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New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Series Preview

The Bombers will face the tough Blue Jays in the first series of the 2021 MLB season.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The wait is over! After a roller-coaster of an offseason that started slowly, but picked up the pace in January and February, your New York Yankees are set to kick off their season with a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays in Yankee Stadium.

The first game will be tomorrow, as aces Gerrit Cole and Hyun Jin Ryu will take the hill for the Bombers and Blue Jays, respectively. The two squads will rest on Friday and play on Saturday and Sunday to complete the three-game set.

The Yankees are getting their offensive core back for the series, sans the injured Luke Voit, who will be replaced in the lineup by free agent pickup Jay Bruce. Pitching-wise, the team virtually swapped Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ for Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, and Domingo Germán, who was out for the entire 2020 campaign. The Bombers also added Justin Wilson (who will start the season on the injured list with left shoulder tightness) and Darren O’Day to the relief corps.

The Blue Jays couldn’t secure any upgrades for their rotation during the offseason (unless you consider Steven Matz one) but boy, do they have a lineup. George Springer was the primary acquisition, but he won’t take the field against the Yankees, as he landed on the injured list with a Grade II oblique strain.

However, Toronto still has enough firepower in its batting order to cause some trouble against New York. Marcus Semien was an MVP candidate in 2019, several young stars such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernández, Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are looking to wreck havoc in 2021, and the emerging Rowdy Téllez and Alejandro Kirk can make this a particularly deep lineup.

Thursday: Gerrit Cole vs. Hyun Jin Ryu

While Gerrit Cole didn’t have his finest season in 2020, with a 2.84 ERA and an uncharacteristically high 3.89 FIP in 73 innings, he was the ace that the Yankees hoped they would be signing in late 2019. He is currently fully stretched out and can approach 90 or 95 pitches without issues. He had a good spring training, with a 2.45 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 18.1 frames, and should be ready to rock from day one.

Ryu is, by far, the best and most consistent pitcher in the Jays’ rotation. Signed away from the Dodgers in December 2019, he was excellent in 2020 with a 2.69 ERA and a 3.01 FIP in 67 frames, striking out 26.2 percent of the hitters he faced. Like Cole, he had a fine spring (3.60 ERA) and is ready to throw at least 90 pitches on Opening Day.

Saturday: Corey Kluber vs. Ross Stripling

Saturday will be Corey Kluber’s much-anticipated debut in pinstripes. The right-hander has been limited to 36.2 innings in the last two seasons because of injuries, but has a career 3.16 ERA and was amazing (5.5 fWAR) as recently as 2018. His command has been a little spotty during Grapefruit League play, but he should be fine and, if healthy, projects as one of the Yankees’ very best arms.

Ross Stripling last pitched on Sunday, and is fully stretched out, as he covered 5.2 frames of one-run ball. He will get the ball on Saturday against Kluber. The right-hander had an ugly 6.32 ERA last season, but it contrasted with a promising 3.70 FIP. The 2020 campaign was an off-year for Stripling, who had previously performed well for the Dodgers, notching a 3.51 ERA and 3.60 FIP across four seasons from 2016-19 before being dealt to Toronto in August.

Sunday: Domingo Germán vs. TBD

After a season-long suspension in 2020, several apologies, and an impressive spring, the Yankees decided to give Domingo Germán a spot in the rotation and the responsibility of pitching the third game of the season against a potent offense. He has been on point during the Grapefruit League (1.38 ERA in 13 frames, with a 1/17 BB/K ratio) and was good in 2019, so he projects as a very valuable piece in the Yankees’ pitching puzzle. The righty has been getting swings and misses with all of his pitches and his command, perhaps more importantly, has been top notch the entire spring training.

Charlie Montoyo said that it’s possible that Sunday might very well be a bullpen day, with T.J. Zeuch as the leading candidate to pitch if the relief corps doesn’t get overworked. The 25-year-old right-hander faced the Yankees twice in 2020, holding them to two runs and four hits in 6.1 innings of work. The final game of the spring on Monday didn’t go well for Zeuch though, as he allowed five of his six earned runs across three frames.