In some respects, J.P. Arencibia may be the most divisive player on the Toronto Blue Jays, but John Gibbons remains unambiguous in his support of the catcher.
The Blue Jays manager joined Jeff Blair on Sportsnet 590 The FAN Wednesday, explaining that it’s too soon to give up on Arencibia because he could still be an important part of the 2014 team.
“The kid shows up to play every day,” Gibbons said. “He wants to be the guy. He’s very durable. He’s out there every night when he gets the opportunity, and that’s very rare in catchers — those guys get banged up.”
Yet Arencibia must make changes to his approach to realize his potential as a power-hitting catcher in Gibbons’ view.
“He’s got good hitting ability, but unless he makes some adjustments, it’s going to be a battle for him,” Gibbons said. “He has hit some home runs and that’s good, but we feel that if he makes some adjustments to what he’s doing — his approach, his ability to use the whole field — those numbers can go up even better.”
Specifically the Blue Jays would like to see Arencibia use the whole field and consider shortening his swing. Those adjustments may be easier to make during the off-season, when there’s more time for players to adjust their approach at the plate.
The manager explained that Arencibia has worked well with starters such as Mark Buehrle while improving on defence. But shedding a reputation as a poor defender is easier said than done.
“One thing that never fails in this business is that you get that reputation early and it sticks with you for a long, long time,” Gibbons said. “Unless you prove people wrong, it sticks with you forever.”
“It’s worn on him, I think, but he doesn’t back down from it,” Gibbons said.
Though Arencibia has 21 home runs, he is hitting .194 with a .229 on-base percentage and has had a turbulent relationship with some media members. He’ll go to arbitration for the first time this off-season, when he’s expected to see his salary spike past $2 million.