ARLINGTON, Texas - With the Blue Jays winners of four-in-a-row and eight of 11, TSN.ca sat down with veteran Mark DeRosa to discuss the state of the club, its chances of emerging from the basement of the American League East and the leadership of manager John Gibbons.
Here's the transcript of the discussion:
TSN.ca: The team is starting to come together here, I guess winning does that, but have you seen a process that's led the results of late?
DeROSA: Well, obviously, we're getting really good starting pitching performances. I mean, Mark Buehrle, he's had three or four just really, really good starts in a row. Getting (Josh Johnson) back, hopefully we get Brandon (Morrow) back, Chien-Ming Wang came in and gave us almost eight innings the other night.
R.A. (Dickey) always takes the ball every five days. I think it's just a situation where we're getting a little bit more consistent, the lineup's getting more consistent, seems to be the same guys against the same matchups. Guys are kind of knowing where they fit in and what their roles are.
We've had guys like Adam Lind just take off and really, really solidify that four-hole and give Edwin (Encarnacion) some serious protection. It's just about getting healthy. We all knew the talent was here, it was just a matter of how long could it go this bad without changing. I think we're all excited that we're playing better. I think we realize there are reinforcements coming in the likes of Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie and Brandon Morrow. Those are three key pieces that certainly are going to help us.
TSN.ca: The expectations, all the new faces, you guys coming together, does a team with all these new faces, in a city that's starved for a winner, need some time just to gel and relax? Were guys trying to do too much early?
DeROSA: Well I think so. I mean I can't speak for everybody. I know that's what it certainly appeared to be. I think I told you this in spring training, I was in a similar situation in '07 in Chicago with a lot of new faces and a new manager and just a lot of expectations thrust on a team that spent a lot of money.
We got off to a very similar start, maybe not as bad as the start we got off to here pretty similar and found ourselves constantly trying to claw our way back to .500 to give ourselves a chance in the second half. We were able to do it and end up winning the division so by no means has anyone lost confidence in here. If anything it's only kind of slowing growing. I look forward to us playing good for the rest of the year.
TSN.ca: In your experience back then was there a turning point with that Cubs team?
DeROSA: I think we were about six games back at the time. We were playing Milwaukee, a day game in Wrigley and Aramis Ramirez, we were pretty much out of the game, Aramis Ramirez hit either a three-run homer or a grand slam in the bottom of the 8th to send us to the W. I mean, you go from eight games potentially back to five, it was almost like a three-game swing for us and it kind of just, the fans lit up, everyone went crazy and it was a springboard for us getting hot.
Obviously Lou (Piniella,) he's a fiery guy, I think a lot of the early season struggles was getting to know his style, him getting to know us, maybe trying to do too much like we were doing here. I think a lot of factors pointed to it but at the end of the day we never lost confidence in the fact that we were really good and really talented, it was just a matter of it coming out.
TSN.ca: We'll probably need hindsight for this but is the type of home run that Jose (Bautista) hit in Chicago, with two strikes and two outs in the ninth to tie the game and you win in extras, could that be a turning point?
DeROSA: And then I also think a situation like today. You come into today's game, it's a situation where we've won three games in a row off a good team, we seem to match up well. I mean, if we're able to pull off a four-game sweep in Texas against a team that's gone to two of the last three World Series can only boost your confidence going forward. They're a great team over there, a lot of respect for them, so to come in here and continue to play well. But yeah, there are moments when you've got to get lucky.
It seemed like early in the season everything we did kind of blew up in our faces. Every error cost us a run, every missed pitch execution-wise was a homer, it was just one of those situations. Maybe we can get it going, trending in the other direction.
TSN.ca: We don't know when Brett's going to be back but what does he need to do when he returns?
DeROSA: Relax. I think that's the one word, relax. We need him to be Brett. We don't need him to try and carry us, we don't need him to try and be the man, we just need him to play his game. I think him relaxing and his infusion of energy into the clubhouse is something that makes any clubhouse better, I really believe that. He's a fiery guy, he keeps everyone on their toes, and the energy's infectious, it really can be at times when you're playing a game in Texas in 100-degree heat.
I think that's the thing, we've got a nice flow to the lineup right now, like I said Gibby's been consistent with the lineups he's thrown out there. Our bullpen's been phenomenal, I hate to not mention that, they've been phenomenal. I kind of give them, I don't want to say a pass, but a situation where I expect it kind of out of them now. That goes without saying but our starting rotation, hopefully with Brandon coming back, can get comfortable.
Josh throwing the ball the way he's capable of and a consistent lineup, whether it be against righties or lefties, whatever Gibby's doing that day, just lets us relax and have fun and play.
TSN.ca: The manager, earlier on, came under some criticism. As a player you've played for a lot of different guys, we just talked about Lou, how has John Gibbons performed under the circumstances?
DeROSA: Unreal, unreal. You know, you probably couldn't say it in the press and I know guys would bite their tongues, you know sometimes maybe the manager, guys don't see eye to eye with him and you can understand maybe some things getting written. But with John, no, it couldn't be further from the truth. Not at all. He's a man's man, he treats us like men, he expects us to show up and perform and be accountable and be an adult.
For me he's been absolutely everything I thought he'd be from the guys I talked to coming in. He's been awesome and to watch him go through that early-season criticism was really, really difficult because it had absolutely nothing to do with him or anyone on the coaching staff. We were just playing bad, bad baseball so I'm glad that we've gotten on this little streak. I hope we can keep it going for the remainder of the season because he's been a great manager.