With the season almost a week away, it's time to start get exciting about real Blue Jays baseball again. The first month of the season should be a good measure of how the Jays stack up against the rest of the American League. Unlike many years where the schedule starts off with a slate filled with non-division foes, this season starts with 14 of the first 27 games against AL East rivals (Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles).
First Week Fun: 3 games vs. Indians and Red Sox
After starting the regular season in Cleveland last year, the Jays will head all the way north to Toronto after spring training this year (with a stop in Philadelphia). Justin Masterson will get the ball in the season opener for the Indians just as he did last year, but will not be matched up against Ricky Romero this time around (how the mighty have fallen). Instead, R.A. Dickey will make his official Blue Jays debut in the closed Rogers Centre. Cleveland isn't looking particularly great this year so hopefully the new look Jays are able to put on a show in the first series of the year.
After the Indians leave town, the Red Sox will come into Toronto for a much anticipated weekend series running from the 5th-7th. The return of John Farrell has been circled on some Jays' fans calendars since the moment the schedules were released. Hopefully the boo-ing doesn't take away from the actual baseball, as this will be an interesting series to see how much of a threat Boston will be this year.
Midwest Road Trip: 3 in Detroit and Kansas City
After an off-day, the Blue Jays hit the road to play two interesting AL Central teams who both are looking to win the division this year. Three day mid-week day game against the Tigers (apparently scheduled at 1 pm due to the warmer temperatures during the day) should let us know how good the Toronto line-up is against a solid pitching staff. If Detroit doesn't skip any starters, it looks like the Jays will miss Justin Verlander during the series, after he pitched a complete game against them last year.
The weekend series against Kansas City doesn't have many headlines, but the Royals are a exciting young team that should eventually break through in the relatively weak Central division.
Four weekday games against the White Sox will complete a run of three straight series against the AL Central (doesn't this always happen early in the year?). The White Sox look to continue their trend of being very average year in and year out, although Chris Sale appears to be a solid front of the rotation starter for the South Siders. With it being a four game series, it's unlikely the Jays will be able avoid facing Sale.
The Yankees are next to come into the Rogers Centre for the first of many important series this year. New York is looking pretty banged up and it will be interesting to see if this is finally the year they fall off the cliff. Vernon Wells appears to be one of the outfield replacements in the Bronx for 2013 and I think we can all agree he doesn't deserve to be booed by the Jays crowd! The Sunday game of this series is also celebrated with Edwin Encarnacion bobblehead day!
Important AL East Roadtrip
The Jays fly to Baltimore right after the Yankees series and face a Baltimore team that will be looking to prove that 2012 wasn't a fluke. Although Dylan Bundy won't be up in April for the O's, the team does have a huge amount of pitching depth even if none of them are superstars.
After a Wednesday getaway day, the Blue Jays go to New York to face the Yankees in a four-game weekend series. At this point in the season, it should be starting to become more clear if the Pinstripes have what it takes to compete in 2013.
The month ends with the start of a homestand against the Red Sox. Hopefully the Toronto fans have gotten over Farrell by this point and are cheering on a great Jays team!
Personally, I think the new look Blue Jays will start fairly average due to all the new faces, many of which played at the World Baseball Classic. The April schedule isn't the easiest either, as all the road series are against pretty tough teams. I wouldn't be surprised with a mark of about 14-13 with a lot of momentum going into May and beyond.
What do you guys think?