DUNEDIN, Fla. — John Farrell arrived at his first spring training as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays facing the same problem as his predecessors: the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Toronto hasn’t made the playoffs since winning consecutive World Series in 1992 and 1993, never finishing higher than third in the AL East. The Blue Jays haven’t won 90 games since 1993.
“There’s been no number placed on wins as a goal. To me, that’s counterproductive,” Farrell said Monday. “Our main focus will be on the things that we can control. I can’t sit here and say, (when) Boston or New York changes, or they change their market size or their payroll, that’s going to make us a contender. That’s fruitless.”
Toronto led the major leagues with 257 home runs last season, sparked by Jose Bautista’s 54 and 31 from Vernon Wells, traded to the Los Angeles Angels during the offseason. Farrell, a first-time manager and Boston’s former pitching coach, replaced the retired Cito Gaston.
“One of the themes that has been established, and we’ve talked about during the offseason, is to be more opportunistic, to be able to create more scoring opportunities rather than being one-dimensional,” Farrell said. “It’s important to keep it in a so-called menu of options for us.”
Infielder Aaron Hill pointed out that the departure of Wells, plus Lyle Overbay and John Buck (20 homers apiece) doesn’t mean a loss of power, considering his 26 home runs last year and Adam Lind’s 23.
“We’ve still got some pump in the lineup,” Hill said. “You definitely have to take more pride in the little things if you want to get to that 90-plus win category, which we’re going to have to do.
“The approach this year is in the little things — getting the runner over from second with no outs, and really being hungry and not just trying for the long ball,” Hill said. “If we can get 85 wins in this division by just hitting home runs and having the lowest average, we can fine-tune some things and win an extra ballgame a week by doing those little things, and I definitely believe we can get (wins) in the 90s.”
NOTE: The Blue Jays voided the contract of RHP Brian Stokes “due to the results of his physical,” a team spokesman said. No details were given. Stokes appeared in 16 games (16 2-3 innings) with the Angels last year, with no decisions and an 8.10 ERA.