Gaston settles on Wells in cleanup spot
Outfielder rewards manager for faith, homers in first at-bat
ARLINGTON -- Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston took his time in deciding whether to place center fielder Vernon Wells in the lineup's cleanup spot to open this season. Gaston weighed his options during the spring and ultimately chose to offer a show of faith with the move.
"I thought about that a few times," Gaston said on Monday. "What I was trying to do is certainly let him know that I believe in him and that I believe that's where he belongs. We'll put him there and see what happens."
Last season, the 31-year-old Wells endured one of the worst offensive showings of his career, hitting .260 with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs over 158 games for Toronto. In October, Wells underwent surgery to repair cartilage in his left wrist, which he originally fractured during a diving catch in Cleveland in May 2008.
Gaston is still not sure how much Wells' wrist injury affected his production.
"He never complained about his wrist at all last year," Gaston said. "I don't know, maybe he just didn't want to complain about it. I think you get so far, it started becoming mental, too. He got off to a decent start, but then never really could pick it up."
Gaston said he considered moving Aaron Hill into the fourth spot of the lineup, but the manager decided to keep the second baseman in the second slot to begin this season. Adam Lind was also an option, but Gaston noted again that the designated hitter has said in the past that he is not comfortable in the cleanup role.
This spring, Wells hit .300 with one home run and eight RBIs over 17 Grapefruit League games for the Blue Jays. The center fielder reported no issues with his wrist, giving the club optimism about Wells' chances to return to form at the plate. Gaston knows that much of Toronto's success this year will depend on a strong showing from Wells.
"It's important for him and us, too," Gaston said. "We really could use him. We need him to certainly put up some numbers and help this club win. I'm pretty sure it's on his mind to have a good year. He's worked hard. He's done some extra things with [hitting coach Dwayne Murphy] in the cage. Hopefully he's ready."
In his first at-bat of the season, Wells rewarded Gaston's faith in him with a two-run shot off Texas starter Scott Feldman.
Ruiz relishes first Opening Day in bigs
ARLINGTON -- Randy Ruiz waited a long time for this day to come. Over the past 11 years, he has had stints in 16 different Minor League towns, tours with 11 organizations and a couple brief tastes of the big leagues.
With the Blue Jays, Ruiz finally experienced his first Opening Day in the Majors.
"I'm excited," Ruiz said before Monday's opener against Texas at Rangers Ballpark. "My first Opening Day in the big leagues ever. I can't wait. I'm already nervous as it is. I know it's just another game, but the first one ever, my family is proud, I'm proud, and I know all my friends are proud.
"I'm happy to be here and finally have an opportunity to be here for an Opening Day."
Ruiz, 32, opens this season as a part-time first baseman and designated hitter off Toronto's bench. As things currently stand, playing time could be sporadic, considering the Jays have everyday options in first baseman Lyle Overbay and DH Adam Lind. When either needs a day off, manager Cito Gaston will turn to the right-handed-hitting Ruiz.
"It will be a challenge," Gaston said. "I still believe that he's one of the guys that, given the chance to play every day, he'd probably hit you 20 home runs or 25 and drive in about 90 or 95 runs. It's going to be a challenge to get him in there.
"If he can play a couple times a week -- that's not enough -- but that might be what happens. Wt this point in time, we just don't have any space for him right now; no more than him coming off the bench every once in awhile."
For now, Ruiz is simply thrilled to finally open a season in the big leagues.
"I know he's got to be excited and I'm happy for him," Gaston said. "He's a good kid. He's done a lot of things in the Minor Leagues -- he should've been here a long time ago. He just never got the chance."
McDonald rejoins Jays for Opening Day
ARLINGTON -- John McDonald was back with the Blue Jays on Monday at Rangers Ballpark, but manager Cito Gaston said he would only use the veteran infielder in an emergency situation on Opening Day against the Rangers. McDonald has been fighting flu-like symptoms for a few days.
"[We'll use him] only if we really, really need him," Gaston said. "He's the last guy on the bench today. He looks OK, but he's a little weak."
McDonald spent Friday and Saturday back home in Connecticut to be with his ailing father, and rejoined the Blue Jays on Sunday in Arlington. McDonald was told to stay back at the team's hotel rather than attend Sunday's workout. McDonald said he was feeling better on Monday.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.