CLEARWATER, Florida – J.A. Happ got the start in the Blue Jays rain-shortened, Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies but it was Todd Redmond who left an early impression on his manager. "Redmonds like anybody else, hes going to get hit every now and then but all weve ever seen out of him is good pitching and he gets guys out," said John Gibbons. "Hes pretty polished." The 29-year-old pitched two clean innings, the second and third, striking out a batter over 22 pitches. He got the win, for what thats worth on February 26, in a 4-3 game called midway through the seventh. Redmond is among more than a half-dozen pitchers in contention for the last starting rotation spot. While not much can be made of one outing, Redmonds performance resonated following a comment Gibbons made before the game. "Usually what happens, when theres a spot open, the guy that takes it, some of those guys have those springs where theyre good all spring and theres no doubt about it ... a lot of times that guy from day one, man, hes standing out and theres no hiccups." All Redmonds ever wanted is an opportunity. Here it is, less than three months before hell turn 29. Think hes overwhelmed? Redmonds been around too long – eight minor league cities over nine seasons – to get rattled by the best chance hes had to crack an opening day roster. "Im an easy-going guy," said Redmond. "Just give me the ball, Ill go out there and pitch. Same thing as I do every day. I pitch." Redmond made 17 appearances for the Blue Jays last season, 14 of them starts. Hed only made one previous appearance in the majors, a start for the Reds in 2012 that didnt go well. Familiarity breeds a sense of comfort. "I have a little more confidence coming into camp. Of my stuff, not of me, just of my stuff. More trusting of my ability," he said. As a starter last season, Redmond slowly earned Gibbons trust, which allowed Redmond to pitch deeper into games. If hes going to succeed at the major league level, however, Redmond will have to vastly improve his numbers facing hitters for a second and third time through the order. Batters have a .627 on-base plus slugging percentage against Redmond the first time through. Redmonds OPS against spikes to .939 when the lineup turns over and .914 the third time around. He insists durability isnt an issue. "My entire career, if you look at my minor league side of it, I dont think Ive ever thrown under 160 innings a year," said Redmond. "The workload. Thats one thing I take pride in is being able to go out there every fifth day and take the ball." Redmonds almost right. In the seven seasons between 2007 and 2012, he logged at least 160 innings five times and never through less than 145 innings. Having worked a modified heavy ball program this offseason, he would typically stretch with the one-pound or two-pound weighted ball prior to throwing, Redmond says his should feels strong as he makes the push for a job in the rotation. "Hes been a good pitcher in the minor leagues," said Gibbons. "Every year hes pretty steady and he never really had that opportunity until he came here last year. If this is his year he makes it and he goes on to have a good year, hell be a big league player and I dont think there will be any looking back." DRABEK UNHAPPY WITH PERFORMANCE Kyle Drabek was visibly upset with his first spring performance, a line that looked like this: 1.2IP/1ER/1H/3BB/1K. In his only full inning of work, Drabek threw 11 pitches but only four for strikes. A candidate for that final rotation spot, he was most bothered by the lack of command. "Ive had it so good in all the bullpens," said Drabek. "Its just frustrating for me to kind of fall back into being wild a little bit. I know what I can do and thats not me." "Kyles whole thing, get it into the zone and hes fine," said Gibbons. "Hes had a long layoff through the surgery. He pitched some last year but in a lot of ways, hes been out for so long it may be something that he can build back into." The 26-year-old has a history of control problems. Hes averaged 5.8 walks per nine innings over 169 1/3 big league innings. Returning from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery last season, Drabek vastly improved his walk rate, issuing just six bases on balls over 43 innings. BAUTISTA IMPRESSIVE It took Jose Bautista all of three pitches to appear in midseason form. He smacked a 2-0, Roberto Hernandez fastball out of the park, literally. The drive to left field cleared the Phillies bullpen, the walkway behind the bullpen and the fence beyond the walkway. "I dont know, for whatever reason, I feel like Im seeing (the ball) better," said Bautista. "Theres nothing that I could have done different. Im not going to go to play winter ball right now. Its kind of odd because I havent played since August. But Im not complaining." CABRERA LIKELY TO HIT SECOND Its not even March, everyone is healthy, and manager John Gibbons is able to envision putting together a full lineup, something he wasnt able to do all of last season. Jose Reyes will lead off and, as the plan was at this time last year, Melky Cabrera has the inside track to bat behind him. "The only real downfall is he does hit a lot of ground balls but you look at what hes done the last few years, take away last year, and hes been one of the better hitters in baseball," said Gibbons. "We like guys there that can get a lot of hits. Hes a switch-hitter, he can manipulate the bat a little bit, he knows how to do those things. Ideally, if hes the player we expect him to be, than hed be a good guy for that spot." One thing Cabrera doesnt do often is walk, an ideal trait of a two-hole hitter and something that would get him on base more often ahead of sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. After walking 56 times in 2006, his first full year in the big leagues, Cabrera hasnt had more than 43 bases on balls in a season. A HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE Nobody wants to read about or hear about injury as an excuse for the Jays disappointing 2013 year. But a little perspective never hurt anyone, either. Last season, manager John Gibbons had these six players – Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie – in the lineup at the same time on only eight occasions all year. It happened over an 11-day period, starting on July 21 and ending on August 1. Magic Johnson USA Jersey
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. And yet as they left TD Garden amid the slush and snow of a winter storm on Thursday evening, there was a sense among the Leafs that they had finally stood toe to toe with their long-time bully, only to fall just short. Harrison Barnes Team USA Jersey
. There was little fanfare, though, when the Yankees captain was taken out of his final regular-season Subway Series game in the eighth inning. Jeter watched the last four outs from the bench, pulled off the field during a double switch Thursday night as the Yankees held off the Mets 1-0. Patrick Ewing USA Jersey
