Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman (Injured) Roberto Alomar (Hall of Fame Inductee), Russell Martin, and Drew Hutchison in Vancouver, B.C.

Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman (ACL Injury) Roberto Alomar (Hall of Fame Inductee), Russell Martin, and Drew Hutchison in Vancouver, B.C. on January 23, 2015.

VANCOUVER, B.C – Today is Opening Day and the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays are all set to take to the field for the start of the season. The Blue Jays visit the New York Yankees and Manager John Gibbons has given the ball to Drew Hutchison for a showdown against the Jeter-less Yankees. The additions of Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson, and Justin Smoak will improve the Blue Jays offense and win total. The key to success will be with the bullpen and starting rotation. Hutchison will get things going in the Bronx.

The Lakeland, Florida native, posted career numbers last season with 11 wins, 184.2 innings pitched, and 184 strikeouts. As a six-foot and four-inch starting pitcher, Hutchison relies on his fastball and his slider to foil opposition batters. Coming into the first month of the season, Hutchison already has an idea of how he plans to get off to a terrific start and improve on his mound presence early in the season.

“I think to just go out there and continue to pitch the way I’m capable of, and continue to improve, and make improvements throughout the year, and just go out there and give our team a chance to win every time I take the ball.”

The Blue Jays roster will feature an astonishing six rookie players. Dalton Pompey has won the job in centre field, Devon Travis will start at second base and the starting rotation will have 22 year-old Aaron Sanchez, and 21 year-old Daniel Norris. Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna are among the eight pitchers in the bullpen. Both could be a late-inning options for John Gibbons if new closer Brett Cecil falters.

A former Vancouver Canadians pitcher is slated to make his season debut on Saturday, April 11 against the reigning American League East champion, Baltimore Orioles. Aaron Sanchez is looking forward to helping out as best as he can and he’s excited by the big additions the Blue Jays have made.

“I think everybody’s excited for the additions that we’ve got. I’m here to do whatever it takes. This team has a chance to win a lot of ball games.”

2015 is a perfect season for the Toronto Blue Jays to take control and win the AL East. The Jays have plenty of offense, great defense, a strong up and coming starting rotation and what could be a surprising bullpen. The Orioles, Rays and Yankees are re-tooling and the Boston Red Sox have a ton of question marks with pitching after purchasing a boat load of offense. The wild-card is always an option, but Hutchison believes the AL East crown is a realistic and attainable goal.

“I think the AL East is obviously what we are going for. I think we are more than capable of winning it. Last year we were in first place for a while and were unable to close the deal. I think that’s absolutely a realistic expectation and I think that’s our expectation.”

The Blue Jays have not made the playoffs since 1993 and the city of Toronto and fans across Canada are waiting for the boys of summer to play baseball into the early fall. Castro (December 24, 1994) and Osuna (February, 7 1995) have no memories of the Blue Jays last playoff appearance because both relievers were not yet born. Hutchison would like nothing more than a post-season berth.

“All of us would like to get into the playoffs and go further than that. It’s been a while for Toronto, so hopefully we can deliver that for the fans and give them what they deserve.”

Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson were the biggest offseason additions made by General Manager Alex Anthopoulos. Martin will provide much-needed leadership and clubhouse respectability. Donaldson blasted 29 home runs, and drove in 98 RBI’s with the Oakland Athletics in 2014. The 29 year-old will man the hot corner for the Jays and add even more offensive power to the Jays batting order. Martin will be tasked with everyday catching duties as takes over for Dioner Navarro behind the plate.

Toronto Blue Jays Catcher Russell Martin in Vancouver, B.C. on January 23, 2015

Toronto Blue Jays Catcher Russell Martin in Vancouver, B.C. on January 23, 2015

The 32 year-old Martin is a proven winner who has set a lot of goals for himself and the Blue Jays.

“The goal is to go out there, have fun, win a lot of ball games, make it to the post-season, and win a World Series. That’s the ultimate goal, to win a World Series. Personally I just want to be part of a team, have a good season and contribute the way I can.”

Health is a big question mark that each and every Major League Baseball team can’t predict heading into a season. The Blue Jays were dealt a significant blow during spring training when promising and projected starting pitcher Marcus Stroman tore his left ACL during a bunting drill. The 23 year-old will miss the entire season.

Newly acquired Michael Saunders also fell victim to injury during spring training, he stepped on a lawn sprinkler and required left knee surgery. The Victoria, B.C. native will start the season on the disabled list. When Saunders does return he is expected to take over in left field for Kevin Pillar.

Russell Martin has made the playoffs in seven of his nine MLB seasons. He knows what it takes to get through a long season. Staying healthy is important, and Martin knows that it’s a tall task to complete when playing day in and day out during a complex 162 game season.

“The key is to be able to stay healthy throughout the year and that’s probably the hardest part of the baseball season, it’s long and gruelling. I think if we stay healthy, I don’t think there’s one team in the American League East that’s better than another. I think it’s going to be competitive all year-long. We’re just going to have to grind it out and work hard to be on top.”

The key offseason moves the Toronto Blue Jays organization made will improve the team and Toronto should finish first in the AL East by seasons end. Another mid-season collapse similar to what occurred last season is not acceptable for a club this talented. The AL East is quite weak and the Blue Jays are in a prime position to vault ahead of the pretenders and make a long and well overdue post-season run.

Toronto Blue Jays Projected Batting Order 

SS Jose Reyes

C Russell Martin

RF Jose Bautista

DH Edwin Encarnacion

3B Josh Donaldson

CF Dalton Pompey

1B Justin Smoak

LF Kevin Pillar

2B Devon Travis

Toronto Blue Jays Projected Starting Rotation

Drew Hutchison R

R.A. Dickey R

Daniel Norris L

Mark Buehrle L

Aaron Sanchez R

Notes MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Toronto Blue Jays home opener vs the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, April 13 at Rogers Centre.

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