News and Notes as the Blue Jays head to Washington

The Blue Jays are travelling to D.C. to play a four-game series against the Nationals, two of which will be road games, and two of which will be home games.

As of right now, it looks as though these games are going to happen, but, after the Miami Marlins reported that one-third of their roster tested positive for COVID-19, there’s some worry that the season might be in jeopardy. That said, MLB has reportedly not had any serious discussions about pausing or suspending the season.

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So it’ll be the Blue Jays’ first look at the defending World Series Champions. Well, sort of. It won’t be the Champs at full-strength this week. Anthony Rendon, of course, left the team in free agency to sign with the Angels, and Juan Soto is currently in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. Soto produced a negative COVID-19 test on Saturday, but it’s no guarantee he’ll be available to play in this series.

In Blue Jays news, we still don’t have an update on either Randal Grichuk or Ken Giles, both of whom left Sunday’s game due to injury.

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Also, we finally know where the Jays will be playing their games this season, assuming all goes according to plan. While Wednesday and Thursday are supposed to be home games, they’ll be played in Washington. The next stretch of home games will then be played in Philadelphia before the Jays finally play an actual home game in Buffalo on Aug. 11 against the Marlins.

Here are the expected pitching match-ups this week…

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  • Monday – Trent Thornton vs Anibal Sanchez: 

Thornton, who surprisingly led the Blue Jays in innings pitched last season, will make his first start of the season. Last week in the exhibition game against the Red Sox, Thornton tossed three shutout innings on just 43 pitches. He was all over the grid last season, but the Blue Jays believe he’ll find more consistency as he matures and calms down on the mound.

“I’m a pretty emotional pitcher. I get pretty fired up and amped up,” Thornton said. “I’ve got to be able to slow the game down and breathe. And that’s something I’ve been focusing on, especially my last start in Boston where I just wanted to try to stay as calm as possible and, between each pitch, take that breath and just mentally reset and refocus. So, that’s definitely something that I’m going to try to take into my next start.”

It’ll also be veteran Anibal Sanchez’s 2020 debut on Monday. Sanchez has been quietly very effective over the past couple of seasons, which is an impressive turnaround given the fact he looked totally washed in Detroit. Sanchez posted a 3.85 ERA across 30 starts for the Nationals in 2019, though his peripherals (7.3 K/9, 3.1 BB/9) weren’t great.

  • Tuesday – Tanner Roark vs Austin Voth:

Tanner Roark is scheduled to make his Blue Jays debut on Tuesday against his former club. Roark made his debut for the Nationals back in 2013 and pitched six seasons in Washington before getting traded to the Reds ahead of the 2019 season. I don’t think anybody has major expectations for Roark this season, but, at the very least, it’ll be nice to have a fifth starter than isn’t Edwin Jackson.

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Austin Voth will start for Washington after earning the team’s fifth rotation spot out of Summer Camp. This likely would have been Joe Ross’ role had he not opted out of the season.

Voth was once a highly-touted prospect who sort of fell off a cliff. He posted amazing numbers in his first four seasons in the minors and then got slammed in 2017 at Triple-A. He had an eight-start stretch with the Nats last year in which he posted an impressive 3.30 ERA.

  • Wednesday – Hyun Jin Ryu vs Max Scherzer (Expected): 

This one isn’t confirmed yet, but Wednesday’s game should feature Toronto and Washington’s aces, Hyun Jin Ryu and Max Scherzer.

Both aces had ho-hum debuts to their seasons. Scherzer got tagged for four earned runs in five-and-a-third against the Yankees, though he did pick up 11 strikeouts in the losing effort. Ryu had some issues with command against Tampa Bay on Friday, walking three (also plunking one) and allowing three earned runs over four-and-a-third.

  • Thursday – Matt Shoemaker vs TBA:

Matt Shoemaker had an excellent performance in his first outing in well over a year on Saturday. Shoemaker, of course, had his 2019 season ended due to a freak injury, but he bounced back nicely, allowing just one earned run over six innings of work.

We don’t yet know who will start Thursday’s game for Washington. It could be Stephen Strasburg making his 2020 debut, as he missed his first go in the rotation due to a wrist issue. If not, it could be Erick Fedde, a depth starter who pitched in his place on Saturday. Fedde held the Yankees to one earned run over four innings before giving way to the bullpen.