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Soggy night, silent night for Jays' bats


Soggy night, silent night for Jays' bats
Baseball REPORTER,

When he casts his eyes over the small type in the newspaper every day, John Gibbons says his blood pressure doesn't elevate to dangerous levels when he sees how his old team, the Toronto Blue Jays , is faring.

His world doesn't start spinning when he sees the Blue Jays , who arrived in Kansas City to begin a four-game set against the Royals at soggy Kauffman Stadium last night, lead the major leagues in various offensive categories through the first 20 games, including runs scored (124) and hits (218). And he doesn't reach for a calming libation when he spies that the Blue Jays are No. 1 in the American League with a .298 team batting average and are hitting .299 with runners in scoring position.

The Jays , with much the same lineup, failed miserably in those offensive categories last year, which led to Gibbons's ouster as manager, along with three of his coaches, on June 20, 2008.

At the time, Toronto was 35-39 and dead last in the AL East. Under new manager Cito Gaston and hitting coach Gene Tenace, the hot-hitting Jays arrived in Missouri last night with the best record in the majors.

quot;They're off to a great start,quot; Gibbons chortled yesterday, a couple of 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's seems like now they're doing it collectively, which is a big thing.quot;

Brian Bannister gave up one hit over seven innings and Jose Guillen hit two homers to lead the Royals over the Jays 7-1 last night. Reliever Kyle Farnsworth surrendered a single to Scott Rolen in the ninth inning as the Royals pitchers cooled off the red-hot-hitting Jays .

Gibbons, who went 305-305 as Jays manager, has landed on his feet quite nicely, getting hired over the winter as the bench coach for manager Trey Hillman and an up-and-coming Royals squad.

The change agrees with Gibbons, who appears upbeat and happy in his new surroundings and very proud of the fact he's shed about 15 pounds since he left Toronto.

Gibbons says he has no regrets after he was fired by his old friend, Jays general manager J. P. Ricciardi.

quot;We kind of sputtered out of the gate in the month of April,quot; Gibbons said. quot;May, we had a pretty good month and then June, we just couldn't maintain that and things started going downhill. I couldn't say that I necessarily saw [being fired] coming right then, but it wasn't a big surprise.quot;

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 has said part of the reason for the Jays' big offensive resurgence in 2009 rests on the fact both he and Tenace have worked at the major-league level as hitting coaches, as has Dwayne Murphy, Toronto's first-base coach.

Last season, Gibbons only had hitting coach Gary Denbo to turn to when things went awry. quot;If Gibby had 2? hitting coaches, he might still be in here,quot; Gaston said.

Frank White, the former Kansas City great who is now a broadcaster for the team, said that when you have a presence like Gaston, a former player who managed Toronto to back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993, hitters will take heed.

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

Gibbons said after he was fired he spent several weeks home in San Antonio getting reacquainted with his family. But come September, he felt the itch again and started putting out feelers. They landed him the job in Kansas City.

Does he want to be a manager again?

quot;You never know,quot; Gibbons said. quot;To be honest with you, I'm not obsessed with getting another [managing] job. If something came along, I'd like to give it a shot. And if I don't, I had an opportunity not many guys get. These jobs are tough to come by.quot;

Meanwhile, the Jays received some good news yesterday about injured pitcher Jesse Litsch (forearm), who was checked out earlier in the day by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews. Litsch was told he can start throwing off flat ground in about two weeks.

*****

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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