Blue Jays fire Gibbons, bring back Cito Gaston

{eot} Staff
6/20/2008 8:27:31 PM
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After being swept in Milwaukee by the Brewers and losing five straight games, the Toronto Blue Jays have fired manager John Gibbons, coaches Marty Pevey, Ernie Whitt and Gary Denbo.

Cito Gaston has returned as the manager. Nick Leyva will coach at third base and Gene Tenace returns as the hitting coach.  Roving hitting instructor Dwayne Murphy will take over as the first base coach.

"From our standpoint we've underachieved," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said at a news conference. "We know we have a better team than this. Right now we want to see if we can spark this team and we think Cito is the guy to do it."

Gaston becomes the first two-time manager of the Blue Jays, moving over from his position as club ambassador and special assistant to the president and CEO.

He managed the Blue Jays from 1989-1997 and led the team to four playoff appearances including back-to-back championships in 1992 and 1993.

"We're going to see if we can't start the season over tonight," Gaston told the media. "I think we have the hitters to do that and give the pitching staff some breathing room."

The team made the announcement Friday afternoon in Pittsburgh before the start of their three game series with the Pirates.

The Jays, who were expected to contend in the AL East and the Wild Card, find themselves in last place in the division with a 35-39 record.

"Obviously, the organization thought it was time to make a change," third baseman Scott Rolen told THE CANADIAN PRESS. "I have nothing but the highest regard and the best things to say about my time with Gibby."

"It's the worst part of the job when the manager gets the blame," Lyle Overbay told reporters Friday. "It's too bad because it's really the players."

Gibbons, took over the Jays job at the end of the 2004 season, replacing Carlos Tosca.  In three full seasons from 2004-2008 under Gibbons, the Jays never finished with fewer than 80 wins or more than 87.

"You never really anticipate it, there's always that possibility," Gibbons said during a conference call. "We were struggling, there's no question about that. Hopefully change is good. I'm still a big fan of these guys and I want to see them succeed."

In 610 career games as a manger, Gibbons has a 305-305 record.  He was making $650,000 this year.

"You deal with that and life goes on, baseball goes on," Gibbons said.  "I got a family, heck it isn't the worst thing to spend a couple of months with my kids."

The 61-year-old Tenace worked as the Blue Jays' hitting coach and bench coach between 1990-97. Leyva also is making a return to the Jays.  The 54-year old was the third-base coach from 1993-97.

Gaston becomes the fourth Blue Jays manager in seven years under General Manager J.P. Ricciardi. Tosca replaced the fired Buck Martinez, whom Ricciardi inherited from former GM Gord Ash.

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