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Jays' bats go silent


Jays' bats go silent
Baseball REPORTER,

When he casts his eyes over the small type in the newspaper every day, John Gibbons insists his blood pressure doesn't elevate when he checks how his old team, the Toronto Blue Jays , are faring.

His world doesn't start spinning when he notices how the Blue Jays were leading the major leagues in various offensive categories through the first 20 games, including runs (124) and hits (218).

And he doesn't have to reach for a calming libation when he spies how the Jays - who lost 7-1 last night to the Kansas City Royals in the first of a four-game set at Kauffman Stadium - rank No. 1 in the American League with a .298 batting average.

The Blue Jays , with much the same lineup, failed miserably in those offensive categories last year, which led to Gibbons's ouster as the Jays manager on June 20.

At the time the team was 35-39 and last in the American League East.

Under new manager Cito Gaston and hitting coach Gene Tenace, the hot-hitting Blue Jays went to Missouri having won their first six series this season.

quot;They're off to a great start,quot; Gibbons, happily ensconced in his new role as the Royals' bench coach, said several hours before the first pitch. quot;You know what, that's the way it goes. It just wasn't clicking for me. Apparently Cito and Tenace said something to trigger that.

quot;But I've seen those guys do it before. It seems like now they're doing it collectively, which is a big thing.quot;

The only thing the Jays did collectively last night at the plate was struggle as the Royals (10-9) held Toronto (14-7) to two hits in a game played under cold, damp conditions before 9,685.

It marked the first time this year the Blue Jays' vaunted offence has been held to fewer than five hits.

Kansas City starter Brian Bannister surrendered a first-inning run-scoring single to Adam Lind and that was it for the Jays .

Toronto did not get another hit until the ninth, when Scott Rolen flared a single to right field off reliever Kyle Farnsworth.

By that time the Royals had the game well in hand, roughing up starter David Purcey (0-2, 7.01 ERA) for six runs off eight hits in five innings.

Three of the hits were home runs - two by Jose Guillen and another by Miguel Olivo.

Bannister, 2-0, fired a one-hitter through seven innings.

With the loss, the Jays slip into second place in the AL East for the first time since the first week of the season behind the Boston Red Sox, who beat the Cleveland Indians 3-1 last night.

Gibbons, who had been the Jays' manager since 2004, claims he has no regrets after he was fired by his old friend, Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi, in Pittsburgh last season.

He figured it was just a matter of time.

quot;I couldn't say that I necessarily saw it coming right then but it wasn't a big surprise,quot; he said.

Gibbons said with Baseball, a managing change is often the only way to send a message to a team in distress.

quot;The thing with Cito, I mean he's had success here, he's a big name in Toronto so it's instant credibility,quot; Gibbons said. quot;And that helps and the guys all know him because he's around them at spring training. And it's worked, it's paid off.quot;

Gaston believes a big reason for the Blue Jays' offensive resurgence is that both he and Tenace have worked at the major-league level as hitting coaches, as has Dwayne Murphy, Toronto's first-base coach.

When he was managing the Jays last season, Gibbons only had hitting coach Gary Denbo, who was also fired, when things went awry.

quot;If Gibby had 2? hitting coaches he might still be in here,quot; Gaston said.

Frank White, the former Royals player who is now a broadcaster for the team, said players respect Gaston for having won two World Series as Blue Jay manager in 1992 and 1993.

quot;He's just very professional,quot; White said. quot;He doesn't panic.

quot;If you don't panic they won't panic. You've just got to put your best team out there, get out of the way and let them do what they do.quot;

The Blue Jays received some good news yesterday on injured pitcher Jesse Litsch, who was checked out in Birmingham, Ala., earlier in the day by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews.

Litsch, who is on the 15-day disabled list with forearm tightness, was told that he is progressing normally and that he can start throwing off flat ground in about two weeks.

quot;That's very good news,quot; Gaston said.

******

On Deck

Notes The Toronto Blue Jays have never won more than six straight series to begin a season. They are going for their seventh series win in a row this week against the Kansas City Royals. ... Toronto's offence has been great this year. The Blue Jays went into last night leading the majors in runs (73), hits (128), doubles (31), team batting average (.333), on-base percentage (.397), slugging (.526) and in total bases (202) in road games.

NEXT Today, at Kansas City Royals, 8:10 p.m. EDT

PROBABLES Jays RHP Scott Richmond (2-0, 3.31 ERA) v. Royals RHP Gil Meche (1-1, 2.63)

TV Rogers Sportsnet

Robert MacLeod


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 28, 2009

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