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Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos. Frank Gunn/Canadian Press (FRANK GUNN)
Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos. Frank Gunn/Canadian Press (FRANK GUNN)

Robert MacLeod

Anthopoulos keeps Jays cards close to chest Add to ...

For the many decisions the Toronto Blue Jays will have to make at spring training general manager Alex Anthopoulos won't be drawn into any conversation about which one concerns him most.

Will J.P. Arencibia be able to step in as the Blue Jays' starting catcher? We'll see, the GM will tell you.

How about the proposed move of Jose Bautista from right field to third base or the future plans for Canadian prospect Brett Lawrie? You never know how things will work out is another stock answer the GM favours.

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It's not that Anthopoulos is trying to be evasive.

It's just that he knows from past experience not all the questions surrounding a team will ever get ironed out over the six weeks a team gathers in Florida to prepare for the upcoming 162-game regular season.

"What we're doing, we're building the organization up," Anthopoulos said on Wednesday when asked what issues he hopes to resolve at spring training, which officially gets under way on Monday for pitchers and catchers.

"Certainly spring training is important, but it is not the end-all, be-all. Things are going to change, the season's going to start, someone's not going to play well, someone's going to emerge."

Anthopoulos cited last season as a prime example that you never can tell what might unfold.

Who would have expected, Anthopoulos said, that both Adam Lind and Aaron Hill would struggle pretty much the entire year after both enjoyed breakout seasons in 2009.

Nobody would ever have predicted that Jose Bautista, who had never hit more than 16 home runs in a season before, would explode for 54 to lead all of major-league baseball.

"We have some decisions to make and they're all tough," Anthopoulos said. "We meet with all the players before the start of camp and everyone wants to feel they've got a chance to make the team. I have to go in with an open mind. It's not fair to the players [otherwise]"

Anthopoulos has had a busy off-season.

Along with overhauling the bullpen, Anthopoulos traded Shaun Marcum, last season's opening-day starter, to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Lawrie, a 21-year-old, highly rated infield prospect from Burnaby, B.C.

Anthopoulos then did what many felt was impossible - deal veteran outfielder Vernon Wells and his massive contract to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Anthopoulos also managed to come to terms with all the team's arbitration-eligible players except for Bautista, who was seeking a contract worth $10.5-million (all currency U.S.) while the Jays countered with $7.6-million.

The final number will be determined by an arbitrator and reports were circulating on Wednesday that a hearing, which is supposed to be confidential, has been scheduled for Monday in Arizona.

Anthopoulos is forbidden by MLB guidelines from discussing arbitration hearing dates, nor would he comment on another report that he was shopping around outfielder Juan Rivera, one of the players Toronto received in the Wells trade.

As for Lawrie, who is still a year or two away from cracking the major-league lineup in the opinion of many, Anthopoulos did allow that the Blue Jays are going to see if third base might be a fit.

"We know he's athletic enough and he has the positional flexibility," Anthopoulos said about Lawrie, who has primarily played second base in the minors. "He's told me he'll play anywhere, he doesn't care.

"We also think he's athletic enough to play the outfield."



 

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