Ex-manager Gibbons on familiar turf

Ex-manager Gibbons on familiar turf

TORONTO -- When Royals bench coach John Gibbons stepped onto the turf at the Rogers Centre hours before Friday's game, he was greeted by an old friend, Mookie Wilson.

It was a festive occasion Friday night, and not because it was the first time Gibbons has been in Toronto since being dismissed as Blue Jays manager June 20, 2008, in Pittsburgh.

It was also the 20th anniversary of the first game played at the ballpark first known as the SkyDome.

Wilson, who played and coached with Gibbons in the Mets organization, including the 1986 World Series championship team, was in Toronto for the festivities. But like many people, Wilson, also a former Blue Jay, took time to greet Gibbons on his return for a three-game series against the team he managed from August 2004. In fact, it was a procession from former players and employees, general manager J.P. Ricciardi and media.

Gibbons had his family in Pittsburgh when he was let go, so instead of returning to Toronto, they just went back home to San Antonio and all the belongings in Toronto were shipped home.

Managing is an intense job seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and Gibbons admits that it took him a while to wind down after he was home.

"When I was home, I didn't let go for two or three weeks, I mean I was wired," Gibbons said. "You're so used to going to the park every day. I had the baseball package and I'd watch games all night. It didn't make my wife happy. Your intensity is still there, you're used to watching other games and all that. But after two or three weeks, you kind of settle in. It was easy. I'm pretty good at doing nothing."

Gibbons knows Royals manager Trey Hillman, a fellow Texan, from their days coaching and managing in the Minors, and when the call came it was easy for him to agree to the job of bench coach.

Hillman talked a bit before Friday's game about how a manager's job can eat away at a person and how he has learned to enjoy it despite the seven-game losing streak his team brought to Toronto.

Hillman said that Gibbons is the first person into his office after a loss.

"I feel his pain," Gibbons said, when this was mentioned. "When a team's struggling, a lot of the time you feel like a man on an island. Not that everybody stays away from you, but you feel that way."

Gibbons looks more relaxed as bench coach, but he would consider returning to the manager's hot seat again.

"If the opportunity comes up, I'd like to give it another shot," Gibbons said. "I'm not obsessed with it and if it never comes, I had an opportunity and I can live with that."

The Royals defeated the Blue Jays in three of four games April 27-30 when both teams were playing well.

The Royals were 12-10 after that series and reached 18-11 before falling to the 23-29 record they took into the Toronto series. They fell to 23-30 with Friday's 9-3 loss.

"We're just in a rut right now," Gibbons said.

Pitching matchup
KC: RHP Luke Hochevar (0-2, 10.80 ERA)
Beaten out of a job in Spring Training, Hochevar buckled down, posting a 5-0 record at Triple-A Omaha to earn a promotion May 10 to take Sidney Ponson's rotation spot. After three starts and two losses, Hochevar was shipped back to Omaha as the team went to four starters through two and a half turns of the rotation. That time is up and, after two starts and one loss for Omaha, Hochevar gets another shot. When Hochevar gets his sinkerball working, as he seemed to do in his last outing at St. Louis, he can be tough to handle. Last year, he faced the Blue Jays twice, with a 1-1 record and 3.75 ERA. In the victory, he held Toronto to one run in six innings.

TOR: RHP Scott Richmond (4-2, 3.50 ERA)
With two off-days within a week, Richmond's turn in the rotation was skipped, so when he pitches Saturday, it will be his first start since May 24 in Atlanta. In that game, he pitched five innings, earning a no-decision in an 8-2 Jays loss. He gave up two runs on five hits with five strikeouts and did not issue any walks. Both runs came on solo home runs by Kelly Johnson and Brian McCann in the first inning. Richmond also pitched two innings out of the bullpen against the Red Sox at Rogers Centre on May 31, giving up no runs, one hit and one walk while recording one strikeout.

The Royals' loss to the Blue Jays on Friday night was their eighth in a row, their longest losing streak of the season and their longest since dropping 12 in a row from May 19-30, 2008. ... The Royals will announce a move Saturday to make room for Hochevar, who will start Saturday's game. ... Zack Greinke had gone 83 innings this season -- 111 innings going back to last year -- without allowing a home run until Lyle Overbay hit one in the second inning on Friday. ... Roger Clemens (149 2/3 innings) and John Smoltz (119 2/3 innings) own the two longest homerless streaks since 1990. ... Greinke pitched the first complete of his career at Rogers Centre on May 10, 2005, going eight innings in a 3-1 loss. ... In five career starts at Rogers Centre, he is 1-4 with a 7.07 ERA.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• KCSP 610

Up next
• Sunday: Royals (Kyle Davies, 2-5, 5.20) at Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 9-1, 2.77), 12:07 p.m. CT
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Royals (Brian Bannister, 4-3, 4.97) at Indians (Cliff Lee, 3-6, 2.96), 6:05 p.m. CT

Larry Millson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.