Newcomers soak up Honda Opening Night atmosphere
TORONTO -- Mark Buehrle had the itch, but all he could do was watch from his seat in the dugout.
Here were 48,857 fans, clad in attire donning the names of Blue Jays past -- David Eckstein, Aaron Hill, John McDonald, A.J. Burnett and Gene Tenace, to name a few -- and filling the open air of the Rogers Centre with resonating chants of "Let's go Blue Jays" before the season's inaugural pitch. The sellout crowd overwhelmed Jose Reyes with support when the shortstop strolled to the batter's box to lead off the bottom of the first.
And yet, Buehrle, one of five players acquired by Toronto in a blockbuster trade in November, couldn't participate on the field. The veteran southpaw is scheduled to pitch on Thursday, following fellow newcomer R.A. Dickey and Brandon Morrow in the rotation.
"I got goose bumps when they were doing the lineups and cheering," Buehrle said. "It's one of those things where you want to go out there and pitch, but you have to wait your turn."
Reyes and his new lineup cohorts could only treat the Toronto fans to one run in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Indians. The Blue Jays mustered just four hits, including one apiece by offseason additions Melky Cabrera and Emilio Bonifacio. Cabrera, who inked a two-year pact with the club in November, scored the team's lone run.
Colby Rasmus recalled his first contest with Toronto, which came after the Blue Jays acquired him in a July 2011 trade with the Cardinals. The outfielder suggested that with so many new players in the fold, it may take some time for this team to gel.
"It's not easy," Rasmus said. "People are expecting so much, but we have a long season to go. Everyone will settle in and we'll be all right."
The Blue Jays renovated their roster over the winter, highlighted by a 12-player swap with the Marlins. In that exchange, Toronto acquired Buehrle, Reyes, Bonifacio, pitcher Josh Johnson and catcher John Buck. The club later seized Dickey in a deal with the Mets, and sprinkled in the signings of Cabrera and infielder Maicer Izturis, who, like Reyes, went 0-for-3 on Tuesday.
"We have everything," Reyes said. "We have speed. We have power. We have pitching. We just need to put it together on the field. If we put it together, we'll be fine. It's just the first game."
For Reyes, that first game evoked dreams he had as a youngster, when he would conjure up visions of playing for a Major League team on Opening Day. He fulfilled that goal with the Mets in 2005. He experienced Opening Day in a fresh setting again last season after joining the much-hyped Marlins.
On Tuesday, for the second straight year, he soaked in his new settings. He's hoping for familiar surroundings next April.
"I want to stay here for a couple more Opening Days," Reyes said, laughing.
Should Toronto's lineup mesh and the team perform up to its vaulted expectations, perhaps the gear sporting the names of departed Blue Jays will find its way into storage, to be replaced by new names and numbers.
If Tuesday's contest is any indication, Toronto certainly appreciates its offseason influx of talent.
"This place was loud today," Reyes said. "Hopefully it can be like that every single day, because we're going to win a lot of ballgames."