TORONTO — When the Toronto Blue Jays rolled out the welcome mat for new outfielder Colby Rasmus on Thursday, they extended it to his father, too.
Acquired the previous day in a three-team trade with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox, Rasmus batted second and started in centre field Thursday night against Baltimore.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell said the team intends to speak with Rasmus’ father, Tony, about Colby’s hitting and how best to coach him. Rasmus and the Cardinals apparently clashed over his decision to be coached by his father, rather than work with hitting coaches Mark McGwire and Mike Aldrete.
Rasmus played for his father in high school.
“It’s to gain information from Colby’s dad, to understand some of the drill work, the terminology, some of the key points that have been looked at within his swing,” Farrell said. “What are some of the things they use to maintain a very productive left-handed swing? That’s not to say we’re going to give him a uniform and have him sit in the dugout, but I just think it’s a smart thing to do.
“You’re not looking to build walls, you’re always looking to build bridges, to make sure you get the most out of any given player,” he added.
Rasmus, who was hitting .246 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs at the time of the deal, played down the importance of his family coaching connection.
“I don’t think that needs to be a big issue, really,” Rasmus said. “My dad coached me all the way growing up and he has a big interest in my baseball, wants me to play well and knows my swing pretty well.
“I’m just trying to play good, play hard, nothing further than that,” he said. “It’s not trying to disrespect anybody, nothing. Just trying to play good and I think he’ll help me play good.”
In his Jays debut, Rasmus was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts as Toronto beat Baltimore 8-5.
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa acknowledged having a “shaky” relationship with Rasmus, a first-round pick of the Cardinals out of high school in 2005 who was the jewel of the farm system before arriving in the majors in 2009.
“Can he be a great player? Absolutely, if he learns and improves,” La Russa said, though after the trade he referred to Rasmus as a “bench player.”
Speaking to Sportsnet Radio FAN590 in Toronto on Thursday morning, Tony Rasmus said his son was “miserable” in St. Louis.
“I felt like I was watching a funeral,” the elder Rasmus said, adding that his son would be able to focus on baseball in Toronto “rather than the political stuff.”
“The environment, as far as managerial environment, is going to be so much better under John,” he said. “I just can’t imagine how much better it’s going to be playing up under him than Tony La Russa. It’s nice to go to the park and try to have a little fun versus showing up for a funeral procession every day. I just believe it’s going to be a much better environment to play baseball.”
Colby Rasmus called the move to Toronto a “fresh start” that would relieve some of the pressure he felt in St. Louis.
“I went through a tough stretch there just trying to do too much, trying to play out of what I should, going up there and gripping the bat too tight and just not playing loose, not being relaxed,” he said. “That’s one thing I want to try to work on. Just go out there and play the game and not worry about any of this talk and all that’s going on.”
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Wednesday he would have what he called “the elephant in the room conversation” when Rasmus arrived to talk about the past once, address it and move on. They had that chat Thursday.
“He talks fast so I was trying to keep up with him but it was great, it was awesome,” Rasmus said. “I sat down with him and Mr. John (Farrell). I thought it was a great talk and I’m just excited to be playing for them. They seem to be great people and excited to have me, which is awesome. I feel like they really want me to be here and I want to be here just as much as they want me.”