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Gibbons goes with similar lineup to open spring

With exception of Navarro, Goins, Toronto batting order looks like one from 2013


DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Manager John Gibbons used the Blue Jays' first game of the spring to unveil the lineup he's expected to use at the start of the regular season.

Gibbons has decided to go with a starting nine which closely resembles the one he put out there in 2013. Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion once again found themselves in the top four spots, and they were followed by Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus.

The only changes from last season can be found at the very bottom of the lineup, where Dioner Navarro takes over for J.P. Arencibia, and rookie Ryan Goins gets the nod over second baseman Maicer Izturis.

"Having two switch-hitters with a good track record of on-base percentage," Bautista said when describing the top of the Blue Jays' lineup. "It's not going to hurt me or Edwin's chances of driving runs in. If we drive runs in, we're either on base again for Lindy and whoever hits behind him. The more you come up to hit with people on base, increases your chances of getting a pitch to hit over the plate and people making some mistakes because there is more stuff to worry about.

"I think we're going to have more quality overall at-bats throughout the year if we can just manage to get on base. I know that was another area of weakness last year, our on-base percentage as a team wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great. Ideally we can keep guys on the bases at all times."

This is expected to be the lineup the Blue Jays end up going with the majority of the time, but it likely won't be the starting nine on Opening Day. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will be on the mound for the season opener against Tampa Bay on March 31, and Gibbons is already on record saying it's very unlikely that Navarro will be his catcher.

The start instead would go to either Erik Kratz or Josh Thole. Both catchers are competing for the backup job and will become Dickey's personal catcher this season. The one thing the Blue Jays won't do again this year is start their first-string catcher just because it's Opening Day.

Toronto tried that last season when it decided to go with Arencibia on Opening Day, even though he wasn't expected to become Dickey's regular catcher. The end result was rather disastrous, as Arencibia had three passed balls, which largely contributed to the Blue Jays' 4-1 loss to the Indians.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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