04/03/10 12:16 AM ET
Jays, Rangers ready for work ahead
The Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers both know what it's like to play in tough divisions, where wins in early games in a season can give you an edge.
With that in mind, the clubs will kick off the regular season on Monday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.
In the American League West, the Rangers need a strong early season push to keep up with the always-tough Angels and the new-look Mariners. Texas added a big veteran bat in Vladimir Guerrero and rotation depth in Rich Harden and Colby Lewis. The starting staff, which has a number of question marks, is led by Scott Feldman, the Opening Day starter, who wasn't even a starter at this time last year.
Playing in the nearly impossible AL East, there is no time for rebuilding, a fact that Toronto likely kept in mind as it spent the offseason trying to figure out what sort of club it will be in the post-Roy Halladay era. In truth, the Jays lost a lot from last season, including Marco Scutaro and Rod Barajas. But they re-signed John McDonald and added Kevin Gregg, and they appear ready to start the building process. Some of the Blue Jays' most exciting prospects wait patiently in the Minors, like Kyle Drabek, who was acquired in the Halladay trade.
If either team wants to make a splash in its respective division, a strong start will be necessary. That all begins on Monday.
Blue Jays: Marcum returns with Opening Day assignment
On Opening Day, manager Cito Gaston chose to hand the ball to veteran Shaun Marcum, who missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery, rather than Ricky Romero, who impressed last season in his rookie campaign. The Jays still have some spark in their lineup, with Adam Lind and Aaron Hill. Marc Rzepczynski (fractured middle finger) landed on the disabled list late in Spring Training, forcing the the Jays to alter their rotation plans a bit, and with touted-prospects Brett Cecil and Drabek waiting in the wings, more changes could be in store as the season progresses. After facing the Rangers for three games, the Jays begin divisional play, traveling to Baltimore.
Rangers: Tight clubhouse deals with high expectations
It's been an odd spring for the Rangers, who, in addition to having higher-than-normal expectations placed upon them, also had to deal with manager Ron Washington's drug confession this spring. But a tight clubhouse has responded positively thus far. Second baseman Ian Kinsler hasn't played since spraining his ankle on March 12 and will start the season on the disabled list. Once he returns, Kinsler's contributions will go a long way towards the club living up to expectations. If they can do this on a consistent basis, the Rangers should make some noise in the AL West. After the Jays leave town, the Rangers welcome the Mariners to Arlington.
Both teams will be breaking Opening Day-starters streaks. This will be the first Opening Day in seven seasons that Halladay hasn't started for the Jays. The Rangers have started Kevin Millwood, who is now with the Baltimore Orioles, in each of the last four seasons. ... Toronto is 4-1 in its last five Opening Days. ... The Jays and Rangers last met on Opening Day in 2001, with Toronto coming out on top, 8-1.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.