There’s no such thing as ‘It’s Early’ when playing the Yankees

After a wild Opening Weekend at The Dome, the Blue Jays are off to New York for a four-game set with the Yankees.

It sounds insane to say, but this feels like a very high-stakes series despite the fact it’s April. The Blue Jays and Yanks will see each other 19 times this season and every single one of these games is important when it comes to winning the American League East.
As we know, it was only one game that wound up being the difference between Toronto and both New York and Boston in the standings last season, and there were so many games that we looked back on and thought ‘oh fuck, should have had that one,’ so hopefully the Blue Jays are ready to come into this April series with a September energy.

It feels right to have Alek Manoah get the ball in Yankee Stadium tonight. Dude might be the staff ace by this season.
— Tao of Stieb (@TaoofStieb) April 11, 2022

The head-to-head…
Alek Manoah vs Jameson Taillon
It’s difficult to say if Alek Manoah will be as good in his sophomore season as he was last year as a rookie, but, to be completely honest, there isn’t somebody in Toronto’s rotation that I would rather throw out in a game against the Yankees in New York.
Manoah just has that big-game energy. Last season, in two games at Yankee Stadium, Manoah held the Yanks to just thr …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays roll with three-man catcher tandem for Opening Day roster, Ryan Borucki and Nate Pearson to the 10-day Injured List

The Toronto Blue Jays announced their Opening Day roster on Thursday and there weren’t really any surprises.

OFFICIAL: Presenting your 2022 #OpeningDay roster! pic.twitter.com/H9uP3kXZR4
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 7, 2022

Nate Pearson is dealing with mono and Ryan Borucki has a hamstring strain, so both players are starting off the season on the 10-day Injured List. Cracking the team in their places are Trent Thornton and Tayler Saucedo. Otherwise, the bullpen features, as you’d expect, Jordan Romano, Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards, Yimi Garcia, Tim Mayza, David Phelps, and Ross Stripling.
Probably the most interesting thing about the team that flew north from Dunedin is the fact that Zack Collins is coming along, meaning the Blue Jays are operating with a three-man catching tandem to start the season.
When Collins was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Reese McGuire, the key difference pointed out between the two catchers was that the former could be optioned while the latter couldn’t. Despite that, Collins will be with the Blue Jays presumably until the rosters shrink back down from 28 to 26.
The benefit of having a third catcher on the roster is that it allows the Blue Jays to more comfortably use Alejandro Kirk as the designated hitter. The worry about doing that with two catchers is that if Danny Jansen gets injured mid-game and Kirk shifts over to replace him, the Blue Jays would then be without their DH spot. Having Collins as insurance means that won’t be an issue.
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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 65: The Good Vibes Only 2022 Season Preview

Opening Day is tomorrow!!!

We kicked off this 2022 season preview episode by talking about all of the scuttlebutt surrounding the Blue Jays as spring training comes to an end and the team travels north, such as Nate Pearson dealing with mono, Greg Bird leaving his minor-league deal to return to the Yankees, and Jose Ramirez signing an extension to stick around in Cleveland.
After that, we went division by division and looked at the competition. Much like last year, Toronto’s biggest challenge is going to come from within the American League East, while the Wild-Card race is going to be wide open. Are the White Sox and Astros are going to cruise to their divisions? Can the Tigers and Mariners give them trouble? Are the Red Sox going to be weirdly good again? Can the Yankees stay healthy?
Finally, we went on twitter and asked people to give us their bold predictions for the year and we ranked their believability on a scale of 1-10. We then made our own bold predictions for the year and fought about who was the most optimistic. Good vibes only!!!
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays News Dump: Berrios named Opening Day starter, Jordan Romano injured, Fowler talks about chasing championships, and more!

Today should be Opening Day, but, thanks to the lockout, everything was pushed back by a week and we’re still going through the spring training slog.

