lost seven of their first 12 games and shortstop Jose Reyes will miss the first half of the season after spraining his ankle.

Yet the most accomplished hitter in franchise history expects the Blue Jays to contend as long as more injuries don’t further compromise the team’s chances. Carlos Delgado says the Blue Jays have enough balance to contend in an increasingly competitive division.

“It’s a nice combination of speed, power and pitching,” he said in a phone interview from Puerto Rico. “The key for them is just to stay healthy since they’re going to be playing in a tough division always. There’s very little room for mistakes.”

The Blue Jays suffered a setback over the weekend, learning that Reyes will miss approximately three months after spraining his ankle. Delgado, who played with Reyes on the New York Mets for four years, got in touch with his former teammate after the injury.

“I said ‘Hang in there big man.’ I wish him the best, a speedy recovery,” Delgado said. “I keep in touch with him since I know rehab can be very long and can be very boring as well, but that’s the only way to get better.”

Delgado, a member of the coaching staff for team Puerto Rico in the recent World Baseball Classic, said he enjoyed coaching and would like to get more involved with the game eventually.

He said working for the Blue Jays in some future role “would be a great opportunity.” For now, however, the 40-year-old prefers to spend time with his family in Puerto Rico.

Later this season the Blue Jays will celebrate Delgado’s accomplishments by adding him to the Level of Excellence at Rogers Centre. Delgado, the franchise leader in an assortment of categories including home runs (336), doubles (343) and walks (827), posted a .949 OPS with Toronto. He plans bring his entire family to Toronto this July 21st when the Blue Jays will honour him.

Here’s a transcript of Delgado’s comments on various topics related to the Blue Jays and MLB.

On the experience of the World Baseball Classic:

“It was a good experience. It’s more fun to play, let me tell you that, but now that I have retired, it was a good way to stay in the game, to help out and talk to some of the younger kids.”

“Having the opportunity to represent your country was a great experience and the timing was perfect. I don’t think I’m quite ready for a whole season, being away from home, so this short tournament was actually nice.”

“It was a new experience, so I didn’t know what to expect, since I’d never been a coach before. It was nice — long hours, but it was a great experience being a part of that team that went all the way to play in the finals. We got beat by a great team. The Dominican Republic had a really good team.”

On coaching in the WBC:

“It was different. It was nice. Like I said it was all new to me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was nice and I had the opportunity to work with people that I know. I had the opportunity to work with some of the players that I played with or against during my career, so it was nice.”

“It was a learning experience and I think it’s still a way to get your foot in the door and then decide whether you want to do it or not.”

On the possibility of coaching at the MLB level:

“I don’t want to close that door, but the one thing like I said earlier is that I’m not ready to be away from home that long. I worked for a long, long time so it’s kind of nice being home, taking my little kids to school and getting involved with their activities. Maybe when they’re a little older and they kind of get tired of me, it’s an option that we’ll consider.”

On his reaction to Jose Reyes’ ankle injury:

“Devastating. Jose’s a good friend. We played together in New York and developed a relationship. I had the opportunity to speak with him after the injury. I mean it’s tough — it seemed like he didn’t know whether to slide or not.”

“It’s tough for a team. You build a team, you bring a guy in like Jose Reyes — I mean they brought in a whole bunch of guys — but he brings so much energy to the lineup. I know he’s probably going crazy right now. This kid cannot sit still, so it’s going to be a long three months for him, and all I can say is I wish him a speedy recovery and hope everything turns out better than they originally said.”

“For him it’s his bread and butter. He’s built for speed, so when you have a foot injury it definitely brings you down a bit.”

On his message to Reyes:

“I knew he was down and wanted to see what he was doing. He said ‘I’m probably going to be out for about three months,’ and I said ‘Hang in there big man.’ I wish him the best, a speedy recovery. I keep in touch with him since I know rehab can be very long and can be very boring as well, but that’s the only way to get better.”

On 2009, Delgado’s final season, when Reyes appeared in just 36 games due to injuries:

“Every time you’re hurt it’s tough. When you love to play the game it’s devastating to be in the training room or in Florida doing rehab. It’s tough. Like I said earlier, if you want to get better and you want to get back on the field, it’s something that you must do. It’s not the ideal situation, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

“That was a bad year for us in 2009, we had a lot of people getting hurt. A lot of people doing rehab at the same time, so I kind of want to forget about it.”

