Romero, Vizquel high on Jays

Ricky Romero will start on the mound for the Blue Jays when they open a promising 2012 season...

Ricky Romero will start on the mound for the Blue Jays when they open a promising 2012 season Thursday in Cleveland against the Indians. (REUTERS)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

CLEVELAND - Ricky Romero will be leading his swaggering, arrogant, we-got-attitude, ass-kicking teammates into battle when they open the 2012 season Thursday afternoon against the Indians.

Whether the Jays can back up Romero’s words remains to be seen but the 2012 Blue Jays maintain that they will not go meekly into the night.

On the day before the first of 162 battles, Romero did not back away from the words he uttered last Saturday in Clearwater.

“I’m not making it seem like we’re on top of the world, because we’re not. We’ve still got a lot of work to do and we understand that,” Romero said in the Jays dugout at Progressive Field. “When I made those comments it was more, yeah, this team is building that swagger that in the past we really didn’t have, which is a good thing.

“We should feel like we can beat anyone. That’s what we play for. We play to win and the only way that this is going to change is if we win. If we don’t win we’re going to be sitting in October wondering what happened.

“But I feel like this team is determined and you saw it this spring. The spring is over and it’s good to win but it doesn’t mean anything now. It’s go time from here.”

The Jays of 2012 all believe they are an upgrade over last year’s squad, even with the lack of experience in the bottom three spots of their rotation that will this week be occupied by Joel Carreno, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek, a trio that has all of six major league wins.

They have a deeper, better bullpen that is anchored by a legitimate closer in Sergio Santos. They have a lineup that is more athletic than they have had in years and it will be exciting to see just what the likes of Brett Lawrie can do over the course of his first full season as well as how much growth will there be from J.P. Arencibia and Eric Thames and how much rebound from the likes of Adam Lind, Kelly Johnson and Colby Rasmus.

“The team is building around a group of great guys and there’s a lot of talent around that clubhouse,” Romero said. “It’s definitely exciting to be a Blue Jays fan and be part of this organization.

“For me to start it off is special. It was special for me last year being my first one and this one is just as special. Getting out here, pitching in front of a big crowd is going to be fun.”

It’s not just Romero who has set his sights high. Veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel will be celebrating his 24th consecutive season in the big leagues and in his brief time with the Jays he likes what he sees. He has been on some great young Cleveland and Texas teams in the past and believes this Jays squad compares favourably.

“I do feel it, I feel like this team has a lot to offer this year,” Vizquel said. “The numbers that we put up in spring training, I think they’re really real. We can’t wait to get it started.

“I saw this kind of attitude, this kind of excitement when I was with the Texas Rangers right before they made it to the World Series (2009) and I saw this kind of excitement on the Cleveland teams of a long time ago. So it is a pleasure to see all the guys coming together as a group and I think we’re going to get it done on the field now.”

Manager John Farrell may be the lead cheerleader but he is not one to make rash statements. He truly believes in his troops.

“Our win-loss record is not going to hinge on the confidence that we have, it’s going to hinge on the talent and capabilities that we have,” Farrell said. “I like out team. I like our roster. I think we’re capable of doing a number of things inside of a given game.

“We’ve had a very good spring and we’re growing in confidence as a group. It’s a young, athletic and energetic group that believes in one another. They like one another, they work very well together and they go out and look forward to competing on a daily basis.”

While the Jays are coming off an 81-win season, they don’t think a playoff spot is a pipe dream. It’s what they are all shooting for.

“The critics can say whatever they want,” Romero said. “Who expected the Cardinals to win it (World Series) last year? Did anybody pick them? Nobody. We’ll leave you guys (media) to do the talking and we’ll do the talking on the field. That’s the only way we’re going to shut the critics up.

“Like I said this team is built around a great core and we just have to go out and play. That’s the only thing that’s going to determine if we’re going to play in October. We’ve got to take it one game at a time and if we do that we’re going to be fine.”

Starting Thursday, they get to show what they’ve got.

It could be a wild ride.


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