The Toronto Blue Jays have released hitting coach Mike Barnett and replaced him with first base coach Mickey Brantley.

The 46-year-old Barnett leaves Toronto after three years, having joined the club in January 2002.

"This isn't a knee-jerk reaction," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "It's something we've been watching closely for the last year.

"We're starting to get into the same habits we were in last year. Before this thing steamrolled on us, we thought now was the right time to make a move."

After starting the 2005 campaign 7-3, Toronto has lost five straight and seven of its last eight, and is batting .270 this season, seventh in the American League.

Toronto (9-11) was swept at home this past weekend by the Baltimore Orioles, and was outscored 24-7 over the course of the three-game series.

"We were starting to get into the same patterns," Ricciardi said. "We weren't scoring runs.

"We left a lot of guys on base. Our situational hitting is not good."

Brantley, 43, is in his first season with the Jays and previously served as hitting coach with the New York Mets.

Prior to working for the Mets from 1996-2004, Brantley was a coach with the San Francisco Giants from 1994-1996.

"I go way back with Mickey," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He brings a lot of passion, he's got a presence about him.

"We were not getting the most out of guys we have. Too many guys are not doing what we expect."

Brantley hit .259 with 32 home runs and 125 RBI in 302 major-league games with the Seattle Mariners from 1986 to 1989.

Bench coach Ernie Whitt will assume Brantley's duties at first base.

"We'll see how that plays out," Gibbons said. "Whitt's been so valuable on the bench for us."

Toronto opens a three-game home series on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

with files from CP Online