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Game Notes: Return of Smyly/Loney

The Rays now 'only' have 10 players on the DL.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After a thrilling and unlikely walkoff win yesterday, the Rays welcome the Blue Jays to the Trop for a three game series. The Rays played an eventful with series up in Toronto a week ago, which concluded with Josh Donaldson ducking out of the way of a pitch, only to have his finger get nicked. That came after Evan Longoria had to be removed from the game after being in the top half of the inning.

It seems the team's of the AL East have been at each other's throats since the season began, as Toronto also had a dustup with the Orioles during their last series. Tonight they'll send R.A. Dickey to the mound against Drew Smyly who'll be making his season debut after starting the season on the DL. James Loney will also be making his return to the Rays lineup and be a welcome addition to the defense which has suffered during his absence. Mikie Mahtook and Allan Dykstra were optioned to Durham to make the roster room.

With Smyly returning to the Rays rotation, it marks a huge improvement over the previous starters that took his place. However, with his first start back, it'd be best to temper your expectations as the farthest he has gone in an appearance this year is the 4th inning. He's only expected to pitch into the the 5th or 6th inning.

Fortunately for him, he won't have to face one of Toronto's most dangerous hitters, Jose Bautista. He injured his right shoulder on Tuesday after attempting throw a runner out at first after a single into right field. Dioner Navarro is on the DL with a hamstring injury, and Michael Saunders is still out due to his knee surgery to occurred during spring training, but he's expected back this weekend.

Although those players won't be in the lineup, the Blue Jays still pose a threat with Edwin Encarnacion, plus Josh Donaldson is heating up.  He crushed a 480 ft homerun during yesterday's game.

Here's how Toronto will oppose Smyly:

And here's how the Rays will lineup against the knuckle baller:

Dickey has had three solid starts this year, struggling with his control, but that's to be expected of a knuckle baller. He took a no decision his last time out, allowing four runs in seven innings against Atlanta. The start before that, he faced Tampa Bay and went six innings and allowed two runs on three hits, while walking five and striking out six.

Dickey will throw his knuckle ball anywhere in the seventies and he'll throw it anywhere near the plate. With his fastball that tops out in the low eighties. He usually tries to surprise the opposing batter with it in order to get a quick strike and he throws it around the corners of the plate. Dickey also rarely throws a sinker, which is about the same speed as his fastball. He's only thrown it five times this year and it has been sporadic around the zone.


Here's Ian's projections from last week if you are interested. Please excuse the Odorizzi portion if you take a gander. According to Ian, several Rays project above league average wOBA against Dickey, namely Longoria, DeJesus, Kiermaier, Souza, and Cabrera.

Missing from the line up, obviously, is the Rays' No. 2 hitter who has been performing well this April but also nursing a forearm cramp from two nights ago, so Cash is giving day to rest.


Other Rays Notes:

Happy birthday to Steven Souza Jr. as he turns 26 today, who gets to celebrate on the bench. Nothing wrong with him, Cash just wants to give him a day off.

No starter has been named yet for tomorrow's game, it'll be announced later tonight.

Alex Cobb threw his first bullpen session since his injury. Jake McGee was also able to throw some today.

Not really, but is kind of Rays related after the team struggled with Toronto's field. After experiencing their own troubles with Rogers Centre's new turf, the Orioles reportedly considered a forfeit before the game on Tuesday. Thankfully tonight's match up occurs at Tropicana Field.

Go Rays!