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MIN@TOR: Arencibia homers twice, drives in five

TORONTO -- J.P. Arencibia seems to have a knack for getting his season started off on the right foot.

The Blue Jays' rookie catcher began the 2011 campaign almost the exact same way he broke into the Major Leagues -- with a pair of home runs.

Arencibia went 3-for-4 while also adding a triple and five RBIs en route to a 13-3 Blue Jays victory over the Twins on Friday night at Rogers Centre.

It was the first Opening Night of Arencibia's big league career, but despite playing in front of a sold-out crowd, the 25-year-old said he surprisingly didn't feel nervous in the buildup to the game.

"I had chills the whole ceremony, but I came in and I told [bench coach Don] Wakamatsu, you know what, oddly enough I'm not nervous," Arencibia said.

"I told him it's a credit of our work, going back there and just trying to relax and really letting the game come to me. I told him I just felt prepared, and that was the biggest thing for me."

Arencibia became the first Blue Jays rookie to homer on Opening Day since Carlos Delgado did it in 1994. He also became just the sixth player in the history of the franchise to record a multihomer game on the first day of the season.

It's only one game, but the results are encouraging for a player that struggled with the bat during Spring Training. The native of Miami hit just .161 with three extra-base hits during 24 Grapefruit League games.

Despite those numbers, Blue Jays manager John Farrell didn't see any major problems at the plate, which is one reason he thought the performance would come around.

"All Spring Training, there were no swing mechanics that were an issue," said Farrell, who picked up the first win of his managerial career. "The numbers weren't there, the results weren't there. [It's] been more of a matter of timing.

"When he can get started on time and he can have his contact point a little bit more out front, that's when he has been most dangerous. He was able to do that tonight with two balls to dead center field."

The Blue Jays did most of their damage off Twins starting pitcher Carl Pavano. The club scored four runs in the bottom of the first on two singles, a walk, a hit batter and a pair of sacrifice flies.

Pavano pitched his way into more trouble during the fourth. With one on and one out, Arencibia hit a home run to straight away center field. The two-run shot was Arencibia's first homer since he hit two in his debut on Aug. 7, 2010.

The 2010 "Home Run King" Jose Bautista got into the act in the bottom of the fifth. Bautista, who hit 54 homers last year, sent a pitch from Pavano deep over the wall in left center for his first of the year. Adam Lind followed with a shot to right field to give the Blue Jays back-to-back home runs.

That marked the end of the line for Pavano. The 35-year-old didn't record an out in the fifth and surrendered eight runs (seven earned) on six hits while striking out three.

"We're capable of doing that still," Bautista said of the Blue Jays' home run power following a season in which they led the Major Leagues with 257. "The bulk of our lineup, the core of our team, is still capable of hitting home runs. ... We're going to have other options on offense, but we're not going to shy away from swinging the bats as well."

Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero cruised through his first six innings of work and allowed just two of the first 16 batters he faced to reach base. The 26-year-old's only rough inning came in the top of the seventh, when he surrendered three runs, only one of which was earned.

"He had some angle on his fastball, hitting the outside corner and throwing hard," Twins DH Jason Kubel said. "He mixed up some changeups and sliders all over the place. So he's their ace for a reason. He's real tough and makes you work."

Romero's first outing of the season was much different than any of his starts during Spring Training. The native of California struggled with his control throughout the Grapefruit League season, as he finished with a 7.91 ERA over 19 1/3 innings.

On Friday night, Romero threw fastballs and cutters to both sides of the plate and appeared to have pinpoint accuracy on his changeup.

"Any time you come out of a game with no walks, it just shows you you're attacking the strike zone, you're making pitches when you're supposed to make pitches, and I'm proud of that," said Romero, who allowed seven hits while striking out seven over 6 1/3 innings.

"That's one of the things I'm hoping to cut back on this year, and to be able to come out and have a no-walk game and have a good game on top of that makes it that much better."

Farrell made a point of mentioning throughout the months of February and March that you can't read too much into Spring Training stats. That philosophy was confirmed again on Friday, based on the way Arencibia and Romero began their season.

"I think what you come to find, regardless of what happens in Spring Training, the slate starts new," Farrell said. "Everyone starts with zeroes and they've got an opportunity to go out and have a bit of a fresh start.

"That's why Spring Training evaluations, while they're necessary, can be dangerous at times, good and bad."

Arencibia subscribes to the same mentality, but says, for him, the results at the plate aren't as important right now. He continues to make defense his No. 1 priority, and the biggest plus he took from the first victory of the season was Romero recording a quality start.

"I wasn't worried about my bat," Arencibia said. "My job is to go out there and catch. Put up zeroes and give this team an opportunity to win and compete every night. The bat is secondary. That's what my ultimate goal was, and today I just happened to have a good day at the plate." Comments