Blue Jays series preview: Can Toronto answer the pitching of the Rays?

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Apr 18, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey delivers a pitch against Atlanta Braves at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

R.A. Dickey takes the ball in game one, and it’s been a strange ride through his first three starts.  After a spring that saw him featuring great control on the knuckleball, Dickey has issued 12 walks in just 18.0 innings pitched.  Some of this can be brushed away as the unpredictable nature of his pitch, but not all of it.

Dickey’s movement certainly has not been lacking, so he could be in line for a strong outing in the dome if he is able to locate the strike zone a little more often.  Dickey will have a familiar face behind the plate in Josh Thole, recently recalled for the injured Dioner Navarro.

Despite the walks, Dickey enters the game with a 3.26 ERA and has allowed just 11 base hits.  His 0-1 record comes with a stronger ERA than the 3-0 Mark Buehrle, but Dickey hasn’t earned his own luck just yet.  Expect him to slowly return to his mid-season form, and give the Blue Jays 190-200 quality innings with a record in the neighbourhood of 12-12.

Drew Smyly counters for the Rays, and will make his first start for the club after coming over as part of the David Price deal last season.  He was shut down for the remainder of the year soon after arriving with the Rays due to a high innings count, and is now returning from a shoulder injury.  This should see him on a pitch count around 85-90, so the Blue Jays may be able to crack the bullpen early.

Smyly will feature a fastball that he can add cutting action to around 90-92 MPH, which he plays a quality high-70’s curveball off of.  Control isn’t often an issue with Smyly’s game, so the Blue Jays will need to avoid pitcher’s counts where the curveball can take over.

Next: Game 2 preview: Norris vs. Somebody?