DUNEDIN, FL – Two of the newest Blue Jays stepped into the spotlight as the first full-squad workout draws ever closer, with Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera meeting a media assemblage that had a strong contingent of big-time writers from the national press in the U.S., and each of their chats with the reporters was very different indeed.
Reyes was, as expected, a big ball of energy – chatty, laughing, smiling the whole way through, while Cabrera was subdued and did a great job of sticking to the script his lawyers provided, which pretty much had to have read: "Don’t say anything except that you made a big mistake, it’s in the past and you’re looking forward to the coming season."
Reyes told some of the same stories we’d heard earlier about the trade that brought him to the Blue Jays, but added the fact that in his dinner with Marlins’ owner Jeffrey Loria just four days before the deal went down, Loria again tried to convince him to buy a nice house in Miami. Reyes said that he’s had no contact with anyone from the Marlins’ organization since the trade, and has no interest in hearing their reasons for breaking their word to him.
He’s not worried about having to get used to a new double-play partner should Maicer Izturis hold off Emilio Bonifacio’s attempt to win the job to his immediate left, mentioning that he has played with a myriad of second basemen over the past few years. Last season alone, the Marlins had five different guys play second, with four of them getting at least 13 games at the position. Still, Reyes plans to work hard with Izturis, with the emphasis on communication, in the two weeks before he leaves for the World Baseball Classic.
Reyes isn’t buying the post-season hype that has everyone talking about the Blue Jays – even in Las Vegas, where bookmakers have made them the favourites to win the World Series – because he was on a Marlins team that was thought to have "won the winter" in the last off-season and wound up finishing last in the N.L. East, losing 93 games. He said that it’s about putting everything together on the field and having good team chemistry, something Alex Anthopoulos tried to address this off-season by adding players like Mark DeRosa and Henry Blanco.
Reyes believes the Marlins failed because they weren’t able to "put it all together on the field" last year, which led to management beginning to trade players like Hanley Ramirez less than halfway through the season. He does believe, however, that things will be much better in Toronto, saying that with the talent the Blue Jays have put together they’re going to give other clubs lots of headaches, and that anything less than the playoffs – or even the World Series – would be unacceptable.
The man who will be hitting behind Reyes was much less effervescent, but then, he wasn’t exactly looking forward to his turn with the assemblage. A couple of hours before Cabrera’s media session was set to begin, the Blue Jays issued a release in which Cabrera stated that he made a mistake, accepted his punishment, wanted to put the whole thing behind him and would be making no further comment on the issue on the advice of his legal counsel, due to the investigation into the Biogenesis company in south Florida with which he has been associated.
When Cabrera appeared before the media, with translator Luis Rivera, he was thoroughly lawyered up, and stuck as often as he could to his stock answer of "I made a big mistake, but that was 2012. This is 2013 and I’m looking forward to the season."
The mistake, of course, was getting caught with illegally high levels of testosterone in his system, for which he served a 50-game suspension at the end of last season and forfeited his National League batting title.
Even when asked if he could promise the fans of Toronto that there would be no further such mistakes during his time with the Blue Jays, he stuck with the "advice of counsel" answer.
When Alex Anthopoulos spoke afterwards, he said that there are obviously no guarantees about Cabrera’s production going forward, and that he certainly doesn’t expect Cabrera to repeat his .346/.390/.516 performance, but that’s why the Blue Jays were able to sign him for a lot less than what free agents Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher received on the open market.
Anthopoulos believes in second chances, and also doesn’t think that the things the Blue Jays need from Cabrera are the things that performance-enhancing drugs help with, such as making contact, switch-hitting, playing defence, bringing energy.
Some notes from Friday at the FAES:
Lefty Evan Crawford "tweaked a hamstring" in the morning, according to manager John Gibbons, who doesn’t seem to think it’ll be that big a deal (and not because Crawford isn’t expected to make the team)…There will be no intra-squad game prior to the opening of the Grapefruit season next weekend. The annual tune-up has been canceled because the Blue Jays are splitting their squad on the second day of Spring Training games, so they’ll need to save their pitching for then…Even with position players not required to report until Saturday, nearly every member of the team is here – there was a morning batting practice session that featured Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion taking some hacks…The team will work out at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium again on Saturday, then move over to the Bobby Mattick Complex until their first game on February 23rd against the Tigers, which we will be broadcasting live across the Blue Jays Radio Network, beginning with the pre-game show at 12:30pm Eastern.