Gibbons Speaks: On Left Field, First Base, Salty, His Contract, and More!

John Gibbons
Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

John Gibbons had a brief scrum with reporters today in Dunedin, as you can see in a video over at TSN.ca. And though there was hardly anything too earth-shattering that was said — he reminded reporters that training camp hasn’t even officially started yet, so it’s a bit early for… everything — there were still a few sound bytes worth examining. 

To wit:

  • Gibbons declined to say where José Bautista will fit into the lineup (he was specifically asked about the potential of returning him to the lead-off spot), but guaranteed that the returning slugger, and “one of the most highly motivated guys I’ve ever been around,” will be in there on Opening Day. Barring any issues with his health, of course. Like I say: not exactly earth-shattering stuff. (Don’t worry, it gets better.)
  • When asked about Joe Biagini being stretched out — which some people *COUGH* Sportsnet *COUGH* seem to want to make into a bigger story than it really is — Gibbons said that’s “something we’re going to do for Spring Training.” But it wasn’t so much that he said it as it was the way he said it. I don’t think he expects Biagini to end up in the rotation or as a depth starter in Buffalo, and with all the question marks in the bullpen and the success Biagini had in that role last year, I really don’t think anybody else should expect that either.
  • He also says he loves having veterans in the bullpen, just because they’ve been through the grind before. It’s hard to hear the question this is in response to, but it seems to tie into Biagini and how valuable he was back there for them last season.
  • Speaking of veterans, Gibbons has plenty of praise for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, saying that he thinks “Salty” is “going to be a big part of this team.” Womp womp, Reese McGuire.

  • They don’t have a set number of games they expect Russell Martin to play in, but Gibbons stressed that they’re going to look to keep him as fresh as they can, and it sounds like having Saltalamacchia will be leaned on in that regard. At the very least, based on something Jeff Blair reported earlier this week, it seems like Gibbons will be more comfortable going to Salty than he was last year with Josh Thole. (They’re all bad, though, John.)
  • Here’s the real interesting one, I think: asked about the situation at first base an in left field, he explained, “Well, we don’t know yet. We’re going to see how some things play out — see how it shakes out in left field. Y’know, we have our DH in Morales, and we picked up Pearce, who we always liked as a hitter — he’s been on our radar for a number of years. And, y’know, we have — we think Smoaky’s going to have a big bounceback year. So those are things, going in you have some ideas, but they really have to play themselves out.” Key for me in this statement: he wouldn’t commit to a left field platoon (or running Upton out there all the time), and he wouldn’t commit to Smoak at first base — certainly not like he did with Bautista. This is good, obviously, because they shouldn’t be happy with their current “platoon” in left, they shouldn’t give so many at-bats to Upton, and they shouldn’t be letting Smoak play first base with Pearce here.
  • What a manager says about that kind of stuff has a huge element of the political in it. He doesn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings or alienate anybody or tell the media something that the team doesn’t already know or understand. He wouldn’t have said “we’ll see how things shake out” in right field or imply that Bautista needs to win himself a job — but that he essentially said that Upton, Carrera, and Smoak do means that there’s a chance they won’t! This is good.

  • “Coming into last year’s Spring Training we didn’t think they were going to be that good, probably, to be honest with you,” he says of his rotation. “Really they all came together. The key, though, is they all stayed healthy, for the most part. So, y’know, hopefully we can do that again.” Gibby the best! He adds, “I don’t think there’s a better starting five, when you put them all together, out there in baseball. I think they can compete with anybody.”
  • Gibbons declined to comment on who would start on Opening Day, because… obviously.

BONUS!

Just as I was about to hit publish, Shi Davidi dropped some Gibbons news of his own over at Sportsnet, telling us that it was the manager himself that didn’t push for a contract extension this winter — something that some people *COUGH* Richard Griffin *COUGH* would like to make a story of — and that he did it because he felt that Ross Atkins had too much on his plate as it was. “I think we’ll get something done,” he added.

It would be pretty difficult to dislike ol’ Gibbers — for a normal person, that is; cluelessly frothing maniac fans, on the other hand… — so I certainly think it’s believable that the will.