So for being dumb and impulsive enough to surrender my hard-earned cash on Jays tickets long before having any idea of how my work schedule will pan out (I still don't know), I was rewarded with access to a Q&A with Cito Gaston, hosted by Jerry Howarth. "State of the Franchise Lite", if you will.
(For the record, it turns out that I totally scored on my ticket dates with respect to the cool giveaways.)
They opened the evening by discussing Cito's recent Jackie Robinson Award from the NLBM. They didn't want to get too far off topic, but I found it to be quite fitting, considering that it was MLK Day in the US, and the night before the first black president of the US was to be inaugurated.
Off the top of my head, here are some points that Cito made:
- He clarified his apparent pessimism about the upcoming season. He's not in favour of signing big FAs. He thinks it's a waste because (a) it's not enough to bring the team over the top as a contender, and (b) it bumps down a younger guy who would have otherwise developed from the playing time. He felt it was more important to get those guys playing strongly. He said he might have felt differently if he had a more solid starting rotation.
- Speaking of those younger guys: he wants Snider in LF and Lind DHing most often. He said Lind was a little disappointed in this, but that Lind said he'd do whatever it takes to stay in the bigs. I don't recall Cito making any hint that Snider might be starting the regular season in AAA.
- On who would be batting lead-off, he sees Scutaro/Inglett or possibly Hill, but if Hill's hitting for some power, he'd rather have him further down the lineup. (He may have mentioned someone else, but I don't remember. The Te of Inglett is a little biased. ) He's not too concerned about it because "you only lead off once." After that, it just means you might get an extra at-bat.
- He didn't seem to be in favour of moving Hill to short. Hill came up as a SS, so it should be doable, but he implied that Hill was less comfortable there. He didn't want a situation where Hill's offense suffered because he was uncomfortable about his position playing. He mentioned a previous player as an example, but I don't remember who that was.
- He's open to the idea of Johnny Mac getting some more playing time, and he seems confident that Tenace can get him deprogrammed from always trying to hit to the opposite field and just let him be a pull hitter.
- He mentioned that a bunch of the guys are already down there getting ready, mostly pitchers and the recovering wounded. Litsch (obviously, he lives down there), Hill, and several others. He mentioned that Hill had a setback with a groin injury, but his head is fine so far.
- Although they have Barrett, Cito sounded positive about Curtis Thigpen. They noticed an improvement in his hitting after working with Tenace for a while, and they just want to see him work on his throwing.
- When asked who the jokers are on the bench, who goofs off; he answered with little hesitation, "Jesse Litsch." He mentioned Marcum, too. (I was surprised, because what the cameras catch is a little different. I would have thought Barajas was a joker, but he must just be a camera ham.)
- When asked who would be the team captain, he said "no one."
Overall, an enjoyable evening. The fans asked good, fair questions with no douchebaggery. Cito and Jerry finished off the evening with a pair of funny golf jokes. It was well worth braving the cold and shoving my way through thousands of Leafs fans at Union Station.