Monday, April 4, 2016

Injuries in the past, Smyly, Dickey meet in St. Pete

The Rays and Blue Jays got the theatrics of Opening Day out of the way on Sunday, and they will continue their regular-season schedules when Drew Smyly and R.A. Dickey take the mound on Monday night at Tropicana Field.
Smyly will make his first start of the 2016 season after missing most of last year due to a left shoulder injury. He began '15 on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis, returned April 24 and made three starts before returning to the DL with left shoulder soreness on May 9. He returned to the Rays on Aug. 16 and is coming off a strong spring.
"Definitely [would like to carry that over]," Smyly said. "I go out there trying to compete every game, whether it's Spring Training, whether it's Game 1 of the season. I don't want to give up a hit. I want to attack every hitter. I can't wait to get this season started. I'm very anxious for [Monday]."
Dickey is coming off perhaps his healthiest Spring Training since he joined the Blue Jays prior to the 2013 season. In the past several years, Dickey has dealt with neck, back and knee issues, but he's ready to go and hopes the way he feels will help avoid the slow starts that have plagued him in the past.
"I think the thing that I'm most encouraged by is how good I feel at this point," Dickey said. "I'm not having to labor to get to the velocities that I need, and my recovery has been great. I'll start, throw 100 pitches and feel very good the next day. I haven't had that feeling in quite some time. To me, that's a good starting point for a good season, feeling like you're prepared and equipped to handle the rigors of 162 games."
Three things to know about this game:
• Josh Thole will get the start behind the plate for Toronto on Monday. Thole has spent parts of the past three years as Dickey's personal catcher, but this is the first time he has started in that role since both players joined the Blue Jays in a trade with the Mets. Russell Martin was Dickey's catcher last April, but the club would like to keep the veteran backstop away from the knuckleballer to ease his workload in 2016.
• Evan Longoria has two home runs in 43 career at-bats against Dickey ... Josh Donaldson is hitting .625 with two doubles and a home run in his career against Smyly ... Smyly is 1-0 with a 1.10 ERA in five career appearances against the Blue Jays.
• Toronto's Darwin Barney likely will get the start at second base with a lefty getting the start for Tampa Bay. Barney is expected to platoon at second with Ryan Goins this season while also backing up shortstop and third base. The Blue Jays led the Majors with an .818 OPS vs. left-handers in 2015.

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