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Rain forces Jays to wait for opener

Rain forces Jays to wait for opener

NEW YORK -- Even as American League East rivals of the Yankees, the Blue Jays were eager to see what was planned for the final Opening Day in the storied history of Yankee Stadium on Monday. They'll just have to wait one more day.

Cloudy skies and persistent showers forced Toronto and New York to postpone their inaugural meeting of 2008. The Blue Jays will head back to the corner of East 161st St. and River Ave. on Tuesday night for a 7:05 ET rescheduling of Opening Day in the Bronx -- an event that is sure to be special.

Blue Jays bench coach Brian Butterfield's first Opening Day in the Major League was in 1994, when he served as a first-base coach for the Yankees. It was a moment that Butterfield will forever cherish, and he's hoping Tuesday night can have a similar effect on some of the players currently on the Blue Jays.

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"I've asked some of these guys if they've ever been exposed to Opening Day here," Butterfield said. "So many of them haven't. I don't think there's anything like it in the world. Opening Day is always special, but I've never seen anything come close to resemble what it is here with the passion and the electricity."

Monday's meeting between the Jays and Yankees was originally scheduled to begin at 1:05 p.m., but a steady rain spawned an 80-minute delay. At 2:25 p.m., the final decision was made to reschedule both clubs' first game of the season for Tuesday, which was initially an off-day for the teams.

Due to the off-day, neither the Blue Jays nor the Yankees need to reshuffle their respective pitching rotations. Tuesday's game will feature Toronto ace Roy Halladay and New York ace Chien-Ming Wang, who were both scheduled to start on Monday as well. Jays manager John Gibbons had no reason to believe that Halladay wouldn't be prepared.

"He'll be ready to go," Gibbons said. "He'll just back down here and withdraw a little bit and start his program again tomorrow. If there's one guy you know is going to be ready, it's going to be him."

Gibbons added that he'll use the same starting lineup that he had penciled in on Monday. That means that veteran outfielder Matt Stairs, who has been nursing a sore left hip flexor, will remain on Toronto's bench for at least one more day. If Stairs isn't feeling better on Wednesday, there's a chance he could wind up on the 15-day disabled list.

The rain that was falling throughout the morning and into the afternoon let up after the game was officially rescheduled, but the Blue Jays and Yankees didn't want to take a chance. There were no standing puddles on the playing surface, but Gibbons said there's always a risk when players step onto a wet field.

"Any time it's sloppy playing conditions, there's always a risk," Gibbons said. "It was coming down pretty good there for a while, and then it let up. But they talked to the weather people and all that. I'm sure the outfield and everything was pretty chewed up. You want to have a good game, especially with that opener."

The whole ordeal would have been avoided had New York traveled to Toronto to play the opener inside the domed Rogers Centre -- a fact that had Yankees general manager Brian Cashman in a joking mood.

"You guys are lucky with that retractable rood," Cashman said to a group of Toronto reporters. "We just can't afford one of those down here in New York."

Standing inside the visitors' clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells cracked a smile when asked if he took the field to inspect the playing conditions.

"I did go out there for a little bit," Wells said. "It was cold, it was raining and I came back in here."

Wells wouldn't have minded getting a game in, though.

"We have 162 of these things -- hopefully more," he added. "We know what's ahead of us, and it would've been nice to start today and have a full day off [Tuesday], but we get to play baseball tomorrow. It's not too bad."

It'll be an event the Blue Jays and Yankees have been looking forward to -- just one day later.

"You're disappointed -- Opening Days are always special," Gibbons said. "Then you've got to delay it one more day, but you're better off that way instead of playing in lousy conditions."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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