After offseason of change, Gibbons excited for opener

After offseason of change, Gibbons excited for opener

TORONTO -- John Gibbons' second tenure with the Blue Jays officially began Tuesday night, and it bears little resemblance to his first go-around with the club.

Toronto kicked off its 37th season in the Major Leagues against the Indians in front of a sold-out crowd at Rogers Centre. That's not unusual, because the Blue Jays typically sell out on Opening Day, but the hype and expectations are unlike anything seen before in the city.

Following an eventful offseason that saw general manager Alex Anthopoulos completely overhaul the club's roster, there is renewed hope the Blue Jays can find their way back into the postseason for the first time since 1993.

"It has been a long time coming. It seems like it took forever to get here," Gibbons said of the upcoming 162-game grind. "We're excited, we're ready, we'd love to get off to a good start. I think that would do wonders with the hype, the buildup and all of that.

"There are no guarantees with that. I don't think that will factor into our season, but it sure would be nice. Everybody's anxious. Our last game was on Saturday, so there has been a little bit of a layoff and they're champing at the bit, but we're ready to go."

Gibbons previously spent parts of five seasons from 2004-08 as the Blue Jays' manager. There was hope back then that the club would be able to take the next step following the addition of players such as A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan and Troy Glaus, but it was never on the level currently seen in Toronto.

The Blue Jays are being picked by many critics to win the American League East and at the very least are expected to be a strong contender for a Wild Card spot. That wasn't necessarily the case during Gibbons' first tenure, but it's the type of pressure that follows the offseason additions of Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Melky Cabrera.

There were times when the atmosphere around the Blue Jays was positive, but it's still a vastly different vibe than the one heading into this season.

"No doubt, there's no comparison," Gibbons said in a packed media scrum prior to Tuesday's game against the Indians. "Just the number [of reporters] in here today tell you that. But we have a good team out there. We feel good about it and now the talk's over. We've been talking for how many months now? Now we have to go out and do something."

Anthopoulos' activity during the winter months caught everybody off-guard, but perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the hiring of Gibbons.

The 50-year-old was managing a Double-A team in his hometown of San Antonio when he received an unexpected call from Toronto's GM during the offseason. Gibbons quickly agreed to a deal and will now attempt to improve his previous 305-305 track record with the club.

"It's extra special, because I never would have thought I'd be back to be honest with you," Gibbons said of Opening Day. "I don't think anybody did.

"That carries a little bit of extra meaning there, but I've done it before. I managed enough games. If this was my first Major League game, it would probably be a little bit different, but I've been through it."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.