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Rough day drags on as Blue Jays fall

Rough day drags on as Blue Jays fall

BALTIMORE -- Camden Yards has been home to turmoil, distraction and sweeping change this weekend for the Blue Jays. On Saturday night, the ballpark was also the site of a 6-3 loss to the Orioles, adding another sour element to an eventful final series for Toronto.

One evening after reports leaked that some of the Blue Jays' players were at odds with manager Cito Gaston, the organization parted ways with general manager J.P. Ricciardi. Scott Richmond's poor showing in his final start of the year for Toronto will have a home in the box score, but it hardly seemed to matter in the grand scheme of things.

With one game remaining in a long and frustrating campaign, the bigger issue was the change within the Blue Jays' front office. Alex Anthopoulos -- at just 32 years old -- has been named as Ricciardi's replacement as the team's general manager, giving the organization a young and untested leader as it heads into an important offseason.

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"I do know Alex, the guy they put in charge. Alex is a good guy," Gaston said. "He loves the game and he's a very professional guy. Him and I have had a lot of talks, and he understands the game and he wants to move forward. It's not going to move backwards with him.

"I think Alex is going to do a great job here, I really do, whether I'm here or not."

Despite the reports about the rift between the players and Gaston, Anthopoulos and interim president and CEO Paul Beeston each gave votes of confidence to the manager on Saturday. The 65-year-old Gaston is under contract through 2010 and there is nothing to indicate that he won't be back to lead Toronto again.

Ricciardi was also under contract for next season, but Beeston said ownership decided it was time to make a change, ending an eight-year era that included no trips to the postseason for Toronto. The up-and-coming Anthopoulos had served as an assistant GM under Ricciardi and has been in the Jays organization since 2003.

Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, whose own future with the club is uncertain, was asked if a more experienced candidate should have been considered for the position.

"I don't know," Halladay said. "I think you look at some of the GMs around baseball right now and it's not always based on age. I think it's the general idea of baseball. We're all going to get to see what Alex is about here moving forward. Every situation is probably different and I think Paul is, I'm sure, very thorough in the job he does in selecting someone to take over."

Halladay, along with many other players, said they were upset to learn of Ricciardi's removal.

"It's unfortunate," Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill said. "But it's something that I think everyone, not knew was coming, but it was just one of those things. Bad timing, I guess. He's done a lot of things. He drafted me. He gave me a job, so I'll never say anything bad about him. He's been great to me and he definitely wants to win."

"He is probably the biggest reason I was here for the last eight years," added Halladay.

"It's another sad and bad day in the Blue Jays organization," said center fielder Vernon Wells. "Any time you lose someone, it's a rough day. It's unfortunately a part of the business, and we'll move on and continue to try to get better from here."

The Blue Jays (75-86) have one game left to attempt to end this trying season on as high of a note as possible.

On Saturday, Richmond (8-11) picked up the loss after allowing five runs on seven hits over just four innings against the Orioles (63-98), who guaranteed that they will not finish with 100 losses this year. Baltimore scored four runs in the fourth inning to run to a 5-2 lead, putting the game away early against Toronto.

The Jays opened the evening's scoring with two runs off Baltimore's Mark Hendrickson (6-5) in the second inning. Rod Barajas singled and scored on a sacrifice fly from rookie Travis Snider, and Randy Ruiz later crossed the plate on a balk by the left-hander. Hill added a run-scoring single in the seventh.

What took place on the field was overshadowed by the events off the diamond, though.

Hill was optimistic about Anthopoulos taking over as the new general manager.

"Obviously, we've gotten to know him the last couple years," Hill said. "I've heard nothing but great things, as far as what agents have said about him and dealt with him on the side. He's very smart and I think he has a willingness to learn, too. He's got a lot of responsibility."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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