SPORTS

Five things to watch: Blue Jays relying on key veterans and youth movement

04/02/2015 10:42 EDT | Updated 06/02/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - The Toronto Blue Jays open the 2015 season on Monday in New York. Here are five things to watch this year as Canada's Major League Baseball team takes the field:

CLIPPED WINGS — The injury bug bit the Toronto Blue Jays hard this pre-season. Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (ACL, out for the season), outfielder Michael Saunders (left knee surgery, may be back opening day), infielder Maicer Izturis (right groin strain, may be back opening day) all went down during spring training. Injuries have plagued Toronto's starting rotation in recent years as well, putting extra pressure on the Blue Jays team of trainers.

HOT CORNER — Third baseman Josh Donaldson was traded to Toronto from Oakland in November for a handful of Blue Jays players, including Canadian infielder Brett Lawrie. How the all-star fares in Toronto, both at bat in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre and as a fielder on the stadium's tough FieldTurf, is up in the air.

THE MAN IN THE MASK — The Blue Jays signed veteran catcher Russell Martin, who was born in Toronto but raised in Chelsea, Que., to provide leadership for their young rotation of pitchers. He's also shouldering the responsibility of catching for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, a particularly tricky task. How Martin well handles both responsibilities could make or break the Jays season.

YOUTH MOVEMENT — Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos made a lot of moves in the off-season, making the team younger. The starting rotation includes Aaron Sanchez (22) and Daniel Norris (21) while the bullpen could feature 20-year-olds Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna. Devon Travis (23) starts at second base and Dalton Pompey (22) will play centre field. Drew Hutchison (24) has been named opening day starter.

POWER GAME — Last season the Blue Jays hit 177 home runs, third most in Major League Baseball. It's possible that they'll top that output this year. Donaldson's 29 home runs last season is an upgrade over Lawrie's 12. Edwin Encarnacion will also be zeroed in on offence, as he shifts from first base to designated hitter. That could see an improvement on his 34 homers last year.

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