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Blue Jays don't mind not relying on speed

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A noticeable difference between this year's version of the Blue Jays and the one from 2013 is the club's lack of speed on the basepaths.

Last season, the Blue Jays began the year with Rajai Davis and Emilio Bonifacio on the bench. Both players had game-changing speed and were especially valuable when used in late-inning situations.

Toronto doesn't have those type of impact runners this year, and there doesn't appear to be much of an emphasis on changing that any time soon.

"That's not one of our strengths," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons admitted. "Our speed has definitely dropped off. That's not how the team is built.

"The team's built for those guys in the middle to drive in a bunch of runs, hit some home runs and [Jose] Reyes to get things going. We think we're strong. We've got some pop. We've got some guys that can produce some runs, top to bottom in the lineup."

The Blue Jays finished last season ranked ninth in baseball with 112 stolen bases, but 57 of those came from Davis and Bonifacio. Take those two out of the equation, and the club would have ranked 27th in the Major Leagues.

There likely will be a slight uptick in stolen bases at shortstop with a full season from Reyes, but the rest of the roster remains relatively unchanged. Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus will occasionally steal, but for the most part, this is a team that will rely on the hit-and-run a lot more than straight stolen-base attempts.

That's not overly concerning to Gibbons, because he puts a much greater emphasis on fielding a team with a well-balanced lineup.

"That's what wins," Gibbons said. "The days of stealing your ways to pennants [are over]. That's a big plus and it can help you win some games, but good hitters will win.

"We relied on [home runs] last year. That wasn't by design. We're trying to make some adjustments this year. We'll cut down on the strikeouts a little bit, I think will definitely help us, and [hitting coach] Kevin Seitzer's really good about that and he's working some game plans, but that takes time. I think these guys have all been receptive to him."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
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