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Gibbons gets set for 2nd stint with Blue Jays

TORONTO -- A lot has changed about the Toronto Blue Jays since John Gibbons last managed them.

Seeking to end a playoff drought that dates to their second straight World Series crown in 1993, the Blue Jays remade their roster this winter. They pulled off two huge trades that landed, among others, reigning National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes.

Toronto also acquired pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle in the deal for Reyes. The Blue Jays were active in free agency as well, signing outfielder Melky Cabrera and infielder Maicer Izturis.

Turns out a lot has changed for Gibbons, too. And before his second stint with the Blue Jays begins, he plans to talk to his players about handling the lofty expectations they now face.

“Over the years you discover the importance of the little things like that, the team cohesion, everybody shooting for the same thing,” Gibbons said Tuesday at an event for Blue Jays season-ticket holders.

“Talent alone doesn't win,” he said. “You've got to have the right guys going in the right direction.”

He told fans he's already made one decision: The knuckleballing Dickey will start on opening day, April 2 against Cleveland.

Dickey will be followed by right-hander Brandon Morrow, Buehrle, Johnson and lefty Ricky Romero.

Gibbons was in charge of the Blue Jays in 2006 when they added starter A.J. Burnett, closer B.J. Ryan, catcher Bengie Molina and infielder Tory Glaus. That team came in second in the AL East with a record of 87-75, Toronto's best finish since its last World Series title.

So, what will Gibbons do differently this year?

“Maybe talk about those things a little bit more, the importance of, 'Hey, we've got to come together, this is what we've got to be shooting for,”' Gibbons said.

“I've always kind of been laid-back, do your thing,” he went on. “I'm hands-on, but I'm not a control guy. I may take a little more of an active role in that this go around.”

Gibbons' initial tenure with Toronto from 2004-07 isn't remembered for being quite so serene. Rather, he had two angry exchanges with his own players.

Infielder Shea Hillenbrand was swiftly traded in July 2006 after he wrote inflammatory messages on a clubhouse billboard, leading to a confrontation with his manager.

Just more than a month later, Gibbons got into an on-field argument with Ted Lilly while removing the left-hander from a start against Oakland. A furious Gibbons chased Lilly off the field and confronted him in the clubhouse tunnel.

With that fiery past in mind, Gibbons was asked whether he was looking forward to facing questions from a crowd of more than 1,200 season-ticket holders.

“That's kind of my specialty, isn't it?” he joked.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays announced that retired pitcher Jack Morris has joined their broadcasting crew for the coming season. Morris played on Toronto's World Series teams in 1992 and 1993. He matched his career high with 21 wins in 1992. Morris, who retired in 1995, will work primarily on radio and make occasional appearances on television.

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