The Blue Jays beat the Tigers on Thursday in Dunedin by a score of 5-3. Alek Manoah was great, allowing just one hit over four scoreless innings, Lourdes Gurriel smashed a homer, and George Springer went two-for-three.
The interesting part of Thursday’s game is that, according to Rob Longley, it features something close to the lineup that Charlie Monotyo is going to go with on Opening Day. Longley first said that this was Montoyo’s Opening Day lineup and then walked that back a little bit saying that this was how he planned to roll out the first four batters.
Anyways, here’s what the lineup was against Detroit…
Springer CF
Vladdy 1B
Hernandez LF
Bichette SS
Kirk C
Gurriel DH
Chapman 3B
Biggio RF
Espinal 2B
In terms of the top four, pretty similar to what we saw Montoyo roll with down the stretch when everybody was healthy, except, of course, Marcus Semien is no longer with the team, so Vladdy jumps up to the No. 2 spot, which is where the analytics say a team should place their best hitter. Bo remains in the clean-up spot, a place where he thrived last season in a run-producing role.
Speaking of Opening Day, fresh off of signing a seven-year, $131 million deal, Jose Berrios will kick things off for the Blue Jays next Friday when the Texas Rangers come to Toronto. It’ll go Berrios, Kevin Gausman, Hyun Jin Ryu, Alek Manoah, and Yusei Kikuchi.
In injury news, Jordan Romano sprained his ankle while walking his dog, but the Blue Jays expect him to be ready for Opening Day. After how things went last season with the team saying they expected pretty much whoever to only miss a short period of time, I’ll belie …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Top prospects Orelvis Martinez and Gabriel Moreno among the 15 Blue Jays sent to minor-league camp

With Opening Day less than two weeks away, the Blue Jays have started to make some cuts.

The team sent 15 players down to minor-league camp on Monday. Eight of them are 40-man roster players who were optioned and the other seven are non-roster invitees.
Optioned: Hagen Danner, Bowden Francis, Thomas Hatch, Leo Jimenez, Anthony Kay, Otto Lopez, Gabriel Moreno, Josh Palacios.
Reassigned: Chris Bec, Maximo Castillo, Adrian Hernandez, Casey Lawrence, Orelvis Martinez, Fitz Stadler, Chavez Young.
The headliners here, of course, are Orelvis Martinez and Gabriel Moreno, who currently rank as the organization’s top prospects on most lists.
Martinez was incredibly impressive during Grapefruit play, going 4-for-13 with a pair of dingers, while Moreno hasn’t yet seen any game action because of a visa issue. Since he’s only 20 years old and isn’t on the 40-man, there was never any chance that Martinez would crack the Blue Jays, but since Moreno was added to the roster over the winter ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, there was some thought he could steal a spot.
The Blue Jays will likely roll with three catchers (Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, and Alejandro Kirk), so Moreno will get plenty of time behind the plate for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons off the hop. Martinez’s spring showing was so good that he could start the sea …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

WATCH: Nick Ritchie nets his first goal as a Leaf

The Leafs dominated the Blue Jackets in the opening frame of Tuesday night’s matchup and with just over three minutes remaining in the period, Ondrej Kase made a great play to come away with the puck on the forecheck and find Nick Ritchie out front. Ritchie made no mistake and finally picked up his first goal in Blue and White.
It has been a slow start to Ritchie’s Leafs tenure but he has played well in recent weeks, generating plenty of opportunities but failing to convert. With his goal on Tuesday night, he is now riding a four-game point streak and has six points in his last eight games. Perhaps this goal will help kickstart Ritchie’s season.

