Less than an hour before Roy Halladay -- the Jays' ace who was Burnett's mentor when the two were teammates over the past three seasons -- threw the first pitch on Tuesday, Toronto's former No. 2 starter was serenaded with a chorus of boos while jogging in the outfield.
When the Yankees' lineup was announced inside the stadium, Burnett was booed even more loudly than third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who -- aside from a recent admission to using performance-enhancing drugs in the past -- has been vilified by Jays fans dating back to a 2006 incident in which the two teams came to blows.
Despite the fans' obvious excitement about seeing their ace take on Burnett, who opted out of his contract with Toronto and signed a five-year, $82.5-million contract with New York in the offseason, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston insisted that this game was just like any other this season.
"They're all big games," Gaston said. "I think if you win one in May, you don't have to win one in September, so I take [every game] from Day 1 as a big game to win.
"It's still so early in the year. You certainly like to win these games -- it's better to win the series against [the Yankees] -- but it's not the end of the world if you don't."
Gaston stressed the importance of keeping calm in games like Tuesday's series opener.
"I think the calmest people win out in these things," the manager said. "If you get all excited and try to do more than you're capable of doing, then you're going to have problems. So just stay calm, go out and play hard, and just take it like you've been playing all the other 20 or 30 games."
Blue Jays first baseman Kevin Millar, who was part of the Boston Red Sox team that staged a dramatic comeback against the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series en route to the World Series title, has played plenty of hyped-up games against the Yankees. He echoed Gaston's sentiment.
"They're a great ballclub," Millar said, "and we've got A.J. Burnett and Roy Halladay pitching tonight, so it's going to be a fun series. ... [But] it's not like you get two extra wins if you beat them once."
Erika Gilbert is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less