09/19/12 7:40 PM ET
Farrell preaches importance of mental strength
By Chris Toman / MLB.com
But manager John Farrell refuses to make excuses for how his team has played this year.
"Every year presents a set of challenges," Farrell said. "You quickly find out and realize -- and I'm sure players [have] this year, because they have been involved or because there has been a number of things that have been thrown our way -- the game doesn't stop.
"The game stops for no one. Regardless of what challenge is thrown at us -- either performance, physical injury or other issues -- you have to deal with it and remain focused on your individual job. The overall goal doesn't change, and that is to go out and win a game today."
Toronto lost three starting pitchers in the span of a week in June, lost slugger Jose Bautista to season-ending left wrist surgery in August and has seen key position players such as Brett Lawrie and J.P. Arencibia spend time on the shelf for various injuries.
The injuries have forced the club to use 52 players this season, including a number of Minor Leaguers who likely wouldn't have been summoned to Toronto until September.
The Blue Jays could finish a season with 90 losses for the first time since 2004 -- the only time the club has recorded that many losses since its first four years in the Majors, from 1977-80. Toronto also risks finishing in last place in the American League East for the first time since '04.
"Every year presents a mental fatigue in September or late in the season, regardless of the issues you are dealing with," Farrell said. "It's not an excuse or a convenient crutch to accept anything less. Like I said, every year is going to present situations to deal with, and that is part of being a Major League player.
"I always view that players earn the money they do at this level to go out and play the game that they played as a kid and yet deal with all the distractions that are thrown their way."
Hit No. 2,874 moves Vizquel past Ruth
NEW YORK -- Waiting at Omar Vizquel's locker after the Blue Jays' 4-2 loss in Wednesday's matinee against the Yankees was a Baby Ruth chocolate bar.
Despite his team's loss in the opener of its doubleheader, Vizquel had a sweet taste in his mouth.
Vizquel passed legendary slugger Babe Ruth to move into sole possession of 41st place on the all-time hits list with an eighth-inning RBI double to right field, his second hit of Game 1.
The 24-year veteran had a large smile on his face postgame and didn't shy away from admitting how proud he was to pass the Bambino.
"This guy has been a legend for the game for a long time, and to mention my name right next to his just makes me feel so little," Vizquel said. "I never, ever thought in my career of baseball, which has been a long one, that I was going to come close to compare my hits to the Babe.
"It's just unbelievable. It's very emotional, especially here in New York, the 'House' he built. It's just an amazing feeling."
Vizquel tied Ruth on the all-time hits list with a single in the fourth inning off Andy Pettitte before passing the Hall of Famer in the eighth with the double off David Robertson. Of all the accomplishments Vizquel has accumulated throughout his storied career, including 11 Gold Glove Awards, passing Ruth is what will stand out to him the most when he looks back on his career.
"This one ... is more important than the fielding numbers, because when I started switch-hitting one year before I made it to the big leagues, I was probably hitting left-handed for eight months before I made it to the big leagues, and everyone was wondering if I was going to last long in the big leagues," Vizquel said.
"I proved them wrong."
The hit was the 2,874th of Vizquel's career, which has included stops in Seattle, Cleveland, San Francisco, Texas, Chicago (White Sox) and Toronto.
Vizquel, 45, singled out a number of people who helped him become the player he is, including former Major Leaguers Vic Davalillo, Charlie Manuel, Kenny Lofton, Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield. He says each one of them taught him something during his career.
The native of Venezuela also credited 13-year veteran Bobby Tolan for teaching him how to hit left-handed as a 20-year-old while he was playing in the instructional league as a member of the Mariners. Vizquel said he would show up to the park and start hitting at 7 a.m. each day with Tolan to master the art of switch-hitting.
"I started a little late; if I would have started a little earlier, maybe I would have had 3,000 hits," Vizquel joked.
Vizquel said his glove is what has helped him stay in the game for so long, but he also believes that the practice he got during those early mornings in the instructional league, as well as playing winter ball, proved to be turning points for him early in his career.
Vizquel will sign the bat he used to pass Ruth and put it with a collection of other baseballs and bats he has kept over the years.
"I have about eight balls right now, and I have about five bats that have been very special to me -- and some lineups also," Vizquel said.
Vizquel began his career with the Mariners and recorded his first hit against Storm Davis of the A's on April 6, 1989, at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
When Vizquel began his career, current teammate Mike McCoy was just 8 years old, but McCoy said he has been a fan of Vizquel for as long as he can remember and is honored to share this moment with him.
