So did Toronto’s other new acquisitions.
Roy Halladay outpitched Johan Santana in a matchup of recent Cy Young Award winners, and Ryan earned a save in his Toronto debut as the new-look Blue Jays opened the season with a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
Tired of finishing third behind the big-spending Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East, the Blue Jays signed Gold Glove catcher Bengie Molina, starter A.J. Burnett and Ryan during an expensive offseason overhaul. They also traded for slugger Troy Glaus and first baseman Lyle Overbay.
“You saw it all tonight—by design,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said with a smirk.
The new additions paid off right away. Molina homered off Santana to give Toronto a 3-1 lead. Ryan, signed to a $47 million, five-year contract—the richest ever for a reliever—entered to loud cheers and struck out two in a perfect ninth to close it out.
Ryan took a deep breath before his first pitch and later acknowledged he was nervous.
“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “You want to go out there and prove yourself to the guys in this clubhouse.”
Alex Rios also homered and had three hits for the Blue Jays. Glaus led off the fourth with a double, advanced to third on Overbay’s single and scored on Shea Hillenbrand’s sacrifice fly. Molina followed with a homer off the left-field foul screen.
“All the right moves were made, hopefully,” Overbay said, referring to the offseason. “It’s just the way it happened today.”
Halladay didn’t need much offense. The 2003 AL Cy Young winner allowed three runs—two earned—and five hits, striking out four and walking none in 7 2-3 innings. He missed the second half of last season with a broken leg.
“It was exciting to catch a guy that can dominate like that,” Molina said.
Tony Batista and Shannon Stewart homered for the Twins, whose run of three straight AL Central titles ended last season when they finished third. The Twins wore “34” patches on their right sleeves to honor Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, who died March 6 following a stroke.
Minnesota added a few veteran hitters in the offseason, too. Batista hit a solo homer and Rondell White had a sacrifice fly, but it wasn’t enough for a team that ranked last in the league in runs last season.
“I’ll tip my hat to Halladay. I’ll just wipe this one off and be ready for tomorrow,” Minnesota’s Torii Hunter said.
Santana, who won the AL Cy Young in 2004, allowed four runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings in his first opening-day start.
“Things didn’t go the way we expected or wanted,” he said. “Give credit to those guys, they put the ball in play.”
Molina entered the game hitting .450 against Santana, while Glaus entered hitting .400.
“They brought some people in here that have good numbers against Johan,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I was looking at it before the game. I knew Molina had done well.”
The Twins and Blue Jays were the last teams to open this season.
Rios’ two-run shot off Jesse Crain in the eighth gave Toronto a 6-3 lead.
The new-look Blue Jays have created a buzz in Toronto that hasn’t been present since they won consecutive World Series in 1992 and 1993.
Attendance was 50,449—the fourth-largest crowd for a home opener.
Stewart led off the first with a single, advanced to second on a grounder and moved to third on Overbay’s error at first base before scoring on White’s sacrifice fly.
Hillenbrand singled in the sixth, advanced to second on Molina’s single and scored on Russ Adams’ RBI single, making it 4-1 Toronto.
Batista homered off Halladay in the seventh, and Stewart connected against the right-hander in the eighth, cutting the lead to 4-3.
The Blue Jays also honored Puckett with a video montage and longtime Toronto broadcaster Tom Cheek. Cheek, who died last October, called 4,306 consecutive regular-season games, plus 41 more in the postseason, since the Blue Jays began playing in 1977. His wife, Shirley, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The team also had a patch with the initials “TC” and a microphone on the left sleeve of their jerseys. … The Blue Jays outhit the Twins 14-5.