Alex Anthopoulos vividly remembers how he felt in 2009. He was an assistant general manager in Toronto and the Blue Jays were off to the best start in baseball. He allowed himself to get caught up in the excitement.
And then it all came crashing down.
Since then, he learned his lesson. Now as the general manager for the Jays, he kept his cool when his team started a woefully disappointing 10-21. He’s maintained his perspective the last few weeks as Toronto worked its way back into the post season race, thanks to a franchise-tying 11-game winning streak, which ended Monday night in a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
“I think what’s helped me is that in 2009. … I got completely caught up,” Anthopoulos said Monday night as he visited the Buffalo Bisons before their 7-1 loss to the Durham Bulls in front of 7,442 at Coca-Cola Field. “I got sucked in. And we went on a nine-game road trip, it started in Boston and we lost all nine games. … We went from the best of 30 teams to the third worst of 30 for the last third of the season.
“It was a reminder to me that I’m never going to get caught up or sucked in. Even now as we’re playing well, I’m extremely comfortable in saying that we will have a stretch where we don’t play well again.”
While Anthopoulos has isolated himself from much of the chatter to keep his sanity, and his perspective, he has watched the Blue Jays come together, more impressed with the quality of the play than with numbers and streaks.
“As fun as it’s been for the fans and obviously it’s nice from our standpoint, we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. … The encouraging thing is that we’re playing better,” he said. “That will ultimately lead to more wins.”
For the Blue Jays organization, it’s about riding out the inevitable ups and downs of the season and focusing on consistency. Everything else will fall into place.
“We’re in the race,” said shortstop Jose Reyes in the Bisons dugout before the game. “It’s playing consistent baseball. Winning series. … May was bad but that can happen with any team. It’s a long season.”
It’s been a long road back for Reyes, who was made his final appearance with the Bisons as part of his Major League Rehabilitation stint Monday night, starting at shortstop and batting in the leadoff spot.
The four-time All-Star has been on the disabled list since injuring his ankle on April 12, just 10 games into the season.
While part of the Reyes rehab is to make sure his ankle is feeling OK, it also about getting his timing back at the plate and increasing his stamina to play nine innings every day. Because once Reyes returns to the Jays, he will practically insist on playing. Every. Single. Day.
“Jose’s the type, once he’s back, he does not want to take a day off,” Anthopoulos said. “I mean it’s a fight if you want to take him out of the lineup. I remember talking to him in spring training. We have meeting with each player before the spring starts, and we said maybe with the turf and day game after night we’ll be thinking about a day off and he said ‘day off?’ He looked at us like we had five eyeballs. ‘No, I don’t like any days off. I don’t want any days off.’”
Reyes was expected to play in New Hampshire on Wednesday but late Monday night, the Blue Jays announced that Reyes will be activated on Wednesday and join the Toronto team in Tampa.
Ask Reyes if he’s ready and, well, you get the answer you’d expect. He smiles and laughs. He feels good. He feels in shape. He’s antsy to go. Reyes went 2 for 4 on Monday including driving in the Herd’s only run of the game in the fifth inning.
“My concern before I came here was running,” Reyes said. “And running was good … everything went fine.”
His stamina to play nine innings every day?
“I don’t worry about that because when I do my rehab I work hard just to get my body strong,” he said. “I feel strong. No matter how many nine innings that I play. … When I get on the field, I don’t like to get a day off. I just want to go every day. If I feel I can play that day, I’m gonna play.”
Also of interest to Anthopoulous on his visit to Buffalo along with Andrew Tinnish (assistant general manager) and Charlie Wilson (director of minor league operations) was the work of starter Ricky Romero.
They didn’t see the Romero who had back-to-back quality starts. Instead, Romero struggled giving up five runs on six hits with four walks and two strikeouts in 3∑ innings.
But before the game, Anthopoulos noted that Romero’s return is going to take time, but that patience with young players often pays off. And when Romero announced that he was going to stop mucking around with his mechanics and get back to his former pitching ways, he was fully supported by his general manager.
“I like the ownership,” Anthopoulos said. “I like the sense of ‘Hey, I know what works for me. Because when you’re struggling, you’re trying to find some things. We’re looking to identify problems and the solutions but we don’t know exactly how to get it fixed. You never know really what the solution is.
“The player has to buy into it and the player has to be a part of it as well. The fact that … he was trying to find the answer as well, that’s a great sign.”
Romero gave up two runs in the third and was tagged for three of Durham’s runs in a five-run fourth for the Bulls. Romero took the loss (0-2) with his ERA jumping to 7.24.
The Herd begins an eight-game road trip tonight, opening a four-game series in Lawrenceville, Ga., against the Gwinnett Braves (6:05 p.m., Radio 1520 AM). Righty Justin Germano (4-6, 5.92) is scheduled to start for the Herd against lefty Yohan Flande (3-6, 5.79). The Bisons then move to a four-game series in Charlotte before returning home on July 3.