TORONTO -- More than three months ago, the Blue Jays, brimming with some of baseball’s best young talent alongside some timely veteran additions, couldn’t stop talking about momentum.
The suspension of play due to the coronavirus pandemic put that on pause, but the Blue Jays will soon be ramping back up for a sprint, not a marathon, as Major League Baseball is set to return with a 60-game regular-season schedule and some interesting new wrinkles to both roster rules and game play.
Historically, the Blue Jays' best start over 60 games came in 1987 (when they opened the year 39-21), though that's followed closely by a 38-22 start in '92 en route to their first World Series championship. Looking at any single-season 60-game sample, Toronto's best stretch came during 2015's playoff run, as it loaded up and delivered a 43-17 run down the stretch.
With a lineup of cornerstone kids and a veteran rotation, the Blue Jays’ range of potential outcomes over 60 games is incredibly wide. Hitters like Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are capable of incredible hot streaks, but in a season where a cold streak lasting a few weeks suddenly becomes one-third of your games, it’s a fine line to walk. That rotation, led by the rocksteady Hyun-Jin Ryu, will need to be Toronto's heartbeat through it all.
With plenty more to come over the coming days and weeks, here’s what you need to know now:
When will camp start, and where?
Clubs will report to camp on July 1, but the Blue Jays have not announced where they’ll be reporting just yet. It’s expected that the club will be based out of its Spring Training facilities in Dunedin, Fla., but the team is also exploring the viability of playing out of Toronto, where the border would present challenges unique to Canada's only team.
When is Opening Day?
The season will open on July 23 or 24.
Which teams will be on the schedule?
MLB’s proposed 60-game regular-season schedule has not been finalized with the MLB Players Association, but the structure would see the Blue Jays play 40 division games (10 each against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Orioles). The other 20 games would come against their geographic counterpart in the other league, meaning the National League East, another measure in place to limit travel. That will bring matchups against the Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Braves and Marlins.
Where will the Blue Jays play their home games?
This will also be made official soon as plans are finalized for camp and the regular season.
How are Toronto's injured players doing?
Reliever Rafael Dolis, who was transitioning back to the Major Leagues after four seasons in Japan, had his appendix removed just prior to the shutdown of Spring Training and was expected to miss Opening Day. That won’t be an issue now. With the setup job still wide open in front of Ken Giles, Dolis will once again have every opportunity to earn a share of the eighth inning.
Lefty Ryan Borucki was shut down in spring after feeling some tightness and discomfort in his throwing elbow, which has given him trouble in the past and led to Tommy John surgery earlier in his career. He’s been throwing, but a full update on his 2020 outlook should come soon, including whether the Blue Jays view him as rotation depth or a potential bullpen piece.
What are some competitions to watch when camp resumes?
Trent Thornton was running away with the No. 5 starter’s job in spring, and odds are it will stay that way. The Blue Jays’ bullpen will have plenty of opportunities for non-roster invitees, too, a competition that was already crowded in March. Don’t rule out the possibility of Toronto adding to that group before the season begins, either.
Positionally, the spots on the bottom of the roster remain open for competition. Joe Panik made a great impression in spring, but where does Brandon Drury fit? In the outfield, Anthony Alford and Derek Fisher will try to hold off Jonathan Davis, Billy McKinney and Forrest Wall for the reserve jobs behind Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
How will rosters be different? How will those changes affect my team?
The Blue Jays will begin the season with a 30-man roster for two weeks. That will drop to 28 for the next two weeks, then down to 26 for the rest of the season. The club will submit a list of 60 players eligible to play in 2020, including its 40-man roster plus a “taxi squad” of 20 players who will stay ready.
Toronto’s depth may not show itself as clearly over 60 games as it would 162, but this gives manager Charlie Montoyo the opportunity to better utilize it for matchup advantages from series to series. With a 30-man roster at the onset of the season, the Blue Jays will have the flexibility to extend some of their camp competitions into the season. They’ll also be able to add speed to the bench and another power arm out of the bullpen, two things they’ve wanted more of in recent years.
Another player on the bubble who could benefit from these roster rules is veteran catcher Caleb Joseph, who is third in line behind Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire. Beyond Joseph's positional value, he quickly emerged as an important voice in the Blue Jays' clubhouse, a factor that could be even more important given the challenging circumstances of this season.
How can I watch the games?
Games will be carried by Sportsnet, the Blue Jays’ Canadian broadcast partner, and all games will be available on MLB.TV.
How can I listen?
Sportsnet 590 The FAN will carry Blue Jays games on the radio, with Ben Wagner and Mike Wilner on the mic. The radio broadcast will also be available through MLB Audio, live or on demand.