Chemistry, cohesion key cogs to Blue Jays’ mission
On paper, the new-look Toronto Blue Jays appear to be the team
to beat in a tough AL East.
But don’t crown them champions just yet. After all, even in
their own clubhouse, they don’t believe that.
”The Yankees are the team to beat because they are the team who
wins the division almost every year,” said dynamic shortstop Jose
Reyes, one of Toronto’s five big-name acquisitions in the
offseason. ”We know it’s not going to be easy. We believe in the
talent we’re going to put on the field and we’ll go from there. We
feel very good about our club.”
The Blue Jays haven’t reached the postseason since Joe Carter’s
homer off Philadelphia’s Mitch Williams clinched their second
consecutive World Series title in 1993.
Hoping to end that drought, general manager Alex Anthopoulos
dramatically reshaped the roster in a wild spending spree in the
He acquired reigning NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey in a
trade with the New York Mets, and landed Reyes, pitchers Mark
Buehrle and Josh Johnson, and utilityman Emilio Bonifacio in a deal
with Miami. Anthopoulos also signed reigning All-Star game MVP
Melky Cabrera in free agency.
Those five players have 14 All-Star games, four Gold Gloves, one
Cy Young Award and one Silver Slugger Award on their resumes. Add
sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and pitchers Brandon
Morrow, Casey Janssen and Sergio Santos to the mix, and these Blue
Jays seem quite formidable.
”We don’t worry about paper; we worry about our effort on the
baseball field,” said Encarnacion, who hit a career-best 42 homers
last year. ”We have to keep working hard, forget about looking
good on paper like everybody says and we have to do our individual
work on the field.”
Either way, Toronto has tons of talent, and with that, comes
expectations. Finding a way to manage all of it – while blending in
the new players to an already sound base of returnees to form the
right cohesion – will be key for the Blue Jays.
After finishing 73-89 last year, Toronto will also have a
new-but-familiar face in charge in the dugout. John Gibbons
returned for his second stint with the club, replacing John
Farrell, who left to manage Boston.
Gibbons was Toronto’s skipper from 2004-07 and led them to their
best finish – 87-75 in 2006 – since 1993. That came after the Blue
Jays’ previous major offseason splash when they acquired starter
A.J. Burnett, closer B.J. Ryan, catcher Bengie Molina and third
baseman Troy Glaus.
”There’s no guarantee that you if you get a talented group that
they’re going to win anything,” Gibbons said. ”You’ve still got
to go out and do it.”
Finding the right time for all that talent won’t be easy. Where
to play who to play and for how long are easier decisions in
baseball than in some other sports, but if injuries take their
toll, and Gibbons has to mix and match, you never know.
But there’s plenty of depth on the club, which will help.
Outfielder Rajai Davis, for instance, played in 142 games last
year. As it stands now, he’s not even a starter this year.
”We have a lot of talented players on this team, but they don’t
play these games on paper,” outfielder Rajai Davis said. ”We have
to go out there and really focus on what we’re trying to do and our
goal is to win.”
The Blue Jays finally put their full team together on Friday
after Reyes and Encarnacion returned from helping the Dominican
Republic win the World Baseball Classic. For a team with so many
new players, it’s important to build chemistry in camp
But it doesn’t seem to be a problem for this bunch. The
enthusiastic Reyes seems to fit right in with his new teammates.
Buehrle and Johnson share lockers next to each other. And Dickey
has former teammates on the roster.
”We have a good group,” designated hitter Adam Lind said. ”A
lot of guys are just getting back from WBC, so we’re still learning
each other. It’s time to get ready for the season. It’s a division
we can win. Hopefully it’s our time, so to speak. We have the team
Toronto’s lineup should score plenty of runs with Reyes setting
the tone from the leadoff spot and Cabrera, Bautista and
Encarnacion in the middle of the order.
The rotation is so deep that Ricky Romero, an All-Star in 2011
and the opening-day starter, is still fighting to win the fifth
”You still have to play the season,” Lind said. ”You never
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