NEW YORK – Prior to Fridays second game of the Blue Jays four-game set at Yankee Stadium, TSN.ca sat down with manager John Gibbons. A number of topics were broached, including the clubs use of platoons, the bright future of the starting rotation, Jose Reyes defence and Brett Lawries health issues. Listen to the interview here: Below is the transcript: TSN.ca: John, were here at Yankee Stadium. Three games left in this series and then a seven-game homestand before, presumably, the year is over. This has been, as you have said, a year of extremes, a lot of ups and downs. How would you describe everything thats happened over, what is it, 151 or 152 games? GIBBONS: A lot of ups and downs. Yeah, Scott, a lot of good things have happened this year and then weve hit some stretches where we havent played good enough. We have been a team of extremes. When were really playing good, were really good and then when we struggle, we can go from a good winning streak to losing streak. Its not necessarily unusual but its happened so often this year its kind of a mystery. But, like Ive said over and over, you play 162 games, the teams that get there deserve it. Theyre your best teams. Thats the bottom line. TSN.ca: And this team has struggled, at times mightily, especially through the month of August. Lets look ahead to the offseason, with apologies. I know youre not technically out of it, mathematically out of it, but lets look ahead to some of the questions that I think you guys will have to answer, starting with the rotation. Its about to get younger but I would think, John, when you look ahead, thats probably the most promising aspect of this group, the young pitching talent thats on the way or that has arrived and has performed so well so far. GIBBONS: Yeah, Scott, I couldnt agree with you more. Hutch has had a tremendous year for us, especially coming off of Tommy John. You look at Stroman since he came up from the minor leagues has been rock solid for us. You know Sanchez, we brought him up and put him in the pen but his future we think here is a starter. Hes done a tremendous job. Of course, youve got Buehrle and Dickey, a couple of old reliable guys. Other than that, I cant tell you which way the organization is going to go. You definitely need depth. Baseballs proven that. You look around baseball; its tough for your starting five to hold up throughout a course of a full season although weve done a pretty good job with the group were running through here right now, once they all came together. As far as the makeup of that, Im not sure. Everybody in baseball is going to be looking to add depth and upgrade in every area of the game. Its been a pretty good, solid group and theyve done their job. I think weve pitched better than our record indicates, especially in the last couple of months but theres games weve had trouble scoring runs. At this level of baseball, youve still got to pound the ball, too. TSN.ca: Are you too home run-reliant, offensively? GIBBONS: Maybe, yeah, maybe. I mean, home runs win. Theres no secret about it. You look at Baltimore, for a while there, we were leading baseball in home runs and a couple of our power threats went down and Baltimore kind of overtook that. Thats how theyre winning; with great defence, good solid pitching, great bullpen and they just flat out pound the ball. Certain guys, thats the type of hitter they are. Your sluggers, your big home run-RBI guys, generally they are your power hitters. They live and die with that but still you need a lot of pure hitters, complete hitters, guys that can spray the ball around, get on base. You need those guys to complement a team to get on base for those other guys and really lengthen an offence out. Weve had some pretty good ones here. You look at the year Navarros had this year. Hes done a tremendous job for us, offensively and defensively. Hes really a good hitter. Lindys had a tremendous year. Reyes, you take away his injury early on, hes been steady for us. Lets not forget Melky Cabrera. Hes probably the most steady guy weve had, beginning to end. Of course, hes not here now but weve had some real good years there. To go back and answer your question, you definitely need power. You need to drive in runs. You need to be able to strike quick. You need to build on leads to bury teams and you need to be able to hit the long ball when youre down to climb back into the game. But in saying that, you also need some guys in that lineup that are just consistent, pure hitters that get a lot of hits and they find their way on base. TSN.ca: Youve run a lot of platoons this year and especially earlier on, during the hot streak, it was working with Lawrie, Tolleson, Francisco and Brett playing two different positions depending on the opposing pitcher on any given night. Of late, youve been forced, through injury, to do that and it hasnt necessarily worked out as well as the team would have liked but you can only work with what you have. Have you been over-reliant on platoons compared to what you, in a perfect world, would you have been less reliant on mixing and matching night in and night out? GIBBONS: Well, I like platoons but you cant have too many of them. That almost puts you at a disadvantage. There are a lot of benefits from it. You get certain guys that hit, lets say