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VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for my Whitecaps at LA Galaxy match report.

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VANCOUVER, B.C – Check out Red Nation Online for my exclusive story on Whitecaps striker Kenny Miller.

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VANCOUVER, B.C – The Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a strong improvement this season after a dismal 2013 campaign. All the big name spending the Blue Jays showed prior to last season did not translate to a better team on the field. Toronto struggled to receive quality starts and solid pitching from their rotation. The offense did their best to carry the team but it wasn’t enough as the Blue Jays finished last in the American League East.

R.A. Dickey, the staff ace had a sub-par season by his standards, and the trio of Josh Johnson, Brendan Morrow and Esmil Rogers underperformed when they weren’t on the disabled list. Mark Buehrle was his consistent self and a much-needed innings eater. The one thing the Toronto Blue Jays lacked was a true legitimate ace that you can trot out every fifth day guaranteed to pitch you seven innings with a quality start. TorontoBlueJays3AlexAnthopoulos

2014 is a massive year for the Toronto Blue Jays organization both on and off the field. A team with an expansive budget like Toronto can’t produce substandard results again. GM Alex Anthopoulos, and manager John Gibbons will be on the hot seat if Toronto starts off the season slow.

Toronto Blue Jays President and CEO, Paul Beeston had this to say on the future of Anthopoulos, and Gibbons.

I don’t operate that way, we’re all day-to-day. I’d like to think that everybody’s job is safe, and when it’s not safe you’ll know about it. Why do we have contracts… I like the old days when you were expected to go to work and when you didn’t want to be there anymore you’d tell them I don’t want to be there.”

Today Alex Anthopoulos will enter his fifth season as GM of the Toronto Blue Jays. He has certainly had ample time, and opportunity to turn the Blue Jays into a world series contender. The Baltimore Orioles, and Tampa Bay Rays have shown they can compete, and stay competitive with the likes of the Red Sox, and Yankees so why can’t Toronto?

Beeston isn’t ready to make any snap decisions on the future of Alex Anthopoulos just yet.

“I would expect that hopefully he’s going to be there for the long-term. I think that continuity is very important, and so we’ll see how the results are and take it from there.”  

Anthopoulos went into the winter hoping to add a top starter to his pitching rotation but that never came to fruition. The Jays had their eyes on prized Japanese product Masahiro Tanaka but their decision not to go above a five-year contract pushed him into rival colours. The New York Yankees signed Tanaka to a seven-year deal worth $155 million, and as fate would have it the 25 year-old will make his MLB debut on Friday at the Rogers Centre.

Toronto was still left with other viable options to upgrade their rotation but that didn’t tempt Anthopoulos.

Ubaldo Jimenez signed in Baltimore, Bronson Arroyo agreed with Arizona, Jeff Samardzija re-signed with Cubs. Ervin Santana looked to be headed to Toronto, but at the last-minute the Atlanta Braves swooped in and signed him.

Toronto Blue Jays President and CEO, Paul Beeston has this to say about Toronto’s inability to sign a starting pitcher.

“It’s not a matter of money, it’s a matter of giving up the right players and not signing crazy free agent contracts that will mortgage our future and hold us back. You don’t do something just to do it. We’re not it that position, we’ve got an older team, a veteran team and we’ve just got to show that last year was a fluke and this is a talented team that can win the world series.”

John Gibbons has set his rotation with the following pitchers as Toronto will open with four games in Tampa Bay, before a weekend series at home against the New York Yankees. R.A. Dickey, Drew Hutchison, Mark Buehrle, and Brendan Morrow will all start in Tampa Bay while Dustin McGowan will pitch the Jays home opener.

In some circles it was suggested that Toronto should have highly rated prospect Aaron Sanchez in the starting rotation. The 21 year-old had a great spring training, and will begin the season with Double-A New Hampshire. The Blue Jays don’t want to rush their prime pitching prospect but they would be best advised to keep him on speed dial.

The Blue Jays home opener will feature a comeback story worthy of a motion picture. Dustin McGowan will make his first start since September of 2011. McGowan has finally made it back to the big leagues after experiencing a long list of shoulder injuries and prolonged DL stints.

On paper this starting rotation is nothing to get you excited about the possibility of October baseball in Toronto. R.A. Dickey should rebound with a better season thanks in part to his own personal catcher Josh Thole behind the plate. Mark Buehrle, should provide a calming presence and stable pitching every time he takes his turn. Question marks arise when you have a young pitcher like Hutchison, and injured and inconsistent pitchers in Morrow and McGowan.

The most significant acquisition Toronto made during this past offseason was with the signing of catcher Dioner Navarro who will take over the catching duties from the departed J.P. Arencibia. The Blue Jays have taken a positive step in upgrading behind the plate. Navarro should provide a lot more stability than Arencibia. Alex Anthopoulos talked about what Navarro brings to the Blue Jays.

“We did a lot of work on him especially with some former players that had been around him. Guys love throwing to him, a switch hit bat, contact, and also will draw a walk. Guys love throwing to him, he’s a very good game caller. The weaknesses would be blocking balls, and throwing can get better. Overall the bat has tremendous upside.”

The Toronto Blue Jays should be contending for an American League wild-card spot and a playoff date at Rogers Centre. If Toronto doesn’t show vast improvement this season, you could very well see the departure of Alex Anthopoulos, and John Gibbons. Over the course of 162 games Paul Beeston will have a lot to think about.

Notes: J.A. Happ, and Casey Janssen will begin the season on the DL with back injuries. Kyle Drabek, and Ricky Romero will start the season with Triple-A Buffalo.

VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for my Whitecaps vs Dynamo match report.

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VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for my Whitecaps at New England Revolution match report.

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