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Gibbons not fazed by pressure to win in Toronto

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- John Gibbons is fully aware that there will be plenty of eyes watching him during the upcoming Blue Jays season.

Gibbons was rehired by the club last month following a more than four-year absence. The main reasoning behind general manager Alex Anthopoulos' final decision is that he wanted a manager with previous experience who had proven he can handle the job.

With an emerging team that is looking to make its mark in the American League East, there's no time for rookie mistakes. There's also no time for a manager who will shy away from the public scrutiny associated with lofty expectations, and that's not something Gibbons plans on doing.

"There's always pressure, no doubt about it, because a lot is expected in the baseball world, the country of Canada and Toronto specifically," Gibbons said during a scrum with reporters on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.

"That's a good thing, that means you've got a good team. But there's always pressure in this business to perform."

The amount of pressure on Toronto next season is directly related to its busy offseason. The blockbuster 12-player trade with the Marlins, combined with the free-agent signings of Melky Cabrera and Maicer Izturis, has the fan base dreaming big.

This is no longer a club that's going through a rebuilding process. That came to an end last month, and now there's not only an expectation for meaningful baseball in September, but also an eventual run into the postseason.

Anything less than that will be considered a major disappointment. That's what happens when payroll jumps upwards of $40 million during just one offseason. But big names on paper don't always translate to success on the field, and it will be up to Gibbons to ensure that the personalities in the clubhouse are able to mesh into a cohesive unit.

"I said earlier when I got hired, 'Now it's a job for the manager and the coaching staff to pull it all together and get the most out of these guys,'" Gibbons said.

"But it's a good position to be in. This job came out of nowhere for me, and to be sitting there looking at some of the players that they acquired in doing that, makes it that much nicer. I would have taken the job if he hadn't made that deal, but it makes it much nicer to take it now."

For Gibbons, the real fun has already started as he begins to envision what next year's squad will look like. He has committed to using Jose Reyes, Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the first four spots of the lineup. Gibbons also has begun to think about the pitching staff but has yet to confirm a specific order.

One player that Gibbons considers somewhat of a wild card for next year's squad is first baseman/designated hitter Adam Lind. The seven-year veteran was an emerging talent when Gibbons was dismissed by Toronto in 2008, won a Silver Slugger Award the following year, but has since struggled at the big league level.

Lind was expected to begin the year in a platoon situation, but that no longer appears to be the case. Gibbons wants to give Lind a shot at securing regular playing time and is even open to the idea of having him bat against left-handers.

"From Day 1 in the Minor Leagues, he could always hit," Gibbons said. "I mean, he was drafted as a hitter and he was always successful. Last couple years, he's fallen on some tough times, but he's hit before, so I expect he's going to get every opportunity to do the same, because he's got a chance to be a key part of this. He hit before, he should be able to hit again."

Other news to emerge out of Monday's media availability with Gibbons at the Winter Meetings is that the club appears to be nearing a decision on its new bullpen coach. Anthopoulos said there is a short list of candidates, while Gibbons later added that an announcement could be made within a week.

Once the bullpen coach is in place, the staff will be able to finalize its preparations for Spring Training. That's when the identity of the Blue Jays will begin to emerge and Gibbons' managerial style will once again take center stage.

Gibbons is quick to downplay the overall impact he'll have on the team, instead choosing to put the focus on the players. He's also adamant there's no specified style of play he'd like to see, because ultimately, that is dictated by the type of athletes on the field.

"I think any smart manager, you've got to take a look and see what you've got," Gibbons said. "We've got really good team speed, we've got guys that can hit the ball in the seats and you've got to remember, too, in our division, it's a good division for hitting home runs.

"We'll turn them loose when we need to and then it's just pretty much just running the pitching staff ... getting the most out of your players. You've got to get the most out of who they are. That's what I think successful managers do."

Toronto Blue Jays