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Gibbons to stretch out starters a little quicker

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Manager John Gibbons and pitching coach Pete Walker have made a slight adjustment to this year's Spring Training schedule, but for the most part camp will resemble the one from 2013.

The lone exception is that the Blue Jays starting pitchers are expected to throw two innings during their first start of the Grapefruit League season, as opposed to just one. That will build up their stamina a little bit quicker and potentially provide a tad more strength before Opening Day.

Two innings is more in line with what other teams across baseball normally do, and that was also the plan when former manager John Farrell and pitching coach Bruce Walton ran things from 2011-12. Gibbons stressed the change is very minor, though, and he certainly doesn't feel conditioning was one of the reason for his club's slow start last year.

"They all need to get on a program to get ready for Opening Day," Gibbons said. "Even last year, where we struggled, it wasn't a question of fatigue. We got beat up so early in the game. If we had pitched better, you'd see some guys go six or seven innings, but that wasn't the case.

"Two innings, that's probably the biggest adjustment you'll see. Health wise and stamina wise, they were ready to go last year, they just got beat up so early in the game, we didn't want to leave them out there."

Toronto will officially open its spring schedule with a game against the Phillies on Feb. 26. Exhibition games will continue until the Grapefruit League season wraps up with a short series in Montreal against the Mets from March 28-29.

The starters will begin at two innings and then gradually build up their endurance by likely adding an inning each time out.

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