Toronto Blue Jays series preview: Opening Day in New York


The long wait is over for the Toronto Blue Jays and Opening Day is finally upon us.  The Blue Jays will kick off their season against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium from April 6th-9th, beginning with a Monday matinee.

The New York Yankees finished 2nd in the AL East behind the Baltimore Orioles in 2014 with a 84-78 record, which was one game better than the Toronto Blue Jays at 83-79.  Both teams enter 2015 with high hopes in a division that is up for grabs in the trust sense.

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New York will open the season without Derek Jeter, and with the spotlight glaring squarely on the return of Alex Rodriguez.  Didi Gregorius will be tasked with replacing the Yankee legend at shortstop alongside third baseman Chase Headley, while the club has added the fireballer Nathan Eovaldi to their rotation and the dominant left-hander Andrew Miller to the bullpen.

Toronto will counter with a van full of rookies and the big-splash arrivals of Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin and Michael Saunders (currently on DL).  Marcus Stroman seemed poised to take the mound first for Toronto, but a knee injury has shuffled a Blue Jays rotation that is an extreme mix of youth and experience, leaving Drew Hutchison as the surprise Opening Day starter.

Our own Shaun Doyle joined Yanks Go Yard for their radio show, previewing the upcoming series from the other side of the diamond.  Check it out here!

Mar 17, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Drew Hutchison (36) throws a pitch during the second inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1:  Monday, April 6th  –  1:07 ET

Hutchison is a hot pick to have a breakout season as part of this Blue Jays rotation, and breezed through the Spring with a 3-0 record and 1.50 ERA.  Despite flashing dominance at times in 2014, Hutchison struggled with hitting a mid-game wall and will need to work deeper into games with quality on a more consistent basis.  His first challenge will be a lefty-heavy lineup from the Yankees.

Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka is playing a nerve-wracking game of chicken with Tommy John surgery, but has chosen to avoid the procedure for now and pitch fully in 2015.  He will reportedly take a much different approach to his starts and intentionally feature less velocity.  Tanaka posted a 13-5 record with a very strong 2.77 ERA in 2014, and the Yankees will be leaning heavily on his success.

Feb 25, 2015; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) throws a bullpen session during spring training at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game 2:  Wednesday, April 8th  –   7:07 ET

After an off day on Tuesday, which seems oddly daunting after 5+ months of off days, the Jays and Yankees meet under the lights on Wednesday.  R.A. Dickey slides out of his usual Opening Day role to pitch second for the Jays, and does so without Josh Thole behind the plate.  Russell Martin and Dickey have worked well enough through March, but as the J.P. Arencibia experiment taught us, catching the knuckleball only counts when the games count.  Expect another unspectacular, yet very reliable, season from Dickey, with 12-14 wins and 200 innings pitched.

New York’s Michael Pineda had a strong Spring of his own, posting a 1.42 ERA over 19.0 innings.  He enters the season with the expectations of providing a top-end arm in the Yankees’ rotation, especially with the uncertainties around Tanaka.  The big man mixes a fastball with a cutter, slider and changeup, and when he’s on, he’s shown the ability to be dominant.

Apr 4, 2015; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris (32) throws the ball during the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds at the Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3:  Thursday, April 9th  –  7:07 ET

Van Norrison takes the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays with great excitement emanating from the fan base.  After rocketing through the Minor League system last year, Norris got his feet wet with the big club towards the end of the season.  David Ortiz may still be waiting to swing at that curveball.  Norris struck out 30 batters across 27.2 innings this Spring, and if he can limit his walks, this is a legitimate candidate for AL Rookie of the Year.

New York will send their second straight mountain-man to the mound in the form of C.C. Sabathia, who bulked up even more this offseason in an effort to return to his old form.  It hasn’t clicked quite yet, with the big lefty allowing opponents to hit .333 over a rocky spring, so the big three of Bautista, Encarnacion and Donaldson will be eyeing the left field bleachers.  Regardless, take Sabathia lightly, and he can still take over.

New York Yankees projected lineup:

  1. CF  Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF  Brett Gardner
  3. RF  Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B  Mark Teixeira
  5. C  Brian McCann
  6. 3B  Chase Headley
  7. DH  Alex Rodriguez
  8. 2B  Stephen Drew
  9. SS  DiDi Gregorius

Toronto Blue Jays projected lineup:

  1. SS  Jose Reyes
  2. C  Russell Martin
  3. RF  Jose Bautista
  4. 1B  Edwin Encarnacion
  5. 3B  Josh Donaldson
  6. DH  Dioner Navarro
  7. LF  Kevin Pillar
  8. 2B  Devon Travis
  9. CF  Dalton Pompey

Worth the price of admission:

Even for the face value of a Yankees ticket, few things in sports beat the widespread excitement of Opening Day.  While the Blue Jays enter the season without Marcus Stroman and with six rookies on the roster, the existence of their potential adds a real element of hope to 2015.

For all of you Alex Rodriguez fans, this is also the day you’ve waited for since 2013.  So enjoy yourselves, regardless of which cap you wear, Opening Day 2015 is here, and anything is possible.

Next: Bold prediction: Jose Bautista, 2015 AL MVP

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