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Blue Jays look within for return to relevance

By Frank Pingue

An emphasis on homegrown talent, where a ball club signs and develops players from within, is a time-consuming process but one considered necessary for a Blue Jays team that has not made the playoffs since 1993.

"The last regime here set this team back 15 years by not paying attention to the draft and scouting, and that was always the backbone of the Blue Jays," former Toronto manager Buck Martinez told Reuters before the Blue Jays 8-5 defeat of the Baltimore Orioles Thursday.

"For an eight-year span they just neglected their minor league system and now (general manager) Alex Anthopoulos has to rebuild that minor league system."

Anthopoulos, named general manager in 2009, has shown he is up for the task of strengthening the team's minor league system following a pair of drafts that earned him passing grades from observers.

Not helping matters is the Blue Jays' American League East, which has produced six of the last 13 World Series champions and is considered one of the toughest divisions in Major League Baseball.

"This team can win in this division but you have to have homegrown players that believe in your organization," said Martinez.

"You can't bring mercenaries into a pennant race because they don't care. They come, they play, they earn their money and they go home at night."

"RESTOCK THE SHELVES"

The Blue Jays capped off a three-game series against the Orioles with victory Thursday in a matchup of two teams who have not been in contention late in a season for some time.

The Blue Jays are 12 games behind the division-leading Red Sox with two months left in the regular season while the Orioles are 22 back.

The game marked the Blue Jays debut of Colby Rasmus, a 24-year-old former first-round pick of St. Louis that Toronto traded for Wednesday and who Anthopoulos expects will be part of the team's core for years to come.

Colby, who went 0-5 in his first game as a Blue Jay, joins a Toronto team whose starting lineup against the Orioles boasted five players drafted by the team.

"They have all of the resources necessary now," said Martinez. "They have the scouts and development people in place, now they have to go out and restock the shelves and if you have 10 percent of your prospects come through you are going to win championships."

(Editing by Ian Ransom; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)