- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2011

DUNEDIN, FLA. (AP) - John Farrell took over the Toronto Blue Jays with zero experience as a manager anywhere in the major or minor leagues. That has its upside, he said.

“I’m coming into this situation with a clean slate,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of preconceived notions, preconceived restrictions on things that I might see or look to do inside a game.”

The downside? “That might belong to Alex. He might say, ‘This is a gamble,’” Farrell said, smiling.

Hardly, Blue Jays general manger Alex Anthopoulos suggested. In Farrell, he’s getting not just Boston’s pitching coach for the past four seasons but Cleveland’s former director of player development as well.

From 2002-06, Farrell oversaw the Indians’ farm system _ players, coaches and staffs _ and programs in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. He dealt with acquiring major league players and signing minor league free agents.

“He’s going from a 12-man bullpen to a 25-man roster,” Anthopoulos said. “With Cleveland he was responsible for the entire minor league system.”

Anthopoulos hired Farrell last October to succeed Cito Gaston, who led the Blue Jays to World Series titles in 1992-93, left the team and later came back.

Farrell isn’t the first to have taken this path. Big league managers have been successful despite never having plied their trade in the bushes. Gaston, Lou Piniella and Joe Torre readily come to mind.

The Pittsburgh Pirates showed an interest in Farrell after the 2007 season, his first with Boston, and the Seattle Mariners made overtures a year later. He rebuffed them both.

It’s likely he was on several other teams’ radar, one reason the Red Sox gave him a more lucrative contract after 2008. Boston added a clause prohibiting him from talking to other teams about a job until the 2010 season ended.

That kept the Indians, for whom he pitched in five of his eight big league seasons, from pursuing Farrell after they fired manager Eric Wedge following the 2009 season.

Now that Toronto’s got him, he said, one of his first and most important tasks is listening to his coaches, some of them holdovers from Gaston’s staff. And he’s coming in with an advantage over many new managers.

“This wasn’t a 100-loss team wiping the slate clean,” Farrell said. “This is an 85-win club moving in the right direction. From across the field you could see there were a lot of good things happening. Conversations with Alex reinforced that.”

New managers often bring with them familiar hands. While Farrell brought former Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu to be his bench coach, he retained three of Gaston’s principal coaches: Brian Butterfield (third base), Bruce Walton (pitching) and Dwayne Murphy (hitting).

“I’d be crazy not to listen to them,” Farrell said. “It’s important to give people a chance to offer opinions, and motivational as well.”

Farrell said conversations around the ballpark start as early as 5:30 in the morning over a cup of coffee, “just kicking out scenarios that might come up in a game. Part of it may be because I haven’t been in this seat. I want feedback. That’s where coming in with a clean slate has been beneficial.”

Said Butterfield: “Basically, right now we’re just trying to get accustomed to each other.”

Same goes for the players. It’s too early to gauge how Farrell will relate to them, although those years in the Indians’ system “have given me a much broader view of the needs of individual players, a better understanding of the cultures from which they come, or whether they come from a small American town or a major college program, to respect their background and have some compassion and understanding.”

Left fielder Travis Snider said that because Farrell was a pitching coach in the AL East the last couple of years he understands how the players hit.

“It’s very exciting when you get to talk to him about what he’s seen in the way that (opposing pitchers) attack you,” Snider said. “He can see the strengths and weaknesses that you can work on.”

Farrell’s temperament has yet to be seriously tested when the games count and things aren’t going well. Pitcher David Purcey said Farrell “seems to be pretty even keel the way he goes about things.”

Cito very rarely raised his voice at anything,” first baseman Adam Lind said. “He has such a mild temper. It was comforting. John seems the quiet type as well, but if he sees something going on I’m sure he’ll put guys in their place, which he should.”

For now, though, Anthopoulos said, “it’s spring training. Wins and losses don’t mean anything.”



Click to Read More

Click to Hide