Apr 1, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays left fielderMelky Cabrera
(53), center fielderColby Rasmus
(28) and right fielderJose Bautista
(19) congratulate each other after they beat the at Tropicana Field. Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
So this is what we know heading into the Toronto Blue Jays home opener. Whatever changes Mark Buehrle did to his preparation this off-season and spring training seemed to get him into mid-season form. Drew Hutchison continued his great pitching that he showed during spring training. His fastball command does need a bit of work but his poise and bulldog attitude are signs that this could be a great comeback from surgery. R.A. Dickey carries over his mediocre spring into the first game of the season. No need to panic yet but 5 walks under a dome is cause for concern. His ERA last season was almost 2 runs lower under a dome than in open air. If he can’t get that knuckler to dance properly there is going to be some short outings in his future. How about Brandon Morrow? Yikes! Not a good omen going forward.
With the bat Joey Bats, Jose Bautista, is having a great start. Couple home runs and he seem to be locked in right now. Melky Cabrera is another who is carrying over a fantastic spring into the season. With his health seemingly in order I would expect a monster year in this, his contract year. Dioner Navarro has already made a difference with his deep at bats and his stoic nature behind the plate. A very good beginning to hopefully a turn around season for the entire ball club. Next up? Yeah those dreaded New York Yankees. Here is how the pitching match-ups break down.
I find it kind of funny that the first game Tanaka pitches in for the Yankees is the Blue Jays home opener in Canada. It’s getting mighty international methinks. Blue Jays fans can gaze down from the stands at another pitcher they desperately wanted to see on that home mound in the white unis. The hype has been insane and it is now time for Tanaka to show he was worth the investment. That 24-0 under 1.50 ERA season in Japan is impressive to say the least.
McGowan is a definite wild card. He beat the established competition for that 5th starter spot, something he has been aiming for since…2008?? After all the surgeries and all the setbacks and the doubts he did a solid last year in the bullpen and has earned this spot in the rotation. He wants to start and if he goes down yet again at least he went down doing what he wanted. Taking the risk and running with it. This game could surprise fans on both sides. But due to the pedigree I am going to reluctantly go with the Yankees taking this one.
Game 2: Michael Pineda (0-0) vs R.A. Dickey (0-1, 10.80 ERA)
Here we have the Yankees version of McGowan. Michael Pineda was a key to the Jesus Montero trade with the Mariners. At 6’7″ and 265 lbs he is a beast of a presence on the mound but injuries kept him off the mound all of last year and most of 2012. He had a lights out spring and looks like he is all the way back. Given the tenuous structure of the Yankees starting five they could use a stalwart in the rotation and Pineda has a chance to be a streak stopper. Look for Pineda to have taken hold of his spot in the rotation and pitch himself to 175 innings or so over the course of the season.
Dickey, Dickey, Dickey. We all hoped that with a year under his belt he would settle in and he would start 2014 the way he left 2013, with renewed confidence and a healthy body. This spring was not very inspiring and after his first start during the season opener some are questioning whether this is it. Knuckleballers have a longer shelf life than a traditional starter but there has never been a power knuckler before. How do they handle moving into the golden years of baseball existence. It is way too early to make the call but if Dickey goes on the way he did the first half of 2013 I would be very worried. If he can harness his pitches again he is home under a dome and this could spell win for the good guys.
Game 3: C.C. Sabathia (0-1, 9.00 ERA) vs Drew Hutchison (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
With over 3000 professional innings (minors and majors) Sabathia has always been a workhorse. In 13 years he has never thrown less than 188 innings in his major league career. He has pitched over 200 innings 7 years in a row. He is the workhorse number one in the same vein as Roy Halladay or Greg Maddux but with more power and a big presence on the mound. He has been so-so this 2014 season so far but don’t expect it to last. He is one of the 10 best pitchers in the majors when healthy and with a bit of weight dropped he seems healthier. Can he keep the workhorse going with a smaller frame? Yes…yes he can
Drew Hutchison reminds me of a younger Mark Buehrle. Confident strike thrower who doesn’t let a hit or a run faze him. He works batter to batter and focuses on the task at hand. He had a bit of a fastball command issue in his first start in Tampa but he is making everyone forget that he is coming off Tommy John surgery and seems to be one of those pitchers who throws better and harder post surgery. If he is able to get in a groove he could be the biggest surprise of the 2014 season not named Melky. Let’s chalk this one up to a Blue Jays win.
Probable Starting Lineups
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Worth the Price of Admission: Masahiro Tanaka. Who else would you put on here. With the hype surrounding this latest Japanese export (that the Jays reportedly wanted) it’s time to see if he can put up or shut up. I just want to see him use his full array of 8 different pitches. This should be a good test to see just where his stuff sits with the best players on the planet.
Worth the Price of Tube Socks: Kelly Johnson. I was tempted to go with Ryan Goins and his lack of hitting so far this season but Johnson seems to be the player wanted later by many teams…the ultimate back up plan. Kind of what Eric Hinske was. Johnson is solid but not spectacular and I assure you watching an army of ants scurry around your yard is more exciting than this guy.
To hear more about this series from a Blue Jays and Yankees point of view listen to the podcast for the Yanks Go Yard guys. You’ll hear me and Ricky Keeler sharing our thoughts on Masahiro Tanaka, Dustin McGowan and the rest of the starters. What are you waiting for…click the link!