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Gibbons, Blue Jays eager to get to Spring Training

Special to
EDMONTON -- John Gibbons could not have asked for a better situation to have returned to.

After serving his first Major League managing stint with the Toronto Blue Jays from 2004-2008, Gibbons is back with the team, hired once again to manage the Jays last November.

Since then he has been handed a roster through a series of trades and free agent signings that would have any manager salivating.

The biggest deal came right before Gibbons came back on board as Toronto completed a major deal with the Miami Marlins, bringing in pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, shortstop José Reyes and utility man Emilio Bonifacio.

The Jays followed that up with another massive acquisition in December as they landed National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey in a trade with the New York Mets.

Add free-agent singings Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera and trades for pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Esmil Rogers, among other moves, and suddenly the Blue Jays were being touted as World Series favourites by many professional prognosticators.

Not a bad way at all for Gibbons to start his second stint in Toronto.

"Just to get another opportunity was great, but to see then put together the team they have, it's impressive," said Gibbons, who was in Edmonton on Saturday for the final stop on the Blue Jays Winter Tour, presented by TD, as they traveled through western Canada. "We've really beefed up this team and we like our chances. It's nice to manage a team that you feel you have a legitimate shot to have a successful season with. I'm very excited about it. We feel we have a team which can make a run at a World Series title. But you can talk all you want about how good we look on paper, that doesn't win you anything. We have to go out there and do it. But we feel really good going into Spring Training and expect this will be a big year. Everybody is expecting things from us now, and it is time to go out there and do it."

Gibbons said it is hard not to get excited when you look at the talent level on the Jays roster for the upcoming season.

"We have a very good lineup," he said. "There are really no holes, if you look at it honestly. We have great team speed and a lot of guys who can hit home runs. We should have a very good defensive team, and we've got a strong pitching staff. We really have everything you are looking for. Now we have to bring them together as a team, especially when you bring so many people in from the outside. A lot of guys came from Miami and had played together, but you still have to form a team and have them pushing in the right direction. If that all falls into place, good things can happen."

Gibbons credited Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos for giving the team such a competitive boost.

"It's one of those years that doesn't happen too often," he said. "The way things happened, with the deal with Florida, that was kind of an ideal situation. They were trying to unload some players and we were fortunate that these guys were all together and everything matched up. With Dickey, the Mets were somewhat rebuilding and needed to bring in some young players. Everything matched up perfectly."

Gibbons has been in the process of contacting all of his team in the offseason and can't wait to get on the field for Spring Training.

"I've called most of them," he said. "I had some trouble reaching a couple of the guys in Latin America. I've been running through my mind as to how the lineup will look and the pitching staff will be set up, but until we get down to Spring Training we won't see how it works on the field."

Gibbons was joined on the final Toronto Blue Jays Winter Tour stop by players J.P. Arencibia, Colby Rasmus, Drew Hutchison and Anthony Gose.

The third annual tour also included stops in Winnipeg and Saskatoon.

Shane Jones is a contributor to

Toronto Blue Jays