“It was nice for him to bounce back and have a couple good years. It’s a disappointment that right at the beginning of the season he hurt his ankle, but like I said I hope he gets better soon and he can come back after the All-Star Game and people in Toronto will have the opportunity to watch him play and bring some of the energy to that team.”

On the 2013 Blue Jays:

“It seems like the Blue Jays always had good offence, but I think they really improved on their pitching. If you have a guy like Josh Johnson — if he can stay healthy he’s as tough as they come. You’ve got a guy like [Mark] Buehrle. He’ll get some quality innings. I think they did a good job putting together a nice team.”

“And then you’ve got the offence — [Jose] Bautista, [Edwin] Encarnacion, Melky Cabrera — so it’s a nice combination of speed, power and pitching. The key for them is just to stay healthy since they’re going to be playing in a tough division always. There’s very little room for mistakes, so you want to have your A-game, you want to have all of those pieces click sooner rather than later.”

On Josh Johnson:

“I faced him when I was with the Mets and I’ll tell you, he’s a tough at bat. He’s one guy that I did not like facing. If he’s healthy he’s going to be tough.”

On rebounding from a difficult start:

“Guys need to step up. We all know that baseball players can be very streaky. So sometimes the team can start a little slow and the team can rely too much on one guy and that guy’s not carrying his load. It’s important for someone to step up and assume that leadership role and come in and perform.”

“You can’t expect to have one guy carry the team the whole year. It’s almost impossible to do that, so somebody needs to come in and get people out or get clutch hits. That’s the way it is and then it continues from there and people take off from the big guns and join in the show.”

On the Blue Jays’ decision to increase payroll after years of more modest spending during Delgado’s time in Toronto:

“You know what, I don’t play that. I was really happy with the way it was. I don’t want to start thinking ‘what about this.’ Things happen for a reason, and I happened to be there at that time.”

“The way I look at it is regardless of who they have on the team and what they’re spending, I’m going to try to do the best I can to help the team win as much as I can and that’s what I did.”

“I can look back and be completely happy about it. Obviously I would have liked to win a little more. It didn’t happen so you turn the page and move on.”

On the balance within the AL East:

“Boston and the Yankees are going to compete. They’re probably a little older now, but the younger teams, Baltimore and the Rays have very good ballclubs. It’s not like Boston and the Yankees are going to go without a fight. Baltimore’s going to fight. Tampa Bay’s going to fight. They have good pitching, so we’ll see what happens this year. And the Jays are going to be much better than they were. It’s going to be interesting. It’s going to go down to the wire.”

On the possibility of working for the Blue jays in some capacity in the future:

“It would be nice. It would actually be nice. It would be a great opportunity. Like I said, I like to spend time around the field, I like to spend time around the baseball players and what I love. It’s just that at this time and in the near future, I’m not ready to be away for eight months.”

“It would be nice to get an invitation to go to spring training for a couple of weeks, to go see some of the minor leaguers during the summer at some point, to go to Toronto. When that time comes you’ll figure out what you want to do. I’m definitely open to that, but the coaching staff is a big commitment and when I do something I do it all-out and put my heart into it. I’m enjoying this time at home right now.”

On the Blue Jays’ plans to add Delgado to the Level of Excellence at Rogers Centre this July:

“It’s going to be so many memories from when I was there. I said earlier that I was very humbled that the Blue Jays are giving me that recognition. I always said that I played the game because I loved the game, I didn’t play the game to get recognized, but at the end of your career for them to look back and recognize you, it is nice.”

“I think it’s going to be a nice day, and I’m going to spend it with friends, and fans, and family. My whole family’s going to be coming up and the whole crew’s going to be there. I’m looking forward to saying hello to a lot of the fans that gave me support in Toronto. It is definitely exciting so I really am looking forward to that July 21st.”

On whether he sees many Blue Jays fans in Puerto Rico:

“Not really, but we interact on Twitter, so I get a lot of followers from Toronto and that’s always nice. Last summer I had the opportunity to go to Toronto for a couple of games and I did one of the camps with the Blue Jays. It’s always nice. I’ve always said the fans in Toronto treated me like family and I always appreciated that.”

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