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Gaston has backing of Ricciardi for 2009

Gaston has backing of Ricciardi for 2009

TORONTO -- With each passing day, it's looking more and more likely that Cito Gaston's second tenure as manager of the Blue Jays is going to be a lengthy one.

Gaston, who took over for John Gibbons on June 20, recently received a vote of confidence from general manager J.P. Ricciardi that suggests he will remain with the club for the foreseeable future.

Ricciardi announced Wednesday on his weekly Fan590 radio show that Gaston will be back with the Jays next season. He reiterated that stance Thursday prior to the finale of a four-game series against the Athletics.

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"I don't think there has been any secret with that," Ricciardi said. "Cito will definitely be back."

When Gaston took over on June 20, the Blue Jays were suffering through a five-game losing streak and found themselves dead-last in the American League East with a 35-39 record.

One of the main reasons for Toronto's woes was an inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Gaston was hired to help turn that around, and so far, he has at least started the process.

Under the 64-year-old skipper, the Jays are hitting .262 with runners in scoring position -- still not where the team wants to be, but a noticeable improvement over the previous .231 mark.

"We've got a long way to go offensively, but he has really laid the groundwork for some of the right stuff," Ricciardi said. "Guys like playing for him. We were just fortunate he was [available]. ... He was the right guy at the right time."

Gaston initially was signed for the remainder of this season, but upon his arrival, he made no secret of his desire to remain with the club for the long haul. Even though he has not yet had an opportunity to discuss his future with Ricciardi, he's optimistic something will be worked out.

"I think we're real close here [to contention]," said Gaston, who was also Toronto's manager from 1989-97. "Maybe if we can add here and there, I think we certainly have a chance. I would like to be part of it."

When Gaston returned to the Jays organization, he brought a large portion of his old coaching staff with him. Gene Tenace was brought in to become the team's hitting coach, Nick Leyva took over third-base duties and Dwayne Murphy was hired to coach first base. Ricciardi stopped short of saying all three would return next season but he did indicate that Gaston's opinion will hold a lot of weight.

"We'll sit down and evaluate," Ricciardi said. "Cito's going to have a big hand in what kind of staff we have here. It's important that he's comfortable with the staff."

Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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