The Advanced Scout grabs a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee and analyzes the first AL East opponent of the year – the Toronto Blue Jays. The Red Sox will have to do well against the Blue Jays this year if they have any chance of making the playoffs. Will the pitching of the Blue Jays hold up over the year?

STARTING PITCHERSHenderson Alvarez, Kyle Drabek and Ricky Romero

Henderson Alvarez (pitching against Felix Doubront) is a bit of an enigma. He has a big fastball and attacks the strike zone but doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts (40 in 66.2 IP last year). He has a good GB rate (53.5%) but gave up 8 HRs in 10 major league appearances. Perhaps the move from AA to the majors was a bit of a jump for the soon-to-be 22-year-old righty, but Alvarez will need some solid starts in the absence of Dustin McGowan.

Kyle Drabek (facing Daniel Bard, “Might be”) must improve or he could be the odd-man out upon McGowan’s return. Drabek took a step backward in 2011, putting up ugly numbers: 78.2 innings, 51/55 K/BB, a 6.05 ERA versus a 5.52 FIP. As the Blue Jays only need a fifth starter once before April 20, Drabek could be pitching for a roster spot.

Ricky Romero (versus Jon Lester) must continue riding his luck if the Blue Jays will find success in 2012. In 2011, Romero matched an impressive 2.92 ERA with a 4.20 FIP and an ugly .242 BABIP. Any regression from Romero will bring him back to the pack and could doom the hopes of the Blue Jays.

EXPECTED LINEUP

1. Yunel Escobar, SS
2. Kelly Johnson, 2B
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Adam Lind, 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
6. Brett Lawrie, 3B
7. Eric Thames, LF
8. J.P. Arencibia, C
9. Colby Rasmus, CF

WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT

Again, only spring training stats, but hot rookie Brett Lawrie (.524/.535/.810), Eric Thames (.359/.408/.578) and Edwin Encarnacion (.306/.343/.581) had hot springs, While Colby Rasmus (.185/.274/.241), Ben Francisco (.200/.216/.200) and Yunel Escobar (.237/.308/.305) did not.

INJURIES

RHP Alan Farina (right elbow surgery) in on the 60-day DL and is not expected to return before the summer. RHPs Jesse Litch (right shoulder infection) and Dustin McGowan (right foot plantar fasciitis) are on the 15-day DL and aren’t expected back before May.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?

The Red Sox still have a closer question, as Alfredo Aceves hasn’t yet retired a batter and has two blown saves, and Mark Melancon hasn’t done much better. When asked if Daniel Bard could be his closer moving foward, Bobby Valentine responded, “Might be.” Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney and David Ortiz each had five hits in the Detroit series, while Kevin Youkilis, Cody Ross and Jacoby Ellsbury had a bad series.

SUMMARY

The Red Sox really need to take two of three against the Blue Jays to keep the boo birds from circling Fenway Park at Friday’s home opener. The Red Sox had not started consecutive seasons at 0-3 since the 1931-33 seasons. Consecutive 0-6 starts for the Red Sox won’t go over well. At all.

Categories: Adam Lind Adrian Gonzalez Alan Farina Alfredo Aceves Ben Francisco Boston Red Sox Brett Lawrie Cody Ross Colby Rasmus Daniel Bard David Ortiz Dustin McGowan Edwin Encarnacion Eric Thames Felix Doubront Henderson Alvarez J.P. Arencibia Jacoby Ellsbury Jesse Litsch Jose Bautista Kelly Johnson Kevin Youkilis Kyle Drabek Mark Melancon Ricky Romero Ryan Sweeney Toronto Blue Jays Yunel Escobar

Scott Candage is a long-time Red Sox fan. He recently came in third in the 127th annual Upperclass Twit of the Year competition. His best friend is a tree and he is a stockbroker in his spare time.

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