LAKELAND, Fla. -- If there was one lesson to be learned last spring it was that the win-loss record during the Grapefruit League season is essentially meaningless.
Toronto led the Majors last season with a 24-7 mark during the spring, which led to increased expectations from an eager fanbase. But the positive results didn't transition into the regular season as the club went on to post a disappointing 73-89 record en route to a fourth-place finish in the American League East.
The expectations this spring are even higher following an eventful offseason, but manager John Gibbons isn't about to put much of an emphasis on his winning percentage early in camp.
"You want to be playing good baseball," Gibbons said. "Generally, when you do that, you win some games. But I think the big focus on the last couple of weeks of spring, that's when [the starters will all] be out there together, they'll be playing a lot of innings and that's when it's time to kick it into gear and get this thing rolling."
The Blue Jays officially began their road to the regular season on Saturday afternoon with a visit to the Tigers' Joker Marchant Stadium. Despite the game being broadcast in Canada on Rogers Sportsnet, Gibbons didn't feel any added pressure to field his starting lineup.
The choice was relatively easy to rest the likes of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera to save the group an early hour-plus drive to Lakeland.
"The way I looked at it, with the split-squad [games] tomorrow we're going to use them all," Gibbons said. "Some of the veteran guys I didn't want to take them on the road this distance to begin with. I didn't put a whole lot of stock into that because we're still throwing some of our regulars."