Before the curtain went up on Friday night's regular-season opener, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell described how he would like to see things unfold for Ricky Romero, his talented young left-handed starter.
Farrell said he knew Romero's adrenalin would be pumping while on the mound against the Minnesota Twins before a jam-packed, hyped-up, sold-out throng at Rogers Centre.
"Ultimately, when he records the first out, that's when I think a starting pitcher can kind of exhale and get into the flow of the game a little bit more," Farrell said. "Hopefully that's a ground ball to shortstop to lead off the game and we're moving on."
Farrell didn't get what he hoped for, but he was close.
Minnesota leadoff hitter Denard Span grounded out to second and the Blue Jays - and Romero - were, indeed, moving on.
Unveiling a lineup that Farrell promises will rock and roll on the base paths, the Blue Jays struck for four runs in the first inning and cakewalked to a 13-3 victory to begin the season in style. Toronto's new emphasis on aggressive base running was evident early after Rajai Davis, the speedy centre fielder, legged out an infield single leading off the first.
Davis's exuberance almost cost him as he nearly got picked off at first when Minnesota starter Carl Pavano caught him leaning the wrong way. After a brief rundown, Davis dived back safely into first.
Davis took second on a single by Yunel Escobar and then the pair pulled off a double steal. Toronto then loaded the bases when Jose Bautista worked a walk.
Adam Lind was then plunked by a Pavano pitch, scoring the first of four runs in the frame.
And just to let everybody know they haven't forsaken the power game for small ball, the Blue Jays also launched four home runs in the contest to earn Farrell his first victory in his first game as manager.
So what's not to like?
John Farrell has been insisting that the Blue Jays would take more chances on the base paths this season after a rather nonchalant approach last year in which the home run was king. True to the manager's word, Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar delighted the hometown fans with a successful double steal in the first inning. The number of successful double steals the Blue Jays had last year: zero.
Calling all fans After a down year at the box office last season, the Jays were delighted not only by Friday's sellout (announced at 47,984) but a general sense that there appears to be a lot more interest in the boys of summer this year. Blue Jays officials said they were expecting crowds in the 25,000 range for each of the remaining two games against the Twins. "The fact that we've got every seat filled here [Friday night]is a great sign, even more encouraged by the numbers that are projected over the weekend," Farrell said.
Romero solid The young lefty was in control most of the way in earning the victory in his first opening-day start. Romero retired eight of the first nine batters he faced and 16 of the first 18. He pitched into the seventh inning, striking out seven while allowing three runs (one earned) off seven hits.
Arencibia's a hit
After a rotten spring in which he batted just .161 in 24 games, J.P. Arencibia was obviously saving his stroke for the start of the regular season. The young catcher slugged two home runs in the game along with a triple in four at-bats to drive in five of the Toronto runs. Jose Bautista, who led the majors in 2010 with 54 homers, picked up where he left off, going back-to-back with Adam Lind in the fifth to chase Carl Pavano from the game. The four home runs tied a Blue Jays opening-day record set in 2000 against the Kansas City Royals.