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Cito Gaston strolls onto the diamond Monday at spring training. ((Mike Carlson/Canadian Press))

One of Cito Gaston's first tasks as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays in his first training camp since 1997 is correcting the misconception that he is writing off this season.

At baseball's winter meetings in Las Vegas, Gaston said he saw it as a rebuilding season for the Jays.

But that's not what he meant.

"Maybe that didn't come out right," Gaston told reporters Monday in Dunedin, Fla. "It's kind of like regrouping.

"Nobody likes to use rebuilding. That's a bad word.

"We're not really rebuilding. We're getting ready for 2010."

Whatever the term, the Jays are hampered by several injuries from the outset.

Right-handed starter Dustin McGowan underwent shoulder surgery last July and could rejoin the pitching rotation as early as May or as late as August.

Fellow right-hander Shaun Marcum is out for the season following elbow surgery.

"It would be a different ball game [were they healthy] … but making trades and signing free agents to expensive multi-year contracts didn't make sense because, for next season, we're saying that Dustin will be back in form and we know that Marcum will be back," Gaston said.

Thus, the Jays did virtually no off-season dealing.

"Right now, we need to use all the tools we have to survive against the [New York] Yankees, Boston [Red Sox] and this team down here [Tampa Bay Rays]," Gaston said.

That starts with a pitching rotation that has just two sure things in Roy Halladay and Jesse Litsch.

After that, David Purcey is a probable and there are two open spots.

Gaston told his pitchers this was an opportunity for them to fill those remaining two or three spots.

"If they pitch well, we will take them," he said. "If they don't, then maybe the kids go back [to the minor leagues] for another year or the older guys, if they don't beat out the rookies, they don't get the job."