GM liked Gibbons' attitude, 'pen management

Updated: October 4, 2004, 8:32 PM ET
Associated Press

TORONTO -- John Gibbons is getting one chance to turn the Toronto Blue Jays around, and he's happy to have it.

Gibbons was given a one-year contract Monday to return as manager after guiding the last-place Blue Jays to a 20-30 record during the final eight weeks of the season.

"I haven't accomplished anything at this level. It gives me an opportunity. There was no way I was going to do turn it down," Gibbons said. "Everybody likes security, but you know what? They thought enough of me, to at least give me a year to try it, it says a lot."

Gibbons took over as interim manager on Aug. 8, when Carlos Tosca was fired after the team opened 47-64. General manager J.P. Ricciardi liked Gibbons' upbeat attitude and the way he handled the bullpen.

"We're just going to see. Hopefully, as things go forward we'll extend it," Ricciardi said, referring to Gibbons' contract.

The team also hired former Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt as bench coach Monday, and Brad Arnsberg was named pitching coach. Arnsberg was previously a pitching coach for the Florida Marlins and Montreal Expos.

Whitt, a fan favorite, has always wanted to be a major league manager, and he could take over the Blue Jays if Gibbons' contract isn't extended.

"Does that threaten me? No, because I know what kind of guy he is. And if I do my job the right way then maybe this thing will continue," Gibbons said. "I'm just glad we got him because he's one of the all-time favorites here."

Toronto finished 67-94 this season, its most losses since 1980 (67-95). Ricciardi said it could take three years for the Blue Jays to become contenders.

"I don't think we'll be knocking on the door next year," said Ricciardi, in the third year of a five-year rebuilding plan. "We're going to build this through player development and scouting. It may take five years, it may take seven years."

The 42-year-old Gibbons had been the Blue Jays' first-base coach since Tosca took over for Buck Martinez on June 3, 2002.

Gibbons, a former catcher who had 50 career at-bats in 18 games with the New York Mets in 1984, '86 and '87, spent seven seasons as a minor league manager with the Mets, working his way up to Triple-A Norfolk. He compiled a 482-420 record in the minors, then joined Toronto as its bullpen catcher in 2002.

One of his minor league teammates was Ricciardi, who is modeling the Blue Jays after his previous employer -- the small-market Oakland Athletics.

The Blue Jays are expected to lose slugger Carlos Delgado, who can become a free agent after the World Series. The A's lost stars such as Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada in recent years.

Delgado, the franchise leader in home runs and RBIs, earned $18.5 million this season.

"I don't even know if we can pay him money that's going to make him say, 'Hey geez, I really want to stay here,"' Ricciardi said.

Ricciardi might leave when his contract expires after the 2007 season.

"I didn't come looking for this job. They came and interviewed me for this job. The reason I took this job was the challenge in front of it," Ricciardi said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press