DETROIT, Michigan - Alex Anthopoulos held court in the Blue Jays' dugout on a cold, misty Wednesday before his team was to play the middle game of a three-game set with the Tigers.
The weather served as an appropriate backdrop, given his team's frigid start, but the Blue Jays' general manager wasn't ready to press the proverbial panic button, nor was he prepared to dispute the fairness of early questions about how his club is handling increased scrutiny.
"We're in sports, so I think anything's fair to be honest with you," said Anthopoulos. "It's part of what it's about. You're open to be criticized. At the same time players get praised, front offices get praised. You get criticized as well. I think it's all part of it. I don't think anything of it. It's just whether it's doing media, whatnot, I think it's all fair, to be honest with you. It's not fair if you go after someone's family or something, but I think everything else is fair."
The Blue Jays are 2-5; the starters' ERA of 6.08 is baseball's worst and only three teams have made more errors (the Blue Jays have made seven.) So they're often losing early in games and the offense, despite hitting 12 home runs, has failed to produce the types of innings that put significant pressure on opposing pitchers.
Anthopoulos weighs those statistics and then reminds that the season is only a week old.
"The same way, there will be a time when we're playing very well and you'll ask me how good do you feel about this team and I'll say I'm not going to make too much of a five-game winning streak or whatever it might be over the course of a season," he said.
"Guys are in a funk as well," Anthopoulos continued. "They're striking out but they're also hitting in the .100's and the .000's. So I think that's part of it when guys aren't hitting. Are you grounding out, are you flying out, are you striking out? I think when guys start to get back to their norms, I think that will correct itself. We're still going to strikeout some because we have power."
While Brett Lawrie is scheduled to play in an extended spring training game on Thursday, a positive development, the Blue Jays still can't offer a definitive timeline for when the 23-year-old will return to the lineup. Lawrie remains in Dunedin, on the disabled list in extended spring training, working his way back from a strained ribcage muscle suffered on March 6.
Lawrie's absence has forced Maicer Izturis and Mark DeRosa to take on larger roles and the defense has suffered. Izturis, considered a fundamentally sound ballplayer, hasn't looked it in the early going. DeRosa was signed to be a bench player, a glue guy who would provide a stabilizing influence in the locker room while taking Lawrie under his wing.
An injury initially described as minor compared to the oblique injury Lawrie suffered last season, Lawrie will end up missing more time - if not games - than he did when he was hurt last August.
"Brett's the one who told us - again, we were going off of him - he said it didn't feel close to as bad as the first time he had it," said Anthopoulos. "He's taken batting practice now two days in a row. He's taking ground balls at third base, throwing across the infield to first base, feeling great. So I would think that games are starting to get close now. Once we get him the games, we haven't set a number of at-bats but the thought is maybe 20 at-bats, 25 at-bats, it could be sooner. But he's getting close. We talked about it internally, maybe the New York series at home, maybe the Baltimore series on the road, that would give him enough time in the minor leagues. If he goes out on a rehab assignment and has 10 at-bats and looks great, we wouldn't be afraid to call him up then."
Anthopoulos revealed that R.A. Dickey broke a fingernail on his pitching hand during Friday's disastrous first inning against the Red Sox. It's happened before and won't affect Dickey's ability to make his next scheduled start on Saturday in Kansas City.
Ricky Romero, in Dunedin revamping his delivery, has begun throwing live batting practice. He won't see minor league game action until he consistently straightens his line to the plate.
Those amongst the fan base given to patience, waiting for a cue from the general manager to become concerned, will be waiting for a while.
"To me, I'm not really going to start to bear down until August or September, to be honest with you," said Anthopoulos. "Even if you're playing well, things can change fast. I mean, we were two games out of a wild card spot at the end of July and then the last two months we played very poorly. Again, late August, early September is when you really start to say okay, that's how fast things can change."
The Blue Jays claimed OF Casper Wells off waivers from Seattle, Wednesday, and designated for assignment RHP Alex Burnett.
Wells, 28, is expected to report to the big league team and a corresponding active roster move will have to be made. That's likely not good news for RHP Edgar Gonzalez, who joined the club earlier in the week after being claimed off waivers from the Astros.