The Toronto Blue Jays’ 2011 season opens today as the Minnesota Twins—including Canadian slugger Justin Morneau—pay a visit to the Rogers Centre. The game is sold out, and there’s a renewed sense of hope surrounding the boys of summer (never mind the fact that two major baseball writers—Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated and SB Nation’s Rob Neyer—both picked the Jays to finish dead last in the American League East). There’s fresh blood in the clubhouse, the team has a straight talkin’ general manager in Alex Anthopoulos and the organization finally seems ready to leave the halcyon days of the early ’90s behind in order to focus on building for the future. All this amounts to a genuine feeling of optimism about the Blue Jays’ prospects, regardless of whether they rise or fall in the AL East ranks.
So, with that fresh outlook in mind, what better way to open a new season than to start at the top? Over the course of the coming weeks, we’ll work our way through the Blue Jays’ batting order, profiling each of the Jays’ positional players in turn. Today, we lead off with the lead-off man, newcomer Rajai Davis.
RAJAI DAVIS: The Lead-Off Man
Position: Centre field
History: Davis came over in the off-season from the Oakland Athletics in an effort to replace Vernon Wells, who was jettisoned by Anthopoulos, along with his albatross of a contract. Davis is a career major league journeyman, but his numbers have improved with every passing season, which is a good sign given the club’s focus on the future.
Role: A speedster on the base paths, Davis gives the Jays the real threat of a stolen base for the first time in years. Last year, he finished second in the American League in stolen bases with 50, whereas the entire Toronto squad had a combined total of 59. Of course, Davis is very different from Wells. He likely won’t be smacking the ball out of the park or winning gold gloves in the outfield, but he’ll play an important part in changing the complexion of this year’s side. According to Toronto Star baseball guru Richard Griffin, “It’s likely that Davis is the most important change as far as the club’s offensive success is concerned.”
• Griffin: Rajai Davis centre of attention in the field and on the bases [Toronto Star]
• Davis to set the pace for Jays [Globe and Mail]
• Let’s hope Moseby stays in mothballs [Globe and Mail]
• What to expect from the Blue Jays in 2011 [National Post]
• Blue Jays bask in genuine optimism [National Post]
• Jays’ Davis ready to entertain [Toronto Sun]