Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Series Breakdown: Rays vs. Blue Jays

The Blue Jays welcome the Tampa Bay Rays into town this evening for a three game set at the Rogers Centre. The Jays look to bounce back from a less than impressive series against the OriLOLes, though it seems as if they righted the ship in their 9-2 win on Sunday. The Rays have not gotten of to a good start either at this point; despite sweeping the Yankees in the season opener, the Rays have lost four of their last five. They just managed to squeak out of Boston on Patriots Day with a 1-0 win.

So far it appears there won't be any significant changes to the lineup for the series, although as mentioned elsewhere, the Jays have optioned Aaron Laffey back to AAA Las Vegas and have decided to keep righty Evan Crawford instead. For those who are unaware of Crawford, while he may not be near the top of most prospect lists for the Jays, our fearless leader seems to be quite high on him:
“I didn’t know he had a slider the way he did, his curve ball is outstanding, he just pitched last night and was up to 94– he doesn’t sit there, but this is a guy who has a chance to be a long-term piece for us and a real impact guy,”
Here's another quote to whet your appetite:
“Above-average breaking stuff. Fastball’s got some power to it. He put himself in the mix with a very strong spring training.” - John Farrell, Blue Jays Manager
The reality is though, there has not been much written about Evan Crawford. He isn't one of the hyped prospects with the Jays, but that in itself makes this team slightly more exciting. If guys like Crawford can come in to camp and impress the organization enough to bring him up this early, it not only gives the team a chance to see him pitch in the Majors, it also provides more time and opportunity for some of the high-ceiling prospects to develop and not be rushed up too soon (See: Travis Snider).

And now the pitching match-ups:

Tampa Bay Rays (5-5) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (5-4)

Tuesday, April 17 - 7:07 PM ET - Rogers Centre
Jeff Niemann, RHP (0-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Ricky Romero, LHP (1-0, 3.38 ERA)

Niemann was shaky in his last start against the Tigers. He gave up three runs on four hits while walking two and striking out six in taking his first loss of the season on Thursday in Detroit. The gentle giant (6'9) is 4-3 with a 5.23 ERA in 11 career starts against the Blue Jays. 

Romero bounced back nicely in his last start after his ugly season debut against the Indians. Ricky went 8 1/3 innings of one run ball to earn his first victory of the season. Romero lifetime against the Rays has posted a 3.18 ERA over 10 starts.

Wednesday, April 18 - 7:07 PM ET - Rogers Centre
David Price, LHP (1-1, 4.82 ERA) vs. Brandon Morrow, RHP (0-0, 2.57 ERA) 

Price struggled immensely, though the stat line isn't that ugly, in his first loss of the season at the hands of the Red Sox. Hee allowed three earned runs on four hits and three walks and was chased from the game after working just three innings. He has a 9-2 record with a 2.06 ERA in 12 career starts against Toronto.

Morrow wasn't nearly as sharp in his second start of the year although he managed to walk away with a no-decision. He gave up four runs against the OrioLoLes. That said he has pitched well early on this year, he has held opposing hitters to a .152 average over 14 innings this season. And not to be forgotten, Morrow has had a tendency to dominate the Rays in the past - his 17K performance can attest to that. 

Thursday, April 19 - 7:07 PM ET - Rogers Centre
Jeremy Hellickson, RHP (1-0, 3.29 ERA) vs. Henderson Alvarez, RHP (0-0, 2.77 ERA)

The reigning AL Rookie of the Year struggled with his command against the Sox in his last start. He earned a no-decision, walking three and giving up three long balls over five innings. In two starts at the Rogers Centre, Hellickson is 1-0 with a 4.25 ERA.

Alvarez has continued where he left off last season, throwing his 8th quality start in his last 12 games. Unfortunately, the Jays have not been able to provide much in the way of offensive support for the young right hander, Alvarez picked up his second no-decision of the season.The 21-year-old has only faced the Rays once, giving up four runs on three home runs over six innings.

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