It's been a long time since Edwin Encarnacion hit his 12th-inning walkoff home run off of the Angels' Garrett Richards to wrap up the Blue Jays' home games at the end of last year. 22,769 fans (including yours truly) were at the Rogers Centre that cool September night to witness Henderson Alvarez's start where he was OK, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits in 7 innings.
Of course, the same Henderson Alvarez is slated to start the Blue Jays' 2012 Home Opener tonight, but he will be in front of a much larger crowd, pushing upwards of 48,000. Young Alvarez, 21, has had 10 Major League starts in his career (3.53 ERA, 1.131 WHIP, and 5.7 K/9), and has played in front of a large crowd before--on September 17 last year he threw 6 innings, giving up 5 runs against the Yankees in front of 39,288 at Rogers Centre. Alvarez has had 1 start against the Boston Red Sox, throwing 6 innings of no-run, 4-hit ball in a no-decision.
Alvarez, born 21 years 11 months and 22 days ago in Carabobo, Venezuela, will be the youngest pitcher ever to start the Jays' home opener. Countering will be fellow Caraboboian (Caraboboite? Caraboboese?) Felix Doubront, who was born just over 3 years before Alvarez. I think this will be the first time where I've seen a game where both starting pitchers are younger than me.
Doubront has had just 3 Major League starts to his name, having mostly come out of the bullpen in his 23 games so far. In Doubront, look for a mix of a two- and a four-seam fastball that averages in the low 90s, a 80 mph changeup/screwball, as well as a mid-70s curve. It would be interesting to see how the Jays' lineup will do against a southpaw with a 3/4 delivery. Doubront has never pitched against the Jays as a starter.
Speaking of the lineup, John Farrell has switch things around against a lefty, batting Edwin Encarancion in cleanup and bumping Adam Lind down to 5th, and inserting Rajai Davis into left field in place of Eric Thames. You may remember that Davis provided much excitement on the basepaths in last year's Home Opener (before getting injured).
I am heading down to the Rogers Centre to catch the game live, and I'll pop in and out of the GameThread, which should pop up around 6:30 pm. If you really care about my live comments, consider following me on Twitter: @Minor_Leaguer. For now, use this space for your pre-game commenting needs!