left-handers that hit right-handers really well and vice versa but if you have too many of them, unless you get to the starting pitcher that night, it really opens you up and youre very vulnerable late in the game when games are turned over to bullpens. The other team knows if youve got two or three platoons running there, theyre just sitting there waiting until you decide to flip one and they can counter it. I mean, its real easy to do. Ideally, if you have one, maybe two max, you can be too reliant on it but where weve run into some trouble this year, in our platoons, lets say our right-handed hitters, theyve been really good against lefties but have had a tough time against the righties so if the opposing team makes the move, you go pinch-hit a right-hander for a left-hander and they bring the right-hander in, its almost so extreme the other way. Our guys struggle against the right-handers. If that was a little more balanced out, it wouldnt be such a big thing but its been to the extremes for all those guys. But the key is youve got to be able to get to the starter. Thats the goal, to beat the starter and put yourself in a position to go to your pen late. Yeah, ideally one, maybe max two, platoon-type situations. You start getting more than that, youre vulnerable. TSN.ca: Theres a two-fold question on Brett Lawrie. Lets deal with the health matter first and by the end of this season, a week and a bit away, hell have played in 302 of 486 games since the start of the 2012 season, his first big league season. Thats about a 62 per cent appearance rate. Can this organization go into the 2015 season counting on Brett Lawrie staying healthy? GIBBONS: Yeah, I think so and we have to. Bretts still a youngster but hes got a chance to be one of the better players in baseball. Weve all seen it. Weve seen it in glimpses but whats hurt him, like you said, is trouble staying on the field. He gets banged up. Part of it may be his style of play. He lets it hang out. The key, the guys that have the great long careers in baseball, they stay on the field. Brett, I think he can get over that. Hes had some tough luck, too. Hes a guy you can count on. We need to count on him because like I said, he can become one of the best players in the game. Hes got a good, short swing at the plate. Hes a line drive hitter with some power and it doesnt matter where you put him on the field defensively, whether its third or second, you can put him at other spots too and hes got a chance to be the best or one of the best at any spot you decide to put him on. He wins games with his glove. Theres no question when hes missing, the teams not as good. Thats pretty obvious but weve got to find a way to keep him on the field. TSN.ca: The second part of that is does he need a positional home and if so, is that third base, could it be second base or is that dependent upon what moves Alex might be able to make in the offseason addressing one or both of those positions? GIBBONS: I think thats what it will come down to, where you feel best with the other guy or other guys; is it third base or second base because Bretts such a good third baseman, weve all seen but if you make him your second baseman, I think he could turn into the best or one of the best in baseball at that. Hes so athletic, hes got such a great arm, hes got great first-step quickness and defence is a mindset. Of course, youve got to have talent but youve got to have the mindset that youre going to make the plays and thats an important part of your game and things like that. Thats not the case with everybody in baseball. Everybody likes to hit. You know the old saying: they make their money off of swinging the bat. Thats just the reality of baseball. Another old saying thats been in baseball forever is glove guys, they fall from trees because theres a lot of guys who can play defence. Youre always looking for a little offence and rightfully so, I mean youve got to be able to hold your own up here with the bat. I think Bretts position will be determined by who fits one of the, the other one second or third. Either way you go, Bretts going to be an above average defender and theres a lot in that bat that hes got and hes just scratching the surface. TSN.ca: Do you, does Alex or does somebody in the organization need to have a conversation with Jose Reyes about possibly changing positions or are you satisfied with the shortstop that hes played this year? GIBBONS: Well, hes slowed down here at the end and I think his bodys beat up. Hes a base stealer. His whole career thats been his game; its a speed game so hes on the ground a lot, his body gets beat up. Hes still a young man by our standards but hes been beat up pretty good. His range has slowed down, definitely, as of late but I think a lot of that is hes worn down a little bit. He goes out there, he plays everyday and just the constant toll of this season and seasons past, it gets you late in the season like it does just about everybody else out there. TSN.ca: Colby Rasmus spoke to me the other day and expressed, I think, some frustration that he had not gotten much of an opportunity to start in the last three or four weeks and of course hes going into his first shot at free agency and hes concerned about his value and stuff like that. Can you explain the rationale for sending