Welcome to a look ahead at the Toronto Blue Jays weekly challenges. No predictions- just a summary of things to look for.
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TORONTO BLUE JAYS AT NEW YORK YANKEES (4 game series)
*Tuesday 7:05 SportsNet Yusei Kikuchi vs. Nestor Cortes
Wednesday and Thursday night games available on MLBN to out-of-market viewers
You hate to place too much hype on a first-week series against any divisional opponent-especially one after a shortened Spring Training has radically altered roster construction and pitcher usage. But it is the Yankees and in the fiercely competitive AL East, every series versus a division rival is important. The Jays finished 2021 with a 42-34 record against the AL East-and a thrilling 8-2 on the road at Yankee Stadium.
Even with only 20 major league starts under his belt, Alek Manoah is already in the heads of Yankee hitters. After a dazzling Spring Training performance made his presence known with authority, the Toronto rookie made his debut against the Bronx Bombers and came away with a 2-0 shutout victory. It will be interesting to see how Jameson Taillon performs-will his velocity be where it needs to be and does he look healthy enough to take regular turns.
Yusei Kikuchi was an established star in Japan, but his results in the majors have been tantalizing and inconsistent. Given the power potential spread throughout the Yankee lineup it will be an interesting test. Ideally the Toronto bullpen can get some rest in the series opener in case Kikuchi’s propensities for surrendering home runs causes an early exit.
Wednesday night will feature the pitching matchup to watch. Jose Berrios was simply not good in his Opening Day start. He will need to right the ship to keep his team in the contest against New York Ace Gerritt Cole. Chicks might dig the long ball, but odds are a pitching duel that will be decided late is on tap.
Kevin Gausman will take the mound for the Blue Jays to close out the 4 game set. Given the first start by Luis Severino against the Red Sox was largely ineffective, the fact that the Probable Starter is listed as TBD might mean Aaron Boone would prefer to give the oft-injured starter an extra day of rest and make it a bullpen game.
The Berrios-Cole matchup and the history of strong performances by Manoah against the Yankees should indicate a few low run outcomes. But both the Blue Jays and the Yankees lineups can flat out crush the ball with regularity. So how the bullpens perform throughout the series will ultimately decide the vectors in all four contests.
OAKLAND ATHLETICS AT TORONTO BLUE JAYS (3 game weekend series)
*Friday 7:07 SportsNet- Daulton Jeffries vs. TBD (Hyun-jin Ryu)
*Saturday 3:07 SportsNet Paul Blackburn vs. Alek Manoah
*Sunday 1:37 SportsNet TBD (Adam Oller) vs. TBD (Yusei Kikuchi)
Even former Oakland standout Matt Chapman may not recognize the collection of young players taking the field in A’s uniforms. Blue Jays fans will get to watch former prospects Kevin Smith and Kirby Snead in the green and gold. Both trade return pieces will not match the production of Chapman, but both are expected to play key roles for the Athletics in 2022. While analysts have credited the front office with maximizing the return for Chapman, Matt Olson and Sean Manaea, the reality is none of those players acquired will keep Oakland out of the AL cellar.
While it will be Hyun-Jin Ryu’s scheduled turn in the rotation on Friday night, how he recovers from taking a line shot off the back of his leg will determine if the crafty lefty takes the mound. Regardless of who gets the start, the Jays will have their hands full solving former first round pick Daulton Jefferies. The 26 year-old righthander was terrific in his Sunday start against the heralded Phillies lineup. He needed only 44 pitches to scatter 2 hits over 5 innings.
Saturday afternoon will see Manoah make his second start of the week versus another former 1st rounder Paul Blackburn. Blackburn is given a chance to establish himself in the A’s rotation after disappointing stints with the Cubs and Mariners organizations. At first glance Manoah may benefit from facing an inexperienced, more free- swinging- than- normal Oakland lineup. But Tony Kemp, Sean Murphy and Stephen Voigt are aggressive fastball hitters.
Sunday starters are listed as TBD. But a potential injury to Ryu would cement Kikuchi as the likely choice for Toronto. Adam Oller is another young starter looking to take advantage of opportunity in a rebuilding year and would be in line to start for Oakland.
Blue Jays fans will also welcome former Jay Brett Lawrie and Billy McKinney back to the Rogers Centre. Like their Opening Weekend series against Texas, it is important for Blue Jays to get the better of a weak AL West opponent and at least take 2 of 3 from the Athletics.
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Jersey born, Pittsburgh resident, baseball lifer. Staff Writer jaysfromthecouch.com. Host THE ON FEK CIRCLE on JFtC YouTube Channel. Regular guest on Jays From the couch Radio Podcast. Established WPPJ Rock-a-thon benefit, which has been broadcast annually since 1981 and has raised for than $500,000 for the Early Learning Institute of Pittsburgh. IBWAA member.