American League Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, April 5th
(All times Eastern)
Toronto Blue Jays (0-0) at Cleveland Indians (0-0), 3:05 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Toronto - Ricky Romero (0-0, 0.00)
Cleveland - Justin Masterson (0-0, 0.00)
(Sports Network) - It's been 19 years since the Toronto Blue Jays have been to
the postseason. Some think that drought is almost about to end. Today they
lift the lid on their 2012 season, as they visit the Cleveland Indians in the
opener of a three-game set at Progressive Field.
Last season the on-field results were about the same as they have been in
recent years for the Blue Jays, who once again finished 81-81 and a distant
fourth place in the competitive American League East.
Even with the added wild card team, it's probably going take 90 wins to reach
the postseason. Eleven times in the last 14 years, Toronto has won at least 80
games but no more than 88.
But despite the fact that the Jays play in perhaps the most competitive
division in baseball, there is a sense for the first time in years that
success might be just around the corner with young position players like Yunel
Escobar, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus ready to complement the American
League's top slugger last year, Jose Bautista, in the lineup.
Speaking of Bautista, he quieted his critics who claimed his 2010 breakout
season was just a fluke, as he put forth a better offensive campaign overall
and solidified his spot as one of the game's best hitters.
Left-hander Ricky Romero will be on the hill today, hoping to follow up a
terrific 2011 season that saw him blossom into an All-Star. Romero recorded
career highs in wins (15), strikeouts (178), innings (225) and complete games
(four) last season, cementing his status as one of the elite starters in the
"He's evolved in a couple of ways into that spot," Blue Jays manager John
Farrell said of the No. 1 starter status. "One, through his own performance
and consistency, with the work that he puts in between starts. He leads by
example as much as talking to others."
Cleveland, meanwhile, was part of the best story in baseball through the first
four months of last season. But the story didn't end well.
The Indians stormed out of the gate and into first place in the AL Central by
opening with a 14-2 record at home and a 30-15 record through May 23.
It wasn't just that they were winning, it was the way they were winning. Mixed
throughout the season were 36 comeback wins and 18 victories in the last at-
bat. The Indians enjoyed 12 walk-off wins, including seven that came courtesy
of walk-off home runs. That marked the most walk-off blasts in one season for
the Indians since the team had nine such shots in the 1995 campaign.
Injuries, though, started to take their toll and the team struggled mightily
in the second half, before ending the year 80-82, up 11 wins from 2010, but
still a whopping 15 games back of American League Central Division champion
The club used the disabled list 22 times and only had Hafner, Choo, Cabrera
and Grady Sizemore -- Cleveland's four most established hitters -- in the same
lineup for 17 games. In all, Tribe players lost 826 days due to time spent on
Injuries have already reared their ugly head this year, as Sizemore (of
course), is out until June following back surgery, while closer Chris Perez
might not be ready at the start of the season because of an oblique injury
suffered early in spring training.
One player who avoided the injury bug gets the call today, as sinkerballer
Justin Masterson makes his first-ever Opening Day start. Masterson enjoyed a
breakout showing in 2011, as he went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA in 34 appearances.
Toronto was 4-3 last season versus the Tribe.
04/05 10:32:08 ET