Toronto Blue Jays series preview: Home opener


The Toronto Blue Jays return to the Rogers Centre for their Home Opener tonight following a successful 4-2 road trip to begin the 2015 MLB season.  Their opening week has not been without turbulence, but back-to-back series wins against the division rival New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles have the Blue Jays off on the right foot in the AL East.

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Following an early bullpen letdown in the Bronx, Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil seem to have found their level while Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro continue to soar miles above expectations in their rookie campaigns.  Their usage in Baltimore suggests that they will be the go-to arms when manager John Gibbons needs an out, and the two will continue to benefit through the coming month by being relative unknowns to MLB batters.

Tampa Bay sits at 3-3 and is coming off a 14-hit, 8-5 win over the Miami Marlins.  Kevin Kiermaier has starred offensively for the Rays early on with 6 hits and 2 home runs through the first week, while Evan Longoria figures to remain a top threat at the heart of the order.  Entering the season, the Rays’ biggest challenge in 2015 appeared to be with the bats, so the Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff will need to keep them grounded.

Game 1:  Monday, April 17th  —  7:07 ET

TOR:  R.A. Dickey (0-0, 1.42 ERA)          TB: Jake Odorizzi (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Odorizzi grew some momentum as a sleeper candidate entering 2015, and had a fantastic first outing against the Baltimore Orioles.  The 25-year old right hander lasted 6.2 innings, allowing just 2 hits while striking out 7 batters.

While Odorizzi tops out around 92 MPH with his fastball, he can pump the brakes with his curveball which sits right around 70 MPH.  He has shown a tendency to struggle with control at times in the past, so the best strategy against him may be a patient approach the first time through the lineup.

R.A. Dickey had a quality start of his own to begin the season, going 6.1 innings strong in New York while surrendering 1 run on 4 hits.  His knuckleball was “on” more than it was “off”, and Russell Martin fared well enough in his first regular season test behind the plate.  Dickey will look to improve on that outing tonight, when he’s dome sweet dome in the Rogers Centre.

Apr 9, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Daniel Norris (32) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Game 2:  Tuesday, April 14th  —  7:07 ET

TOR:  Daniel Norris (1-0, 4.76 ERA)     TB:  Matt Andriese (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Circle Tuesday’s game as an opportunity for the Blue Jays, as they’ll be facing 25-year old Matt Andriese on short rest after making a brief relief appearance on April 10th.  This will be Andriese’s first MLB start in his rookie season.

Andriese went 11-8 at AAA Durham last season, posting a 3.77 ERA and 1.238 WHIP.  He’s shown to have quality control in the Minor Leagues and features a mid-90’s sinker, impressive curve, splitter and cutter.  If Toronto can either stretch Andriese out or pounce on him early, they could make a mess of the Tampa Bay ‘pen early in this series.

Daniel Norris will counter for the Blue Jays after allowing 3 runs on 6 hits over 5.2 innings in New York.  The climate will be more friendly to his “feel” pitches in Toronto, and Norris will look to crack the 6th and 7th innings in his second start of 2015.

Game 3:  Wednesday, April 15th  —  7:07 ET

TOR:  Mark Buehrle (1-0, 3.00 ERA)     TB: Steve Geltz?  Erasmo Ramirez?

Game 3 of the series still needs some clarity, as the 5th spot in the Tampa Bay Rays rotation has yet to come fully into focus.  Erasmo Ramirez landed in Tampa with some level of hope behind him, but was absolutely shelled in his first outing.  He allowed 7 earned runs in just 2.0 innings pitched, and his control was nowhere to be found.

Geltz was the starter in that Friday game, a bullpen game in the truest sense, and fared better over his 2.0 innings by allowing just 1 earned run on 2 hits.  Regardless of whether the starter is Ramirez, Geltz or a Minor League call-up, the Blue Jays have another opportunity to crack into a bullpen very early.

Mark Buehrle will counter for the Blue Jays following his 200th win in his first start.  He allowed 8 hits over 6.0 innings against Baltimore, but spread the knocks thin to limit the damage to 2 runs.  With uncertainties on the Tampa Bay mound, Buehrle’s job will be to keep the Jays above water long enough to strike.

Apr 11, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Game 4:  Thursday, April 16th  —  7:07 ET

TOR:  Aaron Sanchez (0-1, 8.10 ERA)     TB:  Chris Archer (1-1, 2.13 ERA)

Toronto will enter the 4th and final game as the underdog, with rookie Aaron Sanchez matching up against the electrifying Chris Archer.  The 26-year old Archer had an average first outing, but pitched 7.0 innings of 1-hit ball against the Miami Marlins on Saturday.

Aaron Sanchez will look to bounce back in a big way after a debut outing that could have ended with an even worse stat line than it did.  He lasted just 3.1 innings against the Baltimore Orioles, allowing 3 earned runs on 7 hits and struggling mightily with his control all night long.  Sanchez will need to find a more repeatable throwing motion on Thursday, and pound the zone early.

Worth the price of admission:

It’s the Home Opener, come on!  Toronto is returning home from a 4-2 road trip to open the season and the majority of their rookies are flashing some serious talent.  Edwin Encarnacion has found his stroke already and Jose Bautista could be ready to rock, so the fans in the outfield bleachers should be sure to bring a mitt.

Additionally, the Rogers Centre is featuring free WiFi for the 2015 season, so fans will no longer be forced to suffer through a game of baseball without the internet.  Rejoice!

Next: Alex Anthopoulos and his MLB Draft gurus

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