I remember that day very well because I was sitting in row 20 behind home plate with a bird's eye view of J.P. Arencibia's historical big league debut. The moment he cracked a home run in his very first at bat, I thought to myself "the future has arrived".
Unfortunately for Arencibia, the offensive high water mark was set for him that day on August 7th and it was a slow decline from that point onward.
Suffering from the "Randy Ruiz Syndrome", JPA essentially had to beg and plead for plate appearances the rest of the season. Under then manager Cito Gaston, it wasn't necessarily the best breeding ground for young players looking to get playing time and discover themselves at the big league level.
2011 will be a new year, and hopefully it looks like another chance for J.P. Arencibia to win the starting catching job. It appears as though the Blue Jays are ready to let J.P. have the reins and lead the pitching staff this coming season, and all I can say is it's about damn time.
Maybe the front office didn't want to ruffle any feathers and step on Cito's toes during his farewell tour, but now it's time to get down to business and see if J.P. Arencibia truly has what it takes to play with the big boys.
Alex Anthopoulos shares the same sentiment and reiterated these thoughts earlier this week when he talked to Mike Wilner:
"We need to find out about him. There’s a lot of things he needs to learn at the major-league level and the only way he’ll learn is if you play or at least be around it."However, AA goes on to say that Arencibia doesn't necessarily need to be a starter. This is just my opinion, but I think he's paying lip service and his intentions are to have JPA as starting catcher for 2011.
Richard Griffin spoke with John Farrell and it sounds like the new manager is more focused right now on having J.P. Arencibia being comfortable behind the plate as catcher rather than in the batter's box as a hitter:
"The one thing that we have to make clear to him is - we have to be sure that in his mind he values leading a pitching staff.In order to gain some semblance of a rhythm with the starting rotation, J.P. Arencibia should be behind the plate as much as possible. He needs to discover what works and what doesn't with his pitching staff, and he can't do that sitting on the bench chewing sunflower seeds 4 of out every 5 games.
We know that he’s going to go through slumps offensively. What we want to be sure of is that foundation for leading a pitching staff and the characteristics that are important to that."
The only way to find out it Arencibia truly has what it takes is to throw him into the fire and get him behind the plate almost every day.
No one can say for sure if Arencibia's minor league success will translate to big league success, but better to find out part way into the season as a starter than two years down the road as a backup catcher.
Image courtesy of KFFL.com