Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Blue Jays Are Feeling Loose under Post-Season Spotlight in Cleveland

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Blue Jays Are Feeling Loose under Post-Season Spotlight in Cleveland

Article excerpt

Jays loose under post-season spotlight

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CLEVELAND - A loose bunch of Blue Jays wasted little time making some changes to their Progressive Field home away from home for the American League Championship Series with Cleveland.

With the clubhouse closed to the media during the post-season, it was up to centre-fielder Kevin Pillar to partially spill the beans.

"All of our name plates have been changed from our normal names," Pillar said as the Toronto players met reporters in a stadium restaurant ahead of Game 1 Friday with the Indians. "I wasn't in there during it but someone's given everyone nicknames already. Not the nicest of nicknames but that's just how we are -- we keep it loose, we keep it fun.

"No one is safe, whether you're the MVP, a multiple-time all-star or the rookie sitting across. Everyone's got free rein to say what they want and do what they want and that's what makes the environment so fun."

Could he reveal his nickname, Pillar was asked.

"No, no. I won't," he said quickly.

How about any nickname?

"No, not sharing them," Pillar said, vigorously shaking his head.

Staying loose is nothing new for the Blue Jays, who are trying to make the most of the post-season moment after falling one game short of the World Series last season on a dramatic night in Kansas City.

"Enjoy (it)," veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said Thursday. "That's what I try to tell all these young guys on the team. It's not easy to get here. For it to be our second year in a row speaks volumes about the guys on this team."

Having recovered from a 3-9 start to September, they fought their way into the playoffs, survived the wild-card hurdle and swept Texas in the AL Division Series. The Jays are feeling pretty good about themselves.

"I'd say we're looser," Tulowitzki said. "Just because we know the group that we have and we're at our best when we're loose. Our backs have been up against the wall really for a good portion of the season if you look at it. We didn't win our division. We never went on a huge huge run the whole season. We grinded the whole way through."

"We feel like we're just playing with house money a little bit," he added. "And it's really the way to go for us. We have fun with it. We play better like that. And we're trying to stay the same."

Manager John Gibbons says his players have succeeded in doing just that.

"They haven't changed along the way one bit. Good times, bad times. I think that's good for a team," he said, leaning back in his chair in a spartan visiting manager's office that could double as a home to a prison administrator.

"I haven't noticed one difference, to be honest with you."

Catcher Russell Martin does see a calmness and maturity growing out of the team's experience in last year's post-season. But he also sees a group having fun playing baseball.

"We like to make it seem bigger than what it is," he said. …

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