"I'm proud of him; it's really awesome," McCoy said. "I couldn't be happier for him. I've got to know him a little bit, and I love the guy. It's quite an accomplishment."
While it was Vizquel's bat that put him in the spotlight on Wednesday, McCoy will remember the slick-fielding shortstop for his glove -- particularly how he used to handle one-hoppers and turn double plays with Roberto Alomar when the two starred up the middle for the Indians from 1999-2001.
"When I was growing up, he was one of my favorite players," McCoy said of Vizquel. "When I was in high school, I had his model glove, and he was one of my favorites. It has been a great experience for me, getting the chance to play with him."
Vizquel, a three-time All-Star, is third on the hits list of active players behind Yankees stars Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. He plans to retire at the end of this season and admits that it will be difficult to say goodbye to the game he loves.
"It's been great; this is the best job a guy can have," Vizquel said. "This has been so cool. I've met so many people. I've made some great friends, very few enemies. When that happens and you can leave this game with the chest really high, it's a really special moment."
Blue Jays manager John Farrell has spoken highly of Vizquel all season and said that while he might be hanging up the cleats, the infielder is sure to stick around in the game as a coach if that's what he desires.
Farrell feels that Vizquel is still capable of playing the game and has injected Toronto's young roster with some much-needed veteran leadership.
"When you start talking about the names you are mentioning, this is an outstanding career, and he is finishing up on a strong note," Farrell said.
Vizquel's season high for hits is 191, which came in 1999 -- the only season in which he has recorded 180-plus hits.
Blue Jays hope Escobar's apology is heartfelt
NEW YORK -- The Blue Jays took a stance on Tuesday, sending a message to Yunel Escobar and fans that homophobic slurs -- regardless of the context or intent -- are not tolerated by the team. But there's more work to be done for the 29-year-old shortstop, who was suspended for three games without pay.
One of those things is the professionalism the organization demands of each player that dons the Blue Jays uniform.
"As it relates to our team, there is an understood minimal level of professionalism that you would think would cover how you take the field, how you act," manager John Farrell said. "Something that we talk about repeatedly, to respect the game, also takes into account the fans that come to this game and view the individual players.
"There is a definite role-model responsibility that some guys might not realize or might not want to take on, but it's part of being a Major League player."
Escobar, who was suspended for wearing eye-black stickers on Saturday containing a homophobic slur written in Spanish, often takes the field with messages or words inscribed on his eye black. Farrell has never thought twice about what Escobar writes and admits to having paid no attention to the words the infielder wrote prior to Saturday's game.
But after this incident, that will change.
"Without a doubt, to avoid this in the future," Farrell said when asked if he will be paying attention moving forward. "We have to monitor even that much more closely and to the point of strongly recommending, don't write anything."
Farrell said he was initially surprised and disappointed in Escobar when he heard of the news on Monday afternoon. Escobar, Farrell and general manager Alex Anthopoulos addressed the team prior to Escobar's news conference on Tuesday. In that meeting, Escobar apologized to his teammates, but Carlos Villanueva -- a member of the Players Association -- said an apology doesn't matter unless Escobar learns from his mistakes.
"It might be used among the Latin guys and we joke around, and in our countries it's very macho, but it's not right -- using it as a joke or not," Villanueva said.
"[Escobar] said, 'It's just a simple thing I did.' Well, you know what? No, it's not. It's something you have to know. It shouldn't have to take all this for it to happen to become a big deal."
Like Villanueva, Escobar and veteran Omar Vizquel said the word that cost Escobar three games is used commonly among Latin American players. Farrell said players have to understand that what is tolerated in the clubhouse may not be accepted by the general public.
"No matter what walk of life, there has got to be a view of acceptance and not just make an off-handed comment that might be, in the mind of the individual, harmless," Farrell said. "In this day and age we live in, as information is readily accessible, as video is broadcast everywhere, what you might say in a private conversation, when it is broadcast on your body, you are speaking to the world."
Escobar is not allowed to be at the ballpark while serving his three-game suspension, which will cover Wednesday's doubleheader and Thursday's series finale at Yankee Stadium.
Edwin Encarnacion (right big toe) was out for both games of Wednesday's day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. In Game 1, Adam Lind started at first base, while Moises Sierra was penciled in as the designated hitter. Yan Gomes started the nightcap at first base, with Lind serving as the DH.
Right-hander Chad Jenkins will make his first Major League start on Sunday against the Rays in St. Petersburg. Jenkins has appeared in 10 games with the Blue Jays this season, all in relief.
Ricky Romero and Henderson Alvarez will be the starters for Monday's doubleheader at Baltimore.
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.