him to the bench and giving guys like Gose and Pillar and on this particular night, well see Dalton Pompey make his first career MLB start. GIBBONS: As I explained to Colby a couple of weeks ago, with Pillar and Gose, when they were up here earlier in the year, they played pretty damn good for us and we won a lot of games and we really wanted to get a sense of who they are. We have a better idea about Gose. I mean hes been up here more and theres not a better centrefielder in baseball than he is. He can steal you bases, a great base runner and all of those things. We think his bats going to come, at least enough to where he can be a good, solid player. Pillars a guy whos always hit in the minor leagues. Everywhere hes gone, his managers and coaches down there have all raved about his ability. It doesnt always look pretty but you know, he gets the results and when you look at his numbers, thats all he does. He hits and makes things happen so we really wanted to give him a good look and maybe answer some questions. The fact that both of them have been here this year and weve played pretty good baseball when they were out there, it wasnt like we were throwing somebody we didnt know anything about. Like you mentioned Pompey, were going to throw him out there tonight, give him some games, see what he looks like because hes come a long way in one year but hes had a tremendous year in the minor leagues. A switch-hitter, a very mature kid and he can really run. Well see how the defence goes but you watch him at the plate, he looks like hes got a real good idea at the plate. Hes real balanced from either side of the plate and hes been sitting on the bench here for us, the occasional pinch-running duty and then a couple of pinch-hits so well throw him out there give him some at-bats and maybe he can spark us because thats really what we need right now. Were having trouble scoring runs. Maybe hes just what we need. TSN.ca: Youve managed and coached at all levels. The obvious answer is the money so Im not going to let you off the hook with that. Other than that, whats the biggest difference as a manager that you have to deal with with players of this caliber, at this level versus the minor leagues? GIBBONS: Well you know, Scott, the stakes are so much higher up here. Youre here to win. This is the highest level of baseball. People pay a lot of money to come watch these guys play at the major league level. You go out there and you expect to win and you try to win. There are a lot of pressures with that involved from the players end of it, managers and coaches end of it, front office, I mean theres pressure to perform. Its that kind of business. Every team has a different type of make-up. As long as Ive been here, each team is always different. This team, youve got guys from all over the world, definitely different personalities. A managers job, youve got to deal with that and you try to hold it all together and see where it takes you at the end. I think the biggest thing, especially from the players viewpoint, its the pressures they deal with day in and day out, the anxieties, the ups and downs and the mood swings and things like that because its hard to play this game and youre at it everyday. Nobody should know that better than you since youre travelling with us everyday and you look a little worn out yourself. Thats the biggest thing, there are so many different personalities that come from all over the world. The thing about these jobs is we dont all have to like each other. I dont have to like them. They dont have to like me, this and that but we have to be able to function as a team. Its still got to be a team and its still got to be all about winning. Probably the managers biggest job is trying to hold everything together. For me, personally, Ive always viewed myself and I try to be fair to everybody and I try to communicate the best that I can. Its still a kids game but theres a lot at stake and youve still got to go out there and try to have fun. You play better when youre loose and relaxed and having fun, which can be awful tough when youre not winning but you still have to do that. Its still a great profession, good or bad. TSN.ca: As far as you know, youre back next year? GIBBONS: I have no idea. Im sure theyll let me know that at the end of the season. But you know, Scott, the rumblings always start at this time of year unless its been a greatly successful year, the rumblings always start. I dont get caught up in that, truthfully, because Ive always lived by the, whether as a player or growing up as a coach in the minor leagues, a manager, whatever it is, you show up everyday and do the best job you can. What else are you going to worry about? Other things are out of your control. Now if you dont do that, you dont show up and do the best job that you can, then you should have something to worry about. You start worrying about things like that, you get distracted and its not worth it. In the end, the people that make the decisions in organizations about the players and the coaching staff and all that, theyll make that decision and theyll go with the best man they think for the job. TSN.ca: Thanks very much for this, John. Appreciate it. GIBBONS: You got it, Scotty. Lorenzo Carter Jersey
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