Blue Jays pitcher Mark Buehrle a clubhouse leader

DUNEDIN, FLA. -

Mark Buehrle was direct and to the point.

As usual.

Rookie Marcus Stroman had fired a 93-mph fastball behind the head of Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph on Sept.

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15 at Camden Yards in Baltimore last year.

Stroman wound up striking out Joseph to end the sixth inning, then glared into the Baltimore dugout as he walked off the mound with the O's bench began screaming at him.

Stroman took a seat in the Blue Jays' third base dugout and Buehrle, the 15-year veteran, slid into the empty spot alongside him and said: "You're an idiot."

Buehrle was re-telling this story on Sunday as he discussed the subject of clubhouse leadership. This was after he got past the usual "I'm not vocal, I lead by example," lines.

Eventually he was asked about his one-on-one sit-down with Stroman.

"I told him it's one thing to protect your teammate, but hit the guy in the back, know where the ball is going, you can't throw near the head," the lefty said. "They had every right to be upset."

Buehrle said Stroman "took it well."

Asked about the Baltimore incident, Stroman said it was private what Buehrle had said.

Well, were you offended when he called you an idiot?

"No, not at all, I wasn't offended," said Stroman.

A Rawlings-to-the-ribs policy is accepted in major-league circles -- as it was the next night when O's reliever Darren O'Day plunked Jose Bautista, the Jays best player, in the butt. There was no doubt it was retaliation.

Bautista didn't stare into the Baltimore dugout. He calmly dropped his bat and trotted to first.

All part of the game.

One night, Buehrle saw Stroman seated on the bench without his hat and said: "We wear caps around here." Stroman put on his lid.

Earlier this spring, New York Mets clubhouse leader David Wright scolded rookie Noah Syndergaard for eating lunch in the clubhouse during an intrasquad scrimmage.

He should have been watching and learning, according to Wright. Reliever Bobby Parnell tossed Syndergaard's plate into the garbage.

Not watching games, not wearing a cap and throwing at some one's head are little things on their own.

What if O'Day had hit Bautista in the hand and broken some of those tiny bones, making him unable to grip the bat?

What if the Jays had been in a race and Stroman was handed a five-game suspension, causing him to miss a September start?

While the Stroman story was a good one, the youngster learned and was not insulted, the lefty then tells of a player showing late for a game last year.

"I said to him: 'Dude, we've got a game to play, what time are you showing up?'"

And Buehrle said the player responded: "I play hard any time I'm in there ... I'll show any time I want to show up."

Uh, did he happen to play centre field?

"I'm not saying," said the crafty lefty going to his change-up.

Right-hander Drew Hutchison, meanwhile, says he has also learned from the veteran pitcher, observing him on the mound.

"Watching him can be frustrating," Hutchison said. "He can have second and third, one out ... you know he's going to get someone to roll over for a ground ball and pop someone up.

"He can take his foot off the accelerator."

Earlier this spring, Milwaukee Brewers' Adam Lind said it would be impossible for the Jays to change their clubhouse culture since Bautista and Buehrle -- the two main figures last year -- were both back.

"When you don't win -- and we didn't -- everything is going to be questioned," said Hutchison.

With the presence of Bautista and Buehrle and the arrival of veteran catcher Russell Martin, that's good enough of a clubhouse culture for me.

Buehrle, for one, has been impressed with Martin's work ethic so far.

"I don't think anyone works harder," he said. "He's always in the weight room, always kicking around a soccer ball with Dioner Navarro, for cardio work, always doing something."

Of course, if the Jays don't stay away from injuries -- "We say that every year," Bueherle says -- don't resolve the bullpen situation, don't learn how to drop down a bunt when they need it late in games and players don't perform, it won't matter if they have two, three or 15 leaders.

They'll be short of post-season play.

Again.



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