The Toronto Blue Jays are back, playing their season opener in Tampa Bay against the Rays on Thursday afternoon.

The first pitch is scheduled for 4:10 EST at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fl.

Thursday's game marks the first of a 10-game road trip, including stops in New York and Houston before coming back for the April 8 Home Opener at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.

After being knocked out in the Wild Card playoff round by the Minnesota Twins last year, the Blue Jays will need to up their offence if they want to come back stronger this season, according to Blue Jays Today podcast host Adam Peddle.

“We know that was kind-of the Achilles heel of the Blue Jays last year,” Peddle said on CP24 Breakfast Tuesday morning. “If you look at what went right for the Blue Jays last year, it was that pitching staff.”

“We need runners in scoring position – they’ve got to be able to string hitch together and drive-in those runners on second and third base,” he continued. “If they can do that, paired with good pitching, you could see this team eclipse a 90 win mark, easily.”


Johnny Guinta, host of Gate 14 Podcast, said he has big expectations for the Jays this year, despite a relatively quiet off season.

“We're talking about a team that was a World Series favorite by a lot of people [last season] and this year, everyone's kind of doubting them based on the fact that they didn't make many moves this offseason, so I'm expecting them to do the opposite.”

To do that, Guinta agreed they’re going to need to up their offence.

“At the end of the day, if you want to be a good baseball team, the guys that are supposed to be good have to be good,” he said. “So Vladdy, Bo, Varsho, Springer – those guys have to be good, no matter what moves you make in the offseason, so I think this team is really banking on bounceback seasons from all their big dogs.”

Blue Jays' Opening Lineup, Roster

At Thursday's game, Toronto's Jose Berrios will start on the mound against Tampa Bay's Zach Eflin.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will bat second behind leadoff hitter George Springer. Third is shortstop Bo Bichette. The move flips Guerrero and Bichette behind Springer from most lineups last season.

Justin Turner, batting fourth, will serve as designated hitter. 

Romano, Swanson on the IL

The Blue Jays are kicking off the season with a number of players on the injured list, including closer Jordan Romano and reliever Erik Swanson. Starting pitcher Alex Manoah is also expected to join them. Romano has a right elbow injury, while Swanson is out with right forearm inflammation.

On Wednesday, Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins said he is hopeful Romano and Swanson could be back within a month.

“They both look great,” Atkins said. “They're recovering well. They feel strong. Barring the setbacks. I think this could be a minimal stint.”

With files from The Associated Press.