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American League Preview from The Sports Network



Monday, March 31st (All times Eastern)

Toronto Blue Jays (0-0) at Tampa Bay Rays (0-0), 4:10 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Toronto - R.A. Dickey (0-0, 0.00) Tampa Bay - David Price (0-0, 0.00)

(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of former Cy Young Award winners will square off on Monday when the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays kick off their 2014 schedules at Tropicana Field.

There was no trendier a pick to reach the postseason last year than the Blue Jays.

But, as they say, that is why they play the games.

Following a winter of upheaval that saw Toronto bring in R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle among others, the Blue Jays stumbled out of the gates and never got themselves righted en route to a 74-88 record.

Injuries, of course, were the main culprit, but John Gibbons' team just wasn't that good.

Dickey, who was the 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner after a 20-win season with the New York Mets, struggled out of the gates was 4-7 with a 5.18 ERA in April and May, while allowing an uncharacteristically high 3.86 walks per nine innings.

He did get better as the year wore on, but his 3.72 ERA in 150 innings from June through September was still almost a full run higher than his entire 2012 season with the Mets. He also allowed 23 home runs over the final four months.

"I feel prepared. I feel confident, which is great," Dickey said. "Last year, I didn't feel very confident simply, because I didn't feel as prepared. I'm really looking forward to getting started and being able to adjust my schedule this year in a way that really maximizes my preparedness has been great."

Tampa, meanwhile, will counter with 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, who was the subject of much trade speculation throughout the winter. But, the 28-year-old left-hander is back with the Rays following a disappointing 2013 campaign that saw him go 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA.

A 20-game winner in 2012, Price was just 1-2 with a 5.21 ERA in six April starts.

While hopes may be tempered a bit north of the border, they are running rampant in St. Petersburg, Florida. And rightfully so.

The Rays have reached the playoffs four times in six seasons since dropping "Devil" from the moniker, and they did it again in 2013 while with a roster that saw nondescript names like Matt Joyce, Jose Lobaton and Sam Fuld in more than 100 games apiece alongside proven commodities like Evan Longoria and yet another Rookie of the Year - their third in six seasons - in Wil Myers.

Four members of the starting rotation won at least 10 games each, while another, 24-year-old right-hander Chris Archer, was just a win away from double-digits. All five come back for 2014, including emerging southpaw standout Matt Moore, who was 17-4 in 27 starts in just his second big-league season.

Twenty-five-year old Alex Cobb was 11-3 over 22 starts in his second run through the majors as well, and another of the former top rookies, Jeremy Hellickson, went 12-10 in 32 games in his third season. He'll miss the start of the season after offseason surgery, however, which props the door open for first-year prospect Jake Odorizzi to begin the year in the rotation and strut his stuff.

The back end of the bullpen is new again after the re-signing of former set-up man Grant Balfour, who'd spent the last three seasons as a closer in Oakland.

Tampa won 11 of its 19 matchups with the Blue Jays last season. In fact, Toronto hasn't won a series at Tropicana Field since April 6-8, 2007, with Tampa Bay going 19-0-1 in series play since then.

The Rays' 147 wins over the Jays and their 83 wins at Tropicana Field are their most against any opponent.

03/31 10:24:32 ET

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