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Jays make move to keep Farrell

Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell in the dugout prior to MLB baseball action against the Boston Red Sox in Toronto Monday, September 5, 2011. Farrell returned to the team for the first time since being diagnosed with pneumonia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Darren Calabrese/CP

The Toronto Blue Jays shut the door on manager John Farrell bolting for the Boston Red Sox before their American League East rival could even come knocking.

With speculation growing that the Red Sox had interest in Farrell, the Blue Jays announced a change to team policy Tuesday that forbids employees from leaving to take the same job with another organization.

Pressed for specifics on the policy, general manager Alex Anthopoulos said during a conference call that it wouldn't be lifted even if another team offered compensation in exchange for a Blue Jays employee.

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"Totally, 100 per cent, lateral moves (will be blocked)," said Anthopoulos. "That's exactly the way it reads."

Anthopoulos had previously been on record as saying that employees were permitted to speak with any team about any job at any time. It had been a long-standing policy within the organization dating back to Paul Beeston's first stint as CEO from 1989-1997.

Both of those men were besieged by interview requests following a report in Sunday's Boston Globe that the Red Sox were interested in hiring Farrell, their former pitching coach.

Concerned the open-door policy would continue leading to media speculation about members of the organization, Beeston and Anthopoulos modified it. But the GM denies the change had anything to do with concerns Farrell — or anyone else — was on the verge of leaving.

"There hasn't been a fear (of that)," said Anthopoulos. "It's just come to the point that we've been inundated across the board — our CEO (Beeston), myself, our employees. It's starting to become a distraction and it's certainly taking away from the work day."

Farrell spent four seasons as Boston's pitching coach before the Blue Jays hired him last year. The team finished fourth in the American League East with an 81-81 record in his first season on the job.

The Red Sox are currently going through a significant shakeup following one of the biggest September collapses in major-league history. They blew a nine-game lead in the wild card over the final month of the regular season and missed the playoffs.

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Following that, manager Terry Francona was dismissed and general manager Theo Epstein jumped ship to join the Chicago Cubs. Ben Cherington, Epstein's former assistant, was introduced as his replacement in Boston on Tuesday afternoon.

Cherington said he wanted his next manager to be "someone who cares about players but is also willing and ready to have tough conversations with them."

The reason the Blue Jays had previously allowed their employees to speak freely with other teams is because they believed it helped them attract top candidates. Anthopoulos isn't concerned about that changing now that a new policy is in effect.

"If it's a lateral move, we're not preventing anybody from improving themselves," he said. "And if it's a promotion, obviously guys will be allowed to talk (to other teams)."

Ultimately, the Blue Jays concluded that the policy no longer worked in the way it was intended when drawn up.

"I think we have to constantly adjust to the times," said Anthopoulos. "The game continues to change and we have to continue to adjust to make sure that we maintain the core values of the ball club."

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Keeping Farrell from jumping to a division rival is an added bonus.

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