DUNEDIN, Fla. – Jose Reyes arrived at spring training on Tuesday and declared that there is no reason to worry about lingering after-effects from the left ankle sprain that spoiled his first season with the Toronto Blue Jays.
"Way different," is how he described the feeling in his ankle now compared to the end of the 2013 campaign. "I feel like this off-season I was able to move how I want to. Last year it was tough for me, running the bases, going first to second, stuff like that, it bothered me a little bit, but this year it’s no concern at all.
"I’m not going to say it’s normal because I don’t think after you injury an ankle it’s going to be normal again, but it’s way better than last year."
Reyes tore up his ankle on an awkward slide last April 12 and didn’t return until June 26, with his mobility hampered. But the more he played the better he looked, and by season’s end he spoke optimistically about what a full off-season of work would do for the ankle.
Specific exercises for his ankle were incorporated into his winter regimen, and "I have a routine I have to do during the season to continue to get my ankle stronger," he added. "But right now it’s nothing to worry about."
ON THE HUNT FOR STARTERS?: The Blue Jays already passed on Ubaldo Jimenez and unless positions suddenly shift for both them and Ervin Santana, the last impactful free agent starter remaining may end up elsewhere, too.
Should GM Alex Anthopoulos end up standing pat with the crew he has, could that be deflating for a team that surely expected some help to be brought in?
"Some people might look at it that way, others won’t," manager John Gibbons said. "There’s no question we struggled with our starting pitching last year, so naturally you’re looking to upgrade that. But it’s not easy to do. There were a couple of (trades) in the works that ended up falling through and then with the free agents, there’s a little bit of a bidding war out there, it’s not automatic that you’re going to get those guys. The guys that are gone, that signed with other teams, (Matt) Garza and of course Jimenez, Alex worked hard to try and sign those guys, it just didn’t happen. We’ll see.
"It’s got to fit what you’re trying to do, got to fit your plan, but for me personally, I like this group in here and we’ll just approach it that way. You can’t always get what you want."
As for Santana, Gibbons carefully sidestepped any questions about how much interest the Blue Jays may have in the right-hander. "(Anthopoulos) likes him, we all like him," he said. "What that means I can’t tell you."
OPENING UP: R.A. Dickey will be the Blue Jays’ opening day starter for a second straight season, but the order of the starters behind him remains unresolved.
The Blue Jays open the season with a four-game series at the Tampa Bay Rays beginning March 31, before returning home April 4 to host the New York Yankees for three contests.
"It’ll be Dickey," manager John Gibbons confirmed Tuesday. "He’ll open up down in Tampa where he pitches very well, he’s had some good outings down there, and he’s our guy."
Behind him, "we’ll look at it," explained Gibbons, "depending how it all shakes down, who pitches well against certain teams. (J.A.) Happ’s always pitched good against the Yankees, that doesn’t mean anything, but you look at things like that."
D-UP: Porous defence contributed to the Blue Jays’ slow start last year but Jose Reyes is confident that an infield including himself at shortstop, Brett Lawrie at third base and Ryan Goins at second base will make a big difference.
"I think we’re going to be real good," Reyes said. "You can see the little time we spent together last year was unbelievable. I don’t know what the Jays were thinking when they tried make Lawrie a second baseman. For me personally, he’s one of the best third baseman defensive-wise in the game. He’s unbelievable, good range, he made me play easier at shortstop because he (covers) so much space there."
Another key difference is that there’s no World Baseball Classic to pull players for camp, giving Reyes and Goins a chance to build more cohesiveness. While that can be overstated – Reyes noted that he’s played with many different second basemen over his career – he adds, "it helps you when from the beginning of spring training you’re working with one guy. It just makes you feel more comfortable."