Ricciardi: Gaston to return as Toronto's manager

TORONTO -- Cito Gaston will return as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays next year.

"Cito's definitely going to be back," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said Thursday. "He's done a good job. We're six games over .500 since he took over. We've got a long way to go offensively, but he's really laid the groundwork for some of the right stuff offensively. The guys like playing for him."

The Blue Jays fired manager John Gibbons on June 20 and gave the job to Gaston for the rest of this season. When they made the move, Ricciardi said he would sit down with Gaston after the season to discuss his status for 2009.

Going into Thursday night's game against Oakland, the Blue Jays were 23-17 since Gaston took over -- the fourth-best record in baseball during that span. Toronto was in fourth place in the AL East at 58-56.

"I think we're real close," said Gaston, who managed the Blue Jays to consecutive World Series titles in 1992-93. "We've just got to get some guys back who are on the DL and maybe if we can add here and there, I think we certainly have a chance. I'd like to be a part of it. That's great."

Center fielder Vernon Wells (hamstring), second baseman Aaron Hill (concussion) and right-hander Dustin McGowan (shoulder) are among seven Blue Jays on the disabled list.

The 64-year-old Gaston is Toronto's first two-time manager and the fourth-oldest skipper in the majors. He joined the Blue Jays as a batting coach in 1981 and became manager for the first time in 1989, replacing Jimy Williams. Toronto fired Gaston in the final week of the 1997 season.

Gaston didn't manage elsewhere after being let go by the Blue Jays. He returned as hitting coach in 2000 but was not retained after the 2001 season. He began serving as a special assistant to the president and chief executive in 2002, and worked with Toronto's hitters during spring training.

"We were just fortunate that he was there," Ricciardi said. "We were just really lucky that no one else had hired him. He was the right guy at the right time. We never had any doubts that he'd be back."

Bench coach Brian Butterfield, pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and bullpen coach Bruce Walton remained with the team when Gibbons was let go, but batting coach Gary Denbo, first base coach Ernie Whitt and third base coach Marty Pevey lost their jobs.

Hired along with Gaston were first base coach Dwayne Murphy, third base coach Nick Leyva and hitting coach Gene Tenace. Leyva and Tenace were on the 1992-93 World Series staffs.

Ricciardi would not specify whether Toronto's coaching staff will remain intact next year.

"Cito is going to have a big hand in what kind of staff we have here," Ricciardi said. "It's important that he's comfortable with the staff. I think bringing Gene Tenace and Nick [Leyva] here was important to him at that time. We'll see how it goes."

Toronto has never reached the playoffs under Ricciardi, who was hired before the 2002 season and is under contract until the end of 2010.