Fresh off a wildly successful 10-game road trip, the Rays return home to host American League east rival Toronto Blue Jays. It seemed like every series against the Blue Jays for the past few seasons involved a date with Roy Halladay, however, Doc is busy dominating the National League. Instead, the Rays will face a pair of young lefties and a hard-throwing new comer in the division
4/23 Matt Garza vs. Brett Cecil
4/24 Jeff Niemann vs. Ricky Romero
4/25 David Price vs. Brandon Morrow
If you're a fan of young pitching, this series is a must see.
Brett Cecil returns to the Jays rotation as a fill-in for the injured Brian Tallet. Cecil, 23, made 18 appearances for Toronto last season going 7-4 with a replacement like ERA of 5.30, and nearly matching fielding independent pitching (FIP) of 5.37. His biggest issue was home runs allowed, as in 17 long balls in just 93.1 innings. Normalizing his home run rate, his expected FIP (XFIP) drops over a half run down to 4.68. Not good, but remember his age. The lefty doesn't have overpowering stuff with a low 90s heater. He uses three additional pitches behind the fastball including: a slider, curve ball and a change up.
In a match-up of 2009 rookie of the year contenders, Ricky Romero faces Jeff Niemann. Romero enjoyed a successful first season in the big leagues going 13-9 with in 29 starts. Like Cecil, his 4.30 ERA was almost equal to his 4.33 FIP; albeit a full run lower than his teammate. Rays fan may remember Romero as that pitcher wearing "CANADA" on his back as he dominated the Rays on Canada day last season, allowing no runs in eight innings of work. Romero nearly no-hit the Chicago White Sox earlier this season. His fastball is not overpowering, falling in the low 90s. He backs that pitching with a slider, curve ball, and a plus change-up. Pitch f/x says he's started throwing a cutter this season.
Once a rumored trade target of the Rays, Brandon Morrow was traded from Seattle to Toronto (FOR A RELIEVER!) this off season. Morrow, 25, has shifted roles multiple times in the past few seasons going from starter to middle reliever to closer and now back to the rotation. He has a live arm and maintains fastball speed in the mid 90s. In over 200 major league innings, he owns a fantastic 9.27 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9). Like a lot of hard-throwers, he has struggled with command. His less than impressive walks per nine (BB/9) rate of 5.73 has led to a below average FIP of 4.62 with an xFIP of 4.70. Outside of the blazing fastball, he throws a slider, change-up and curve ball.