DUNEDIN, Fla. — The geriatric set booed Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell vociferously when he was introduced Friday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium prior to a Grapefruit League game against the Blue Jays. He got the same reaction when he came here for a game last month. Just imagine what it's going to be like April 5 for his first game back at Rogers Centre after high-tailing it out of Toronto.
Ugly potential for the Friday night suds in TO to come raining down. You would think Farrell would just want to get that first series out of the way but he downplayed the issue when I asked him about it here Friday.
“I'm not thinking about getting it out of the way. I'm actually looking forward to it,” said Farrell, the former Bisons pitcher and Cleveland farm director. “There's been a lot of change that's gone on with Toronto and they've got a damn good team, one that maybe everyone will be shooting for this year in terms of trying to compete, contend and win this division.
“We're looking forward to every game and every series, wherever it is.”
That, of course, was Farrell's politically correct answer. So I gently suggested I wasn't talking about the challenge of playing the team many think is the favorite in the AL East. I was referring to the reaction he would get.
“There may be,” Farrell admitted. “I don't know. We'll soon find that out. But this game is always about the players. They are first and foremost and that's where the attention should be.”
But the attention is going to be on Farrell. He raised plenty of eyebrows from Toronto fans and reporters here last month when he sarcastically said, “If memory serves, I was traded” to describe the events of the winter. Of course, there is no trade if he doesn't force the issue and get word out he wanted to replace Bobby Valentine.
So Farrell leaves, the Blue Jays go wild in the trade market and the Red Sox and Yankees are trying to stay out of the bottom of the AL East. On April 1 it's a Red Sox-Yankees opener. Who wouldn't want to see that? Except that it might be played with no Big Papi, no Derek Jeter, no Curtis Granderson and no Mark Teixeira. Yikes.
“Just on the outside, it looks like both teams have gone through a lot of change, a lot of temporary situations because of injury,” Farrell said. “I'm sure everyone that pays attention to every opening series is looking at the marquee players because you want to see them perform. But in both cases, we're dealing with some banged-up rosters.”
Farrell said Friday that Ortiz's lingering heel issues are no closer to being healed and it looks bleaker and bleaker for Opening Day.
“We haven't ruled anything out yet but we also have to be realistic on the calendar,” he said. “With the time he's missed, we're going to have to go based on how he feels. We're not going to put him on the field until all his symptoms subside completely. That's getting better by the day but there's still time to work through this.”
Farrell has a lot of issues so he's not going to worry about the boos in Toronto, no matter how many there might be at any point this year. He better worry more about boos in Fenway Park. The Red Sox lost 93 games last year. Hard to believe they can be worse. Hard to believe they'll be any better.
Puerto Rican Herd
Lots of former Bisons on the Puerto Rico team that was such a story in the World Baseball Classic. Nelson Figueroa, of course, was the winning pitcher in the game that saw the U.S. eliminated and several wire service photos showed him hugging pitching coach Ricky Bones, who spent three years in Buffalo.
Relievers Jose De La Torre and Fernando Cabera were also on that team, managed by Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Pena. One of the outfielders was 31-year-old Ricardo Nanita, who may be coming to Buffalo in his third year of Triple-A ball with the Blue Jays.
Tuia the Tiger?
Matt Tuiasosopo spent all of 2012 with the Bisons and manager Wally Backman constantly mentioned his name as a guy the Mets should look at. The Amazins never did and Tuiasosopo signed with the Tigers over the winter. Jim Leyland is paying close attention.
Tuiasosopo sent out a mass email to basically every big-league team to gauge interest in his services. It's how he landed with the Mets, and thus in Buffalo, last year. This time, the Tigers showed the most interest and Tuiasosopo had an agent negotiate a minor-league contract. He did his deal on his own last year but said the contract was tough to work out with the Mets.
Tuiasosopo started the spring 0 for 14 with eight strikeouts but then went on an 11-for-20 burst with three homers and eight RBIs. On Friday, he belted an into-the-wind home run off Washington ace Stephen Strasburg.
“It's amazing how things work out sometime,” Leyland, the Tigers' manager, told reporters last week in Lakeland. “When we came to camp, you guys weren't asking me one thing about him and I wasn't telling you one thing about him … because I didn't know him.”
Tuiasosopo was drawn to the Tigers because of the opportunities they seemed to have in a utility role and, of course, by their success last year.
“I remember watching the World Series and saying this was the organization I wanted to be a part of,” he said. “I had heard nothing but great things.”
Of course, the Tigers don't need him at first base (Prince Fielder) or third base (Miguel Cabrera). But he can play there, the outfield and DH. He might get squeezed out of a spot but he'll be a quick call away in Toledo.
Jays on move?
There's lots of rumblings that the Blue Jays might be a couple years away from being lured out of Dunedin, the Gulf Coast city they've trained in since their berth in 1977. Toronto is the only current big-league team to have never switched its spring site but the quaint Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is about three miles from their minor-league complex and teams prefer everything in one setting.
That's largely why the Red Sox left a perfectly fine setup in Fort Myers for a newer, splashier one by the city's airport that included all the minor-league fields.
Rumors in these parts have the Jays potentially lining up with the Mets or Astros on a joint complex, like the Marlins and Cardinals have in Jupiter, Fla., or like several teams have built in Arizona.
Around the horn
• Bad news for the Mets: Manager Terry Collins said Friday that Johan Santana's shoulder simply isn't ready for the season and he'll stay in Florida while ex-Bison Jeremy Hefner takes his spot in the rotation. Santana hasn't been on a mound since March 6.
“He's not where he needs to be in his long-toss program,” Collins said. “Even if it's next week, he's not going to open with us. He's going to have to get himself ready. That's going to determine where he's at.”
• Farrell on Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Torey Lovullo's move with him from first-base coach with the Blue Jays to bench coach in Boston: “Such a smart mind. A lot of good conversation with him both on and off the field. Great communicator. And he has run a damn good camp.”
• How absurd is it getting for the Yankees? Outfielder Brennan Boesch, signed to help fill the absence of Granderson, felt soreness in his ribcage Friday and was scratched. The Yanks are again in hold-their-breath mode.
• The Pirates still can't get lefty Francisco Liriano into a game while he's rehabbing a fracture of his non-throwing arm. Indianapolis, here he comes.