Even during his final hurrah with the Toronto Blue Jays, J.P. Arencibia said his mind was clogged with self doubt, constantly worrying about the ramifications of any mistake he might make on the baseball diamond.
Once pegged as the Blue Jays catcher of the future, the 28-year-old marked his return to Toronto Friday night with the Texas Rangers where he insists a new mindset will help him once again achieve success in the major leagues.
“If I had a microphone in my head from the time I was on deck to the time I walked to the plate to the time I was in the box, it was pretty obvious (why I was struggling),” Arencibia said on Friday. “I was fighting myself. I was in my own way and that was the biggest thing.”
After a disastrous 2013 campaign with the Blue Jays as their No. 1 catcher where he stroked 21 home runs but could manage no better than a .194 batting average and a .227 on-base percentage, Arencibia was cut loose by the American League club at the season’s end.
He caught on with the Rangers where he was signed to a $1.8-million contract.
But after 20 games this season and a .133 batting average, Arencibia was shipped to the Round Rock Express, the Rangers Triple-A affiliate in Texas to try to work things out.
In 48 games in the minors, Arencibia hit .279 and mashed 14 home runs, and that helped earn him a promotion to the Rangers. And, as circumstances would dictate, his first game back was against his old team Friday night at Rogers Centre.
“When I heard I was coming back to Toronto, it’s crazy the way life works,” Arencibia said. “I think things happen for a reason. Obviously, it’s where my whole career started, where I grew up. Walking around, it was a little bit different for me, obviously. I’m here to do a job and I’m excited to be back.”
Arencibia said the stint in the minors helped him get his game back together.
“I 100 per cent needed it,” he said. “I think it was something that was necessary and I went back and had to iron some things out and be who I could be. That was really the main thing, just changing my mentality and really understanding myself.”
The other thing he worked on was learning how to play first base, the position at which he started Friday’s game. Arencibia said he doesn’t mind where he’s playing, just as long as he can contribute.
The Blue Jays welcomed veteran lefthanded pitcher Brad Mills to the team for Friday’s contest after he was claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics.
To make room on the roster, the Blue Jays designated righthanded pitcher Chad Jenkins to their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo.
Toronto manager John Gibbons said before the game that for the time being Mills will be utilized out of the bullpen in long relief situations, a role that has been filled admirably this season by Todd Redmond.
Gibbons said the plan is to try to give Redmond a little more work later in games in key situations to see if he can be as productive.