Happy Opening Day Eve, Tigers fans. With the first series of the season only hours away (but who’s counting?), we thought it might be a good opportunity to look at the first club the Tigers will square off against this year — the Toronto Blue Jays.
As a Canadian, it warms my heart to see the Tigers come north of the border for their first games, and it doesn’t hurt that we’re guaranteed to see all four games get played, because the Jays have the common sense to have a dome.
Domes: necessity in rainy climates, and in Canada.
We talked to Tom Dakers, manager of the SB Nation Blue Jays site Bluebird Banter, about what the Tigers can expect from the Jays pitching rotation, and when baseball fans might see heavily hyped prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette come to the majors.
BYB: Which game are you more excited for: Opening Day, or Vlad Jr.’s MLB debut?
Tom Dakers: Heck of a question. Well, I know when Opening Day is going to be, when we get to see the Son of the Impaler is still an open question. I’m lucky, I get two Opening Days, the Opening Day of the season and the Opening Day of Vlad’s career. I’m going to try to enjoy both, because there might not be all that many enjoyable games this season.
BYB: Speaking of hot prospects, do you have any guesses about when Bo Bichette might be called up, and if he can stay at shortstop in the majors?
TD: I think he can stay at short. He has been working very hard at the SS position and has improved a lot last season. He is quick, his arm is good enough, and I’m thinking his bat will be good enough to make his glove work anywhere on the field. He’s looked very good in the spring games that I’ve seen.
When? I’d really love to see him force his way onto the team this year, but then Vlad hit .400 for a good part of last year and that didn’t buy him a spot on the team, even with Josh Donaldson hurt and then traded. Personally, I don’t think Freddy Galvis should stand in the way of Bo. Not that Freddy is a bad player or anything, but he’s not someone who should be blocking a star’s way to the majors.
BYB: How do you think Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman are looking this season? Can they bounce back, or are they past their good years?
TD: You know, they both have had a great time of if in spring training. I’m really optimistic we are going to see both of them at their best. Stroman came into last spring with ‘shoulder inflammation’ and really wasn’t 100% at the end of spring. If the team had been smarter and sat him at the start of the year, I think things would have gone better for him, but it is tough to talk Marcus to take things slow. His shoulder wasn’t strong enough and he had to push hard to get the velocity he wanted.
Sanchez has had two years of stupid injuries. 2017 was lost to blisters and, well, blister remedies. Last year, he jammed a finger in some luggage. It seems like one of those ‘only in baseball’ injuries, but he needed surgery. This spring he’s been healthy and throwing like he did in 2016 when he had the best ERA in the AL.
I know it is unlikely that they both will be at the top of their games at the same time, but... I really don’t have much to cling to this year, let me have this will you?
BYB: Why on earth did the Jays sign Clay Buchholz? Is his hair as greasy as I remember?
Sunscreen Boy? We haven’t seen him yet, so I don’t know about his hair. He was signed after spring training started and he’s behind the other starters. He’s staying in Florida to build up to where he can make a start. We won’t see him in Toronto until mid-April at best.
Why did they sign him? I think to test how far they can go before I can’t cheer for them anymore. Step one was Sunscreen Boy. Step two was Bud Norris. Next, they’ll bring Jonathan Papelbon out of retirement. If I’m still a fan, then they’ll know they can do anything, and I’ll still cheer for them. Drop small children from the second deck, fine, just let me watch baseball. Kelly Clarkson day at the park, sure, I might have to wear ear plugs, but I’m in. [Editor’s note: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, Tom.]
BYB: Which player should the Tigers be most concerned about seeing for the Opening Series?
TD: Until Vlad gets his long awaited callup, we really don’t have one star for other teams to focus on, but I’ll pick Randal Grichuk, I’m thinking he’s going to have a good year.
BYB: Is there a Tigers player you think poses a substantial risk to the Jays?
TD: Miguel Cabrera may be 36 now, but I always figure he’s going to have a big series against us.
BYB: Since it’s Opening Day, what’s your prediction for the Jays record this year, especially given how tough the AL East is going to be?
TD: I’m an optimist, but I can’t see us winning more than 80 games. We get way too many games against the Yankees, Red Sox and, the team that we really can’t beat, the Rays. I don’t suppose you guys would like to switch divisions with us? [Editor’s note: No thanks, we’re good.]
BYB: Feel free to take this opportunity to not answer a question and just tell me how excited you are for Vlad Jr.’s debut this year.
Oh, I don’t think I can put into words how excited I am.
I don’t think the Blue Jays have ever had a prospect like Vlad. Maybe the best we’ve had before was Roy Halladay (and he turned out to be pretty good) or maybe Carlo Delgado, he turned out pretty good. too.
My favorite part of watching baseball is following the young guys and watching them develop and progress. I was an Expos fan when his dad came up, I really enjoyed watching him. Jr seems like the same type of player, maybe with a little more patience at the plate. His dad knew he could hit any pitch, no matter how high or low. His son seems to understand that even if you can hit any pitch, it doesn’t mean you should.