*From Protect the Plate
The Blue Jays haven't made the playoffs since winning their second-straight World Series title in 1993.
The franchise is on a relative upswing; however, as they've finished the past three seasons with winning records and are 902-879-1 since the start of the 1998 season.
Cito Gaston, who managed both Toronto World Series teams, led the team to a 51-37 (.579) record after John Gibbons was fired. With three of the best teams in baseball playing in their division; however, the Blue Jays are in for an up-hill battle in 2009.
Most pitchers who undergo Tommy John surgery struggle in their first season back, but end up throwing even harder than ever in Year two. It has been the exact opposite for B.J. Ryan.
The Blue Jays' closer had 32 saves and a 2.95 ERA last season, but has been topping out at 84-86 mph. Veteran lefty Scott Downs, who has posted ERAs of 1.78 and 2.17 the past two seasons, could get a shot in the ninth inning if Ryan falters.
The Blue Jays have group of solid young pitchers, the problem is several of them will start the year on the DL.
Shaun Marcum, who was 9-7 with a 3.39 ERA last year, had Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire season.
Dustin McGowan's future is uncertain due to discomfort in his surgically repaired shoulder. He could be out until July, or he could miss the entire season.
Reliever Casey Janssen missed all of last season, and will be out until at least May.
Who Follows the Doc?
Roy Halladay, who has managed to stay healthy the past three seasons, will be the ace of the staff. Doc wil make his franchise-record seventh consecutive Opening Day start after going 20-11 with a 2.78 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.
Jesse Litsch is the only other Blue Jays starter who has a Major League track record. The former 24th-round pick is 20-18 with a 3.67 ERA in 287 innings pitched over the past two years.
Litsch will actually be the No. 3 starter, as he slides down to break up a pair of lefties. David Purcey, who was 3-6 with a 5.54 ERA last year, will follow Halladay in the rotation.
Rookies Round Out Rotation
Rookies Ricky Romero and Scott Richmond will occupy the final two spots in Toronto's rotation.
Romero, a lefty, will make his debut after four years in the minors. He had a breakthrough after being promoted to Triple-A last year, posting a 3.37 ERA in seven starts.
Richmond made five spot starts last season, going 1-3 with an even 4.00 ERA. A native of Canada, Richmond had pitched the previous three seasons in the independent Northern League.
Optimism on Offense
No Blue Jay hitter slugged over 20 home runs or had 80 RBI a year ago, but the team has hopes of an improved offense in '09.
A full year out of Vernon Wells, who played 108 games last year, would certainly help. Also, Scott Rolen struggled in his first year with the Blue Jays, and Aaron Hill missed most of the season.
The team hopes Adam Lind can finally blossom and Travis Snider, who hit .278 with 25 homers and 104 RBI in four stops last year, can breakout.
Alex Rios hit .291 with 15 home runs, 79 RBI and a career-high 32 stolen bases last year.
Only three Blue Jays (Rios, Lyle Overbay and Marco Scutaro) played more than 115 games last season.
In his first season, reliever Jesse Carlson led Toronto in appearances (69) while posting a 2.25 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.
Brian Tallet also had a breakout year in the 'pen, tallying a 2.88 ERA in 56-and-one-third innings pitched.
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