The Blue Jays made some major changes to their roster this winter in order to close the gap in the American League East.
They went out and signed a top starting pitcher, an All-Star closer and a Gold Glove winning catcher. The Jays also traded for an accomplished slugger who was a World Series MVP and they acquired a first baseman with star potential.
Arguably the best move Toronto made, though, had nothing to do with change. On March 16, the Blue Jays agreed to a contract extension through 2010 with Roy Halladay, who will be Toronto's Opening Day starter for the fourth year in a row.
Any success that Toronto might have this year will rely heavily on the arm of its ace.
"To me, he stands for the Toronto Blue Jays," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said early in Spring Training. "When you look at him, I think guys who come in here, they recognize 'Doc.' He has to stand for something, and he stands for what we're trying to do."
What Toronto is trying to do is contend for its first playoff berth since 1993. Having Halladay on the mound for a full season will greatly increase the odds of that happening. Last year, the Blue Jays were tied with the Yankees in wins when a line drive broke Halladay's left tibia on July 8 and sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
Instead of starting for the AL in the All-Star Game and possibly picking up his second Cy Young Award in three years, Halladay was forced to watch as Toronto struggled to stay at the break-even mark.
New York went on to win the division and Toronto finished 80-82 and placed third for the seventh time in eight years.
The leg hasn't bothered Halladay since early in the offseason and he went through Spring Training without any lingering issues. He jumped right back into his rigorous workout routine and appears poised for another strong campaign.
"The one thing about Doc is he's always going to be the hardest working guy out there," Ricciardi said. "He's going to do everything he can to make himself ready. So from our standpoint, we don't worry about him, you just worry about if something happens like what happened last year. You can't control that."
What Ricciardi could control was the process of surrounding Halladay with the type of players that can possibly bring winning baseball back to Toronto. During the flurry of winter moves, the Jays signed A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan and Bengie Molina, and they also pulled deals for Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay.
Those additions, along with the young, talented group already in place, might help remind the baseball world that there is more to the AL East than just New York and Boston.
"J.P.'s made it pretty clear about what he wants to make happen here. I think it was more of a speculation in the past, and hopes," Halladay said at the press conference for his contract extension. "Now it's started to become more of a reality."
|Blue Jays probable lineup|
MIN: LHP Johan Santana
16-7, 2.87 ERA in 2005
1-1, 6.57 ERA in 2005 vs. TOR
2-2, 3.82 ERA lifetime vs. TOR TOR: RHP Roy Halladay
12-4, 2.41 ERA in 2005
1-0, 0.00 ERA in 2005 vs. MIN
4-0, 2.17 ERA lifetime vs. MIN On the Internet
Official game notes On television
MIN: FSN On radio
TOR: CKTB 610AM
MIN: WCCO 830 AM On deck
Wednesday: vs. Minnesota, 7:07 p.m. ET
Thursday: vs. Minnesota, 7:07 p.m. ET
Friday: vs. Tampa Bay, 7:07 p.m. ET
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.