. James Harden wasnt worried and told his coach as much. "He was fired up but I told him: Its OK. Were going to be all right," Harden said. And they were. Houston scored 17 straight points after that timeout, led by 10 from Harden, to take the lead and roll to an easy 129-106 win.MONTREAL - Montreal Impact players painted a picture of a leaderless, clique-ridden squad as they wrapped up a dismal Major League Soccer season Monday.A 1-1 draw with D.C. United on Saturday left Montreal with a 6-18-10 record and last overall in the 19-team league. It was a season that started badly and only got marginally better.There will be changes for sure, but I also believe in continuity, said coach Frank Klopas. Were not here to make a lot of changes.The team that squeaked into the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot despite a second-half collapse in 2013 carried its disjointed, error-prone play into this season by posting only one win in its first 11 matches.The low points were seven straight losses in July and August and an 0-12-5 road record for the year. The positives were winning the Canadian Championship and reaching the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League.As players were brought out three at a time to meet the media, a few veterans spoke of how the loss of defender Alessandro Nesta to retirement and moving captain Davy Arnaud to D.C. left the team short of leadership needed to get through the bad times.Alessandro and Davy leaving left a big void for sure, said goalkeeper Evan Bush. Looking forward, thats something that definitely needs to be addressed, as far as which guys will step up in leadership roles.A guy like (captain) Patrice Bernier, maybe its not his character to be the vocal one, but he leads in other ways. There are other guys who lead by example as well, but you also need guys that step up when things are going poorly and kind of right the ship in the locker room by saying things as well.That the Impact had no one take charge may stem from the other problem — cliques.The club has its Americans, a French-speaking Canadian contingent mostly from the teams academy, Latin Americans and Italian stars Matteo Ferrari and Marco Di Vaio, who retired after the final regular-season game.Most MLS clubs have players from around the world, but Montreals squad is especially diverse. The team has actively sought an international flavour and style of play rather than the more physical American game preferred by many of its opponents.The challenge in that approach is maintaining unity.Were always going to be a cosmopolitan team, said Bernier. Players hang around with guys from their own country.In tough moments, its not easy because youre always asking questions. And when you lose, people say you have cliques. The ethnicity of this team is what makes it what it is. Montreals always going to be compared to other clubs as a team with a lot of foreign backgrounds.Its going to have to be worked on from the beginning so players coming in feel at home here and feel like theyre part of the project.Last years Swiss coach, Marco Schallibaum, was big on team-building exercises, doing things not necessarily related to soccer away from the pitch. The Greek-American Klopas isnt so much.Canadian midfielder Issey Nakajima-Farran, acquired in midseason from Toronto FC, said it should be part of next seasons program.Theres a lot more diversity in this group of guys than in any group Ive ever dealt with, which is 10 or 12 teams, the veteran said. Thats definitely something well have to work on for next year because what happens in the changing room and training field is what happens on the pitch.There was a lot of controversy throughout the season that weve got to address. Were not as colleective as we should be.ddddddddddddThings like that take team activities, things outside the training ground.Of course, the natural leader would be Ignacio Piatti, the designated player from Argentina who arrived in August on a three-year contract. Piatti made it clear from the start with his play that hell be one of the most gifted and entertaining players in MLS.However, Piatti speaks Spanish and Italian but not English so locker-room speeches may be a problem. Same for midfielder Andres Romero, an Argentine who was named the teams player of the year.Romero, who was dreadful last season, was one of Montreals best and most consistent attacking players. He was also one of the few midfielders to stay healthy, unlike Justin Mapp, who had a strong start, or striker Di Vaio.Bernier, a native of Brossard, Que., is one of four players whose contracts are up. The others are defenders Heath Pearce and Futty Danso and goalie Troy Perkins.Klopas said he wants the 35-year-old Bernier back but added the players salaries will be part of the decision on which are signed.Hed like to keep Perkins and Bush as a goaltending tandem but salary may come into play. That bodes poorly for Perkins, who was the starter for the first half of the season but then lost his job to Bush, who has the added bonus of being much less expensive.First off, I wouldnt want to return to a place Im not wanted, said Perkins. I didnt think I deserved the blame for what happened in the first part of the season and I think it was put on me.Nakajima-Farran didnt like being used sparingly either, although minutes were scarce with a glut of attacking midfielders.Its always up to the coach and hes always going to have his preferences, but with the season we had I felt there should have been a lot more experimenting, he said. It was the same kind of lineup and it made it predictable what we were going to do, which a lot of teams also saw and took away the points from.The central defence will be looked at closely. The Impact were caught short when Nelson Rivas did not shake off his chronic injury trouble and Spaniard Adrian Lopez suffered a second season-ending ailment in as many years.That left Ferrari with inexperienced partners for most of the season, which is partly why the Impact repeatedly gave away points on late goals.Help may come from Gege Soriola, a Nigerian signed late in the season who has yet to play a match, and Adam Straith of Victoria, who is currently without a club but trained with the Impact on Monday.They also need to replace Di Vaios skill and experience at striker. Jack McInerney, acquired from Philadelphia early in the season, will be the first choice but Montreal will likely go outside to seek depth at that position.Despite the losses, there were players who stepped up their game this season, including Romero.Calum Mallace, all but forgotten his first two seasons, emerged as an imposing defensive midfielder and Dilly Duka, acquired in midseason from Chicago, proved to be a decent playmaker.The focus at training camp in January will be preparing for a Champions League tie with powerful Pachuca of Mexico. But Montreal doesnt want another weak regular season.I feel this was a year of transition, said Ferrari. We changed the coach, we changed a lot of players.Its difficult to find all the right things. After a while, we started to play better. Piatti helped us a lot. So next year we should have momentum to start better. 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