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Blue Jays fail to live up to hype in home opener

Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista tosses his bat after a called strike in the fifth inning of their opening day MLB American League baseball
Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista tosses his bat after a called strike in the fifth inning of their opening day MLB American League baseball

By Frank Pingue

TORONTO (Reuters) - Excitement over Toronto's offseason of blockbuster trades and big-time spending fizzled on Tuesday when the Blue Jays slumped to a 4-1 home loss to Cleveland in their Major League Baseball season opener.

A sellout crowd packed into the Rogers Center for one of the most anticipated openers of the team's 36-year existence, and while Toronto failed to fire against the Indians, manager John Gibbons savored the atmosphere.

"It was tremendous," Gibbons said. "The fans were into it, they were excited. I know they are all disappointed but we're not. That's part of baseball.

"We just got outplayed tonight. But they'll be back. We got a good ball club and they'll have a fun, entertaining year this year I believe."

After several disappointing seasons, including a fourth-place finish in the five-team American League East last year, the Blue Jays broke from tradition by spending big to lure high-profile players to Canada's only MLB team.

But none of the new faces on the active Opening Day roster, which featured 11 new players acquired in the offseason, managed to deliver.

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, acquired from the New York Mets last December after winning the Cy Young Award as the National League's top pitcher, looked out of sorts in his debut as the ace of the Blue Jays' pitching rotation.

Dickey lacked the command he showcased last year, allowing four runs, three of them earned, and five hits in six innings. He walked four batters and struck out four.

Besides Dickey, Toronto signaled a commitment to winning their first World Series title since 1993 by landing shortstop Jose Reyes, starters Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, and second baseman Emilio Bonifacio in a deal with Miami, as well as free agents Melky Cabrera and Maicer Izturis.

Reyes, Cabrera, Izturis and Bonifacio combined for just two hits in the loss and a crowd that helped create an electric atmosphere when the game started walked quietly to the exits.

While the Blue Jays fell short in their opening game, the result will likely do little to dampen the buzz around baseball in Toronto, who won consecutive World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

In a grueling 162-game season spread across six months, fans and players alike know there is plenty of time to deliver on the lofty expectations that have been building for months.

"You wish it would've went different, you hoped for it to be different. Opening night and everybody's here full of energy," Dickey told reporters.

"But the nature of this game is it's a marathon and you can't panic and nobody in here is panicking."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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