Ya just simply love to see it!#LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/6w0OOLIZY8
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 8, 2021

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

Leafs organization and players procrastinating on new contracts

It’s the opening day of training camp, and while the team and the players want the focus to be about what is about to happen on the ice, for very good reasons there is some interest in what didn’t happen off the ice this summer, and that was contract extensions for either Morgan Rielly or Jack Campbell.
Considering the recent departures of Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen for absolutely no return, and the preceding departures of players like James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Jake Gardiner. No matter what you thought of these players, all had value at the trade deadline, all were kept because the Leafs wanted to make a splash in the playoffs, all the playoff appearances were limited to one round, and every one of those players left.
The fact that the Leafs continue to believe in themselves is admirable, but there was some hope that they’d hedge their bets and get their important UFAs signed well in advance, or at the very least address Morgan Rielly’s UFA status. That hasn’t happened…

Kyle Dubas on Morgan Rielly: “The contract negotiation thing with a flat cap….that’s a personal matter for Morgan and …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Meet Brennan Menell, Toronto’s newest RD

Thirty minutes before the opening of free agency, the Maple Leafs announced a trade:

TRADE: We’ve acquired the rights to defenceman Brennan Menell from Minnesota in exchange for a conditional seventh-round selection in 2022. #LeafsForever
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) July 28, 2021

The 7th rounder is conditional on Menell playing 30 games for the Leafs this season. The 5’11” RD played last season in the KHL, and will compete with Timothy Liljegren for the bottom pair RD role.
Undrafted
Menell’s first season in the WHL was also his NHL draft year, making him a bit of a late bloomer. In his age 18 and 19 OHL seasons, he then put up 53 and 71 points, respectively. It’s extremely rare for undrafted D to put up over a point per game in the WHL, and Menell was quickly snapped up by hometown Minnesota on a 3 year ELC.
In his first two AHL seasons Menell recorded 69 points in 142 games, establishing himself as an up and coming offensive defenseman. Unfortunately for him, Minnesota was stacked on D at the time. When a spot finally opened up in 19-20, it was Carson Soucy who got the opportunity to step up to the NHL, and Menell needed to find another route.


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Author: Earl Schwartz / The Leafs Nation

Wayne Simmonds gets a second chance with the Leafs

The signing of Wayne Simmonds on the opening day of free agency in 2020 was met in large part with excitement and anticipation by the Leafs faithful who had longed for the type of grit and physicality that had been absent from Toronto’s roster in recent years. The move wasn’t without it’s critics, however, with some voicing concerns about the aging Simmonds’ declining production and mounting injury history.
The Scarborough native wasted little time making his presence felt with the Leafs, dropping the gloves with Ben Chiarot to help spark a comeback victory over the Canadiens on opening night. The immediate returns on Kyle Dubas’ mandate to add leadership while making the Leafs a more difficult team to play against were encouraging and Simmonds appeared to be a perfect fit for what the Leafs’ lineup had been missing.

wayne simmonds trying to punch ben chiarot’s head directly off pic.twitter.com/ExAaqeTSbE
— dylan (@dylanfremlin) January 14, 2021

In addition to bringing that bite to the roster, Simmonds managed to lock down the net-front spot on head coach Sheldon Keefe’s top powerplay unit and even ascended to the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander for a stint. After …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

The Blue Jays are off to Texas to (hopefully) kick the crap out of the hapless Rangers

Opening Weekend went about as well as anybody reasonably could have expected for the Blue Jays.

They rolled into Yankee Stadium without George Springer, their top two projected starting pitchers, and their closer, and they managed to take two of three games thanks largely to some impressive pitching performances.
Now they have a really good opportunity to get off to a hot start to the season as they travel to Texas to face the Rangers, who, on paper, are arguably the worst team in baseball. According to ZiPS projections, the Rangers are expected to win just 66 games this season, which is better than only the Baltimore Orioles (65 wins) in the American League.
The Rangers will also become the first big-league team to welcome fans back at full capacity for their home opener on Monday. What could go wrong!
How they’re doing…
You generally don’t want to draw too many conclusions from Opening Weekend but Texas’ three-game set in Kansas City with the thoroughly mediocre Royals validates the notion of how bad the Rangers supposedly are. Texas lost the first two games of that series by a combined score of 25-14 and salvaged things on Sunday with a 7-3 …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation