Preview: Toronto Blue Jays @ Minnesota Twins – April 15, 2014

Stock_Morrow04The Toronto Blue Jays open up a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins tonight (8:10 p.m., Sportsnet).

Brandon Morrow takes the hill look to build on his solid performance last Wednesday against the Astros. Phil Hughes counters for the Twins. The Blue Jays starting lineup is below.

Blue Jays 04/15 (7-6)
LF 53 Melky Cabrera .328 4 5
2B 66 Munenori Kawasaki .000 0 0
CF 19 Jose Bautista .446 5 9
DH 26 Adam Lind .450 1 6
1B 10 Edwin Encarnacion .291 0 2
C 30 Dioner Navarro .260 0 8
RF 14 Moises Sierra .091 0 0
3B 13 Brett Lawrie .173 2 4
SS 17 Ryan Goins .120 0 0
P 23 Brandon Morrow 5.73 1 1

The big news here is no Colby Rasmus. He tweaked his hamstring on Sunday, according to John Gibbons. The manager also said it wasn’t considered serious. But neither was Jose Reyes’ hamstring, and look how that’s going. I’m not going to say it’s time to worry about Rasmus, but Jays fans can’t be blamed if they’re a little nervous. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the lineup looks like tomorrow. Other notables: Kawasaki batting second (!), Bautista in centre field (Melky has started there already this year, and looked fine, so this is curious), and Lind remaining ahead of Encarnacion. I guess it worked on Sunday, so why not, eh.

Toronto is looking to build on a season-best 11 runs and 17 hits on Sunday afternoon against Ubaldo Jimenez and the Baltimore Orioles. For Alex Anthopolous (and Jays fans who were opposed to his potential signing), the bats coming alive against Ubaldo has to feel extra sweet. Jimenez has not looked great for Baltimore so far. His 7.31 ERA and 2.06 WHIP are both worse than any starter in the Blue Jays rotation right now.

It’s the first game of the post-Maicer Izturis Era this season, after the infielder was placed on the disabled list following Sunday’s game with a knee injury. It was revealed yesterday that he has a complete tear of his lateral collateral ligament (LCL). (Note: lateral collateral ligament? That seams like an odd name for a ligament. Maybe it’s just me). Regardless, Izturis likely needs surgery, which requires a 4-6 month recovery time, and likely means he’s done for the season. It’s a shame because he was off to such a good start offensively and defensively. And with Jose Reyes already out of the lineup, it means guaranteed ABs for both Ryan Goins AND Jonathan Diaz everyday (and some Kawasaki, too).

Kawasaki is up from AAA Buffalo, but his stay might be short. (He actually had to have his contract purchased; Marcus Walden was DFA’d to make room on the 40-man roster. Also previous DFAer Jeremy Jeffress cleared waivers and is off to Buffalo). Reyes is expected back by this weekend’s visit to Cleveland, so one of Goins, Kawasaki and Diaz will have to go back. I wouldn’t mind seeing Goins go down to get some work with the bat. He’s struggled mightily so far, and Diaz is certainly capable of filling his defensive void. Diaz is also more versatile, having the ability to play the outfield in a pinch, as well. And that would allow Kawasaki to stay up with the big club for a few games. Everyone knows he’s a favourite among his fans and teammates, so is presence in Toronto could be a boost (not that the club really needs one right now, however).

Jose BautistaOne final note, look for a big series from Bautista. The slugger leads the American League with five home runs already. And he LOVES hitting in Target Field. In the last three seasons there, he has eight home runs, and 10 RBI in just 31 at-bats. That’s good for a .400/.471/1.233 slash line, and an OPS of 1.704, which is absolutely out of this world. In his career against tonight’s starter, Phil Hughes, he’s 5-for-20 with a home run and three walks.

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