Blue Jays series preview: Can Toronto answer the pitching of the Rays?
Apr 23, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Danny Valencia (23) scores as the ball gets away from Baltimore Orioles catcher Ryan Lavarnway (34) in the third inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Player to Watch: Danny Valencia
We all knew that Danny Valencia was a lefty-masher, with a career line of .332 / .371 / .508, but he surprised on Thursday by going 1-3 with 2 runs and 1 RBI against the right-handed Chris Tillman. Valencia also played some quality defense in left field, his first Major League appearance at the position, so his bat and versatility could be a huge factor with the injuries to Jose Bautista and Dioner Navarro.
Valencia reportedly put in some serious hours with Bautista and Encarnacion working on his game against righties, and has started out the 2015 season by going 7-13 with 3 doubles. Although we need to see a lot more before assuming he can hit right-handed pitching in any capacity full time, Valencia represents a high-quality bench player that the Blue Jays have not always had.
While Bautista may soon return along with the recalling of Michael Saunders, Valencia should feature into the 1B/DH conversation, especially with lefties on the mound. Look for him to be in the lineup versus Drew Smyly for the opener on Friday, and he could earn some more reps with another strong performance.
Next: Predictions for the series