The Toronto Blue Jays dipped back into their past to shake up a last-place team that has looked overmatched at times in the competitive AL East, firing manager John Gibbons on Friday and replacing him with two-time World Series winner Cito Gaston.
The Blue Jays, as the Mets and Mariners did earlier in the week, decided it's far easier to fire the manager than it is to overhaul a disappointing team close to midseason. Despite having five players making $10 million or more on its opening day roster, Toronto was 35-39 with five consecutive losses and was 10 1/2 games behind AL East leader Boston going into a three-game series in Pittsburgh.
"We've underachieved at this point with a good club," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "There's a lot of the season left and we've got a chance to turn things around."
Gaston said the Blue Jays' season "starts over again tonight we've got to get to where we should be. There's a good club here."
Gaston will manage the rest of the season and then be evaluated, Ricciardi said.
The move was not especially popular in the clubhouse, where Gibbons was respected despite the club's on-field failings.
While Gaston managed the Blue Jays to World Series titles in 1992 and 1993, he hasn't managed since being fired by Toronto in 1997 and, as the team's special assistant to the president and chief executive since 2002, had little more than a nodding relationship with most players.
"Obviously, the organization thought it was time to make a change," third baseman Scott Rolen said. "I have nothing but the highest regard and the best things to say about my time with Gibby."Rolen and several other players are unhappy Gibbons and coaches Marty Pevey, Ernie Whitt and Gary Denbo took the blame for their failings. The Blue Jays are 15-7 against the AL Central, but are 9-14 within their own division, with records of 1-5 against Tampa Bay and 2-4 against the Yankees.
RIGGLEMAN TO SEATTLE PLAYERS: 'LET'S GO GET 'EM': Jim Riggleman took over as Seattle's manager on Friday with an upbeat attitude, urging players to ignore speculation about the impending dismantling of the team, relax and have fun.
"I don't really need to be thinking in terms of there's four or five things that have got to be done," Riggleman said before his debut Friday night against the Atlanta Braves.
"The less we have of that the better. ... I just look at it like, these are the players I have, let's go get 'em."
The Mariners (25-47) are on pace to become the first team with a $100 million payroll to lose 100 games.
"It just hasn't flowed as a team," Riggleman said. "We've got to see if we can get them feeling better about themselves.
"Whatever is there, we'll get it out of them."
Riggleman, 55, was promoted from bench coach when John McLaren was fired on Thursday morning. Riggleman received the news only minutes before the team boarded buses for the long flight to Atlanta.
General manager Bill Bavasi also was fired on Monday. Lee Pelekoudas was made interim GM.
There is speculation that first baseman Richie Sexson and other players could be released or traded.Sexson, earning $14 million but hitting .220 with nine homers and 23 RBIs, started Friday night and hit fifth. He has not had an extra-base hit in almost a month.
ZAMBRANO HAS MINOR SHOULDER STRAIN: Big Z's shoulder pain might not be a big problem for the Chicago Cubs.
Star right-hander Carlos Zambrano has a minor strain in his right shoulder but no major structural damage, a team spokesman said after the Cubs' 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Friday.Zambrano underwent an MRI arthogram, a test in which dye is injected into the troubled area to provide a more detailed look, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Friday and headed home. He will meet with the trainers and coaching staff on Saturday.
MAZEROSKI TO THROW YANKEES-PIRATES FIRST PITCH: The New York Yankees' first trip to Pittsburgh in 48 years will resemble their last one in 1960.
Bill Mazeroski will be on the field.Mazeroski, whose ninth-inning home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series gave the Pirates a surprise championship in a series in which they were outscored 55-27, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Yankees-Pirates game on Tuesday night.
RED SOX HONOR NBA CHAMPION CELTICS: A fast-moving thunderstorm didn't dampen the Fenway Park fans' spirit for the NBA champion Boston Celtics on Friday night.
Honored during a brief pregame ceremony as heavy rain was falling, the NBA champs atop three duck boats entered from center-field and circled Fenway to a standing ovation, a shortened scene from their parade through downtown on Thursday.
With the Red Sox plays wearing green jerseys usually reserved for St. Patrick's Day during spring training in Florida, the Celtics brought the NBA championship trophies from four seasons to Fenway. The players wore their warmups, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett leading their teammates with pumping fists and waves to a crowd as the rain was pouring and the grounds crew was putting the